Schenectady County

Brothers give posthumous $11M gift to Union

Brothers Armand and Donald Feigenbaum are making a posthumous $11 million gift to Union College thro
Brothers Donald (left) and Armand Feigenbaum.
Brothers Donald (left) and Armand Feigenbaum.

Armand and Donald Feigenbaum were planning a major gift to Union College.

Death caught up with them before they could finalize their plans, but they left behind many people who knew what projects they would like. And now, four months after Armand Feigenbaum’s death, their foundation has put together a project they would have greeted with “boyhood enthusiasm,” said Emil George, president of the Feigenbaum Foundation.

The brothers are making a $11 million gift through their foundation, Union College announced Wednesday. It will be the lead gift for the renovation of the Visual Arts building, provide a need-based scholarship, endow a professorship and establish an annual forum on innovation and creativity.

The Feigenbaums graduated from Union — Armand in 1942 and Donald in 1946 — and then went on to found General Systems Co. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The systems engineering firm helps design better operational systems for corporations and governments.

Donald died in March 2013; Armand died in November 2014.

The two would be most excited by the scholarship, George said. It will provide a four-year, need-based scholarship annually to a student from Berkshire County in western Massachusetts.

The gift will also help Union “transform” the circa-1852 Visual Arts building, one of the original buildings on campus. There will be a three-story addition, with a sculpture and design studio for metalworking, an expanded gallery to accommodate larger exhibitions, a drawing studio, a 3-D design studio, a media lab and studios for visual arts majors to make and display their work.

“This gift will enable the Department of Visual Arts to create new studio and exhibition spaces while preserving the historic building,” department chairman David Ogawa said in a statement.

The goal is to emphasize the importance of the arts to every endeavor, attracting future engineers, physicists and chemists as well as artists, according to the college.

In addition, the gift will fund a professor of behavioral economics. The new faculty member will teach about the human element in economic decisions, including the ways psychological and emotional factors affect those decisions.

The gift also means Union will continue the Feigenbaum Forum, which the brothers started more than a dozen years ago and allows academicians to discuss how to better integrate liberal arts. The gift will add to the forum by bringing in speakers who made significant changes to their field through innovation and creativity.

The full plan was designed by the brothers’ foundation and Union staff.

“We are delighted to be able to bring to fruition this gift that Armand and Donald had been considering but were unable to complete,” George said.

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