Schenectady County

Union College adds ‘sisters’ to motto

Forty-five years after Union College admitted its first female freshman class back in 1970, the scho
Senior Peter Durkin of New London, N.H., who helped initiate the push for the new college motto, is seen Thursday on the roof of the Peter Wold Center overlooking the Union College campus.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Senior Peter Durkin of New London, N.H., who helped initiate the push for the new college motto, is seen Thursday on the roof of the Peter Wold Center overlooking the Union College campus.

Forty-five years after Union College admitted its first female freshman class back in 1970, the school’s motto is being modified to reflect that change.

The motto, “Sous les lois de Minerve nous devenons tous freres,” was put in place when the school was founded in 1795. Translated, it says, “Under the laws of Minerva we all become brothers,” and now the French word for sisters will be added to the end of the phrase, making it read “ … we all become brothers and sisters.”

“We respect the tradition of the words carefully chosen by our original trustees, but it’s important that those words now make explicitly clear that Union is a place of inclusion and a shared intellectual mission for all,” said Union President Stephen Ainlay in a statement released Thursday by the college.

There were prior efforts in 1976, 1991 and 1998 to change the motto, but none was successful. This final push was initiated by 2015 graduate Evan Leibovitz and Peter Durkin, a member of the class of 2016.

“There had been earlier attempts to change the motto, but Evan and I were both student trustees and we brought it in front of the Student Forum in January of this year,” said Durkin, a native of New London, New Hampshire. “We felt it was very important that this be done, and we felt like there was widespread support for it. The students voiced their support unanimously. We brought it to the faculty and they were also unanimous in their support.”

Durkin also gave a short speech to the college’s alumni council, and it too gave the change full support.

“There have been so many women who have made great contributions to this college, and we felt the motto should reflect that,” said Durkin, a political science major. “This was something that was long overdue.”

Union College also had an all-male faculty until 1973 when Ruth Anne Evans became the school’s first full female professor.

Sally Van Schaick was the first woman to graduate from Union College in 1958, taking classes part time as she finished up an English degree she began years earlier at Duke in North Carolina and Stetson in Florida.

Union made the decision to officially allow women in 1967 and had its first undergraduate class on campus in the fall of 1970. Among the 425 students in the graduating class of 1974 were 126 women.

The college said it will take some time before the new motto appears on Union’s stationery, campus podiums and other places with the college seal.

Categories: News

0 Comments

No Comment.