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Union tops $250M target

Union tops $250M target

Union College has exceeded its eight-year goal to raise $250 million by the end of the year, reachin
Union tops $250M target
Union College students leave the Peter Wold Center Friday. Union College has topped its goal of $250 million in the largest and most comprehensive fundraising campaign in its history. Capital projects of more than $32 million supported by the campaign inc
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Union College has exceeded its eight-year goal to raise $250 million by the end of the year, reaching the milestone during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history, said officials at the Schenectady liberal arts college.

Steve Dare, vice president for college relations at Union, said the campaign will likely raise $255 million when it concludes Dec. 31. “We finished it when we said we would finish,” he said.

The 218-year-old college launched the campaign in 2004, calling it the largest and most comprehensive effort in Union’s history. “It is a competitive amount of support for an institution,” Dare said. “An institution of Union’s stature and size, ranked as it is as a top 40 liberal arts college, should have a campaign of this size and be able to complete it in a timely fashion.”

Initially, the campaign was set to raise $200 million by the end of 2008. That year, four more years and an additional $50 million were added to the campaign after college President Stephen C. Ainlay, who had taken that post two years earlier, developed a strategic plan with the trustees on how to use the money, Dare said.

“President Ainlay has been right out front. He provides the leadership, the internal leadership for the campus community, and with trustees, starting with the strategic plan,” Dare said. “The money we raised is based on the plan. It is well-spelled out.”

Ainlay said he was “overwhelmed by the generosity of so many alumni and friends of Union College” who contributed to the “You are Union” campaign. “Believing in the mission of Union College and the difference it makes, they have contributed to the ‘You are Union’ campaign even in the face of an economically challenging environment,” he said. “They have transformed the face of our campus, providing remarkable educational opportunities, and made a Union education accessible to so many.”

The $250 million is targeted for three purposes: general operations, the endowment and capital projects, Dare said. Under general operations, the college is using $40 million to provide financial assistance to students and $40 million to attract and retain faculty. Dare said the college has created more than 100 new scholarships to help make Union more affordable and accessible and that approximately 60 percent of the student body receives some sort of financial assistance. He said the support to the faculty allowed the college to keep staffing levels stable during the recession, which began in 2008. A portion of the money will create professorships in religious studies, statistics, philosophy, biology, classics and mathematics.

More than $27 million from the campaign will be used for curriculum and program activities, faculty and undergraduate research opportunities, and student life enhancements.

Dare said the college’s endowment will be at $327 million at the campaign’s end.

The college is spending $32 million to fix up and create new buildings. These include the Peter Irving Wold Center, the Minerva Houses, Lippman Hall, the Viniar Athletic Center, Messa Rink, the Breazzano Fitness Center, the Taylor Music Center, the Henle Dance Pavilion and the Wicker Wellness Center. Dare said the college went forward with these capital projects despite the sluggish economy, which slowed down construction efforts elsewhere.

A 2007 study by the Capital District Regional Planning Commission concluded that Union’s positive economic impact on Schenectady County alone exceeds $273 million annually.

Approximately 34,000 donors, of whom 60 percent are alumni, contributed. Dare said the college launched the fund raising campaign to help Union remain competitive. “Tuition does not cover everything that is needed. We have buildings to maintain, faculty to support, students to support. You need to continue to raise continuous support to augment tuition,” he said.

Union has an enrollment of 2,241 and operates on a $147 million annual budget.

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