Union College President Stephen Ainlay is taking six months to rest, recharge and work out the details of the college’s next strategic plan.
The college’s board of trustees awarded him a six-month sabbatical, from July 1 through the end of the year, as a reward for finishing his seventh year as president and the successful completion of the “You Are Union” campaign to raise $250 million.
“It was one of the largest capital campaigns for a school our size,” said Frank Messa, a life trustee on Union’s board and interim vice president for college relations. “There are probably five or six schools our size that have completed a quarter-of-a-billion-dollars campaign. It was quite an accomplishment and one of the reasons we awarded the sabbatical to President Ainlay.”
Therese McCarty, dean of faculty and vice president of academic affairs, is serving as acting president while he’s gone.
A presidential sabbatical differs greatly from a faculty sabbatical at Union College. Ainlay’s sabbatical was negotiated as a part of his contract with the private Schenectady college. Faculty sabbaticals are typically awarded to faculty who are on a tenure track or in their fourth year at the college. A departmental committee has to approve it, and it has to be used for some educational purpose such as writing a book or conducting research that furthers their academic expertise.
“In contrast, the presidential sabbatical has as its requirement whatever the board decides,” said Messa. “So what he’s doing on this sabbatical, after finishing seven years of running a college and a quarter-of-a-billion-dollars capital campaign, is just recharging his batteries and coming back refreshed and ready to go for the next round.”
Ainlay is earning a full salary while on sabbatical. He earns $473,818 a year, according to the college’s latest tax return filing.
The board offered Ainlay a sabbatical of up to one year, said Messa, but he chose a six-month leave instead and opted to take it July 1 so that the first two months would pass when school was out of session.
He also announced to the board before he left that he would spend his sabbatical working on a revised strategic plan for the college that would involve brainstorming a new fundraising initiative, new facilities and meeting with donors.
“He’s staying in touch with many of the donors whom we’re going to be calling on to help implement the strategic plan,” Messa said.
Ainlay also will spend part of his sabbatical helping a search committee find a new vice president of college relations. The position was previously held by Steve Dare, who retired at the completion of the eight-year campaign to raise $250 million. The money is targeted for general operations, the college’s endowment and capital projects.
“He’s keeping busy,” said Messa. “This isn’t a trip to the beach. This is a working sabbatical.”