Founders Day celebrates 228 years of Union College

Allyson Bennett, News Editor

Union College celebrated its 228th birthday during the Founders’ Day celebration in Memorial Chapel. Founder’s Day is a yearly celebration that takes place around the time of Union’s official founding date, February 25th, 1795. It is commonly celebrated through speeches and performances from students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The event featured the presentation of the Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award, a performance from Bhangra Union, an address from Andrea Barrett ‘74, and the Union College Chamber Singers group singing a rendition of “Ode to Old Union.” 

The event began with speeches from Robert Bertagna ‘85, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Professor Stephen Schmidt from the Economics department, and Gwenyth Sultan ‘23, President of the Student Forum. Then, the Gideon Hawley Teacher Recognition Award was conferred to Sarah Christy, Francesca Morone ‘26’s high school choir teacher. Morone nominated Christy for her efforts to conduct a hybrid format for choir practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the support system Christy provides to her students. 

“The Gideon Hawley Award is named for the 1809 graduate of Union College who was New York State’s first superintendent of public education. It is awarded to high school teachers who have had a significant and continuing influence on the academic life of Union students,” Michele Angrist, the Dean of Faculty, said in a campus-wide email. 

Bhangra Union, the college’s Bhangra dance team, performed a dance for the audience. Bhangra is a type of traditional folk dance that originated in Pakistan and portrays dancers kicking and leaping while wearing colorful outfits. 

Andrea Barrett ‘74 earned her degree in Biology and then went on to win the National Book Award for her book Ship Fever (1996). Her speech discussed her beginnings at the college and being one of the first women to attend Union, her passion for reading, and how she overcame obstacles to become a successful author. 

As Barrett discussed her life, she also gave words of advice to the Union College community: “Nothing is more useful than the courage to keep revising the way we should live, who we should be, what we can best bring to the world.” At the conclusion of her speech, Barrett was given the Eliphalet Nott Medal, a medal to recognize alumni who have made notable contributions to their fields of work. 

The ceremony finished with the Union College Chamber Choir singing a rendition of Ode to Old Union by Fitzhugh Ludlow, class of 1856. Choir directors and the audience cheered at the conclusion of the song. A reception was held in the Schaffer Library’s Lally Reading Room following the ceremony.