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Thread: Union College: Some History

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    Union College: Some History

    More than a few casual hockey fans might be wondering this week how tiny Union College happens to have a Division 1 college hockey program and where it comes from.

    Here's some history (academic and hockey history) I wrote up last October and am reposting.

    Founded in 1795 and located in Schenectady, NY, Union was the first institution of higher learning chartered by New York State. Only Columbia is older and it was founded not by the state but by a royal charter granted by King George II in 1754.

    In the 1820s and 30s Union was the birthplace of college greek letter fraternities in the US and has been called the "Mother of Fraternities". Kappa Alpha Society, Sigma Phi, and Delta Phi, known collectively as the Union Triad, were founded there between 1825 to 1827. Several other fraternities, including Psi Upsilon (1833), Chi Psi (1841) and Theta Delta Chi (1847) were also founded at Union.

    During the first half of the 19th century Union experienced great success and was ranked with Harvard and Yale among the top colleges in the country. By 1839 Union had one of the largest faculties in American higher education and an enrollment surpassed only by Yale. It was one of the first colleges to develop a scientific curriculum alongside the traditional "classical" curriculum and Union's President, Eliphalet Nott, was thought by many to be the preeminent college president in the US during the period.

    In 1881 Chester Arthur, Union class of 1848, became the 21st President of the United States.

    Union hockey began in the early 1900s, but, unlike its neighboring upstate New York schools, like RPI and Clarkson, it enjoyed no particular success and hockey was dropped as a varsity sport in the 1940s.

    After World War II, Williams, Amherst and Wesleyan joined Bowdoin and Dartmouth in signing the so-called Pentagonal Agreement regarding college athletics and academics. This led to the formation of the New England Small College Athletic Conference in 1971 by the Pentagonal colleges (other than Dartmouth which had joined the Ivy League in the meantime) together with Union and Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury and Trinity colleges and Tufts University.

    About the time it joined NESCAC, Union had a new president named Thomas Bonner, who wanted to raise the profile of the school's athletic programs. Bonner hired Tom Cahill, the former Army football coach, to build up the football program and Ned Harkness, the controversial former RPI, Cornell and Detroit Red Wings coach, as head coach and rink manager, to revive the hockey program. Bonner apparently gave the coaches carte blanche to do whatever was needed to win -- and win quickly. Funds were raised for a new arena and the Achilles Center rink was built.

    The hockey team began play in NCAA Division III and was instantly successful, finishing with a 20–4–1 record in the 1975–76 season, their first since the 1940s, with a roster full of freshmen. Harkness followed up this initial success with a 22–3–1 season in 1976-77, and the young program was well on its way to becoming a powerhouse. Sports Illustrated wrote the Harkness comeback story up in February 1977: https://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vau...ndex.htm<br />.

    At the same time, however, there was a huge amount of controversy over the limitations imposed by the small college-oriented NESCAC on Union's athletic aspirations and in May 1977 Union decided to leave the NESCAC altogether. See: https://news.google.com/newspapers?ni...g=1191,4829816.

    The 1977–78 season started off with the team going 4–1–1 record in their first 6 games. However, a battle between the academic powers that be and Harkness was brewing. In late December, four of Harkness' top players were put on academic probation and barred from playing. Harkness was furious and abruptly quit. Reports were flying that he had violated NESCAC recruiting rules (and then lied to Bonner about it) and that admission standards for hockey players had been compromised. Many of the Union players coming in as freshmen were well into their twenties and had played for Canadian Senior teams; others were NHL draftees drawn by the chance to play for Harkness (a former coach of the Detroit Red Wings) and his plan to jump the team to Division I. Upon hearing of their coach's decision to leave, the entire team refused to play the remainder of the season in a show of solidarity with their coach.

    Overnight, the school's JV team turned into the varsity and due to the scandal, Union's formal schedule was cancelled. They were forced to play a makeshift schedule which included games against prep schools such as Hotchkiss, Trinity-Pawling, and Kimball Union, as well as games against other school's JV teams. They went 0-13-0 for the rest of the season and were outscored 146-32. As for Harkness, he instantly resurfaced as the founder/GM of the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings. In 1982, he was appointed president/CEO of the U.S. Olympic Regional Development Authority in Lake Placid.

    In May 1978, Bonner left Union to become President of Wayne State University. He had never recovered from the Harkness controversy. See: https://news.google.com/newspapers?id...+gazette&hl=en

    Union went back to D3 hockey the following year, except, for better or worse, they were no longer NESCAC members, and stayed there until 1991 when it accepted an invitation to replace Army in the ECAC.

    Union struggled in the ECAC for many years and many observers and their own fans thought they would never succeed at the D1 level.

    So much for history.

    (Note: I'm not a Union alum, just the uncle of one. I apologize in advance if I've misstated anything above and welcome corrections and additions. I will be pulling for Union this weekend!)
    Last edited by Eph72; 03-24-2012 at 09:25 AM. Reason: provide working urls

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    good stuff. thanks for sharing!
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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Thinking some more about Union (which happens to be an excellent college), it might also be fun to point out that the central building on campus, the Nott Memorial (named after Union's long time President, Eliphalet Nott, in the first half of the 19th century), is a landmarked building reputed to be one of the few sixteen-sided buildings in the world. Here's a link with pictures: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nott_Memorial

    'Not' surprisingly, the building is often referred to as "Nott's Nipple". It has also been called the *** of Tutelage or the Nipple of Knowledge. Thought you'd all like to know.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    I am the Dad of a Union alum and my son loved the school. Great place. I have also been inside the Nott and found it fascinating.

    How about a short piece on the unique bridge across the brook or "kill" in back of Achilles? It had a certain very famous designer who sat in the cabinet of a very famous President, did it not? The bridge itself was certainly NOT a folly.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by RSTuthill View Post
    I am the Dad of a Union alum and my son loved the school. Great place. I have also been inside the Nott and found it fascinating.

    How about a short piece on the unique bridge across the brook or "kill" in back of Achilles? It had a certain very famous designer who sat in the cabinet of a very famous President, did it not? The bridge itself was certainly NOT a folly.
    *******https://www.sheppardsoftware.com/usaweb/Images/alaska_c_seward.jpg********

    Secretary of State under Abe Lincoln.

    Seward's Folly: Russia sold Alaska to Secretary of State William Seward in 1867 for $7.2 million -- that's about 2 cents per acre. Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Iceberg" because many Americans thought he had spent too much for what they considered a frozen wasteland. When Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, it was the first state to enter the Union in 47 years. It also increased the country's area by a fifth.
    LET'S GO UNION DA DA DADADA

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    You left out the part about the President of Union college being quoted in 2003/4 saying that if the hockey team won 40% of their games it would be a successful season.

    I entered union in 2002...the 02/03 season was the first year the team had a home playoff series, my senior year was the first year they won a playoff series. Now they are in the NCAA's twice and ECAC Champions.

    2000 students, liberal arts school. Hockey rink needs to be replaced like most in the ECAC...at least there are no Obstructed View seats like in troilet.

    There is a little perspective.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by RSTuthill View Post
    I am the Dad of a Union alum and my son loved the school. Great place. I have also been inside the Nott and found it fascinating.

    How about a short piece on the unique bridge across the brook or "kill" in back of Achilles? It had a certain very famous designer who sat in the cabinet of a very famous President, did it not? The bridge itself was certainly NOT a folly.
    I think you are merging William Seward (Secretary of State, Purchaser of Alaska) and Squire Whipple (Bridge Designer) who designed the Whipple Truss Bridges which that pedestrian bridge is a smaller scale of. The Whipple Truss was first amde famous in it's use over many Erie canal crossings.
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    Re: Union College: Some History

    RIT fans still curse Union's name due to that 4OT game in the D-III national semis. We woulda had 3 national championships if not for that...


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    Re: Union College: Some History

    I have friends/colleagues who teach in the Geology Dept at Union, so I am pulling for the Dutchmen to take the Bridgeport bracket for a trip to the FF.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by UnionHockeyManiac View Post
    *******https://www.sheppardsoftware.com/usaweb/Images/alaska_c_seward.jpg********

    Secretary of State under Abe Lincoln.

    Seward's Folly: Russia sold Alaska to Secretary of State William Seward in 1867 for $7.2 million -- that's about 2 cents per acre. Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Iceberg" because many Americans thought he had spent too much for what they considered a frozen wasteland. When Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, it was the first state to enter the Union in 47 years. It also increased the country's area by a fifth.
    Union was really a big deal in the early to mid-19th century. Not only was Lincoln's Secretary of State, William Seward, a Union graduate, so was the Secretary of State of the Confederacy, Robert Toombs. You can look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Toombs.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Here's some modern Union history from today's New York Times:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/sp...tml?ref=sports

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by uniondutch21 View Post
    You left out the part about the President of Union college being quoted in 2003/4 saying that if the hockey team won 40% of their games it would be a successful season.

    I entered union in 2002...the 02/03 season was the first year the team had a home playoff series, my senior year was the first year they won a playoff series. Now they are in the NCAA's twice and ECAC Champions.

    2000 students, liberal arts school. Hockey rink needs to be replaced like most in the ECAC...at least there are no Obstructed View seats like in troilet.

    There is a little perspective.
    Maybe not any non-moving obstructed views, unlike that jerk mall cop that decided to stand in our way during the entire game.

    At least with the pole we don't have to look at you.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Not been able to verify this, but at one time Leland Stanford was looking to endow a college and to have "naming rights", so to speak. Union supposedly refused and well you know the rest of the Palo Alto story. Can anyone confirm?

    Also at one time there was supposedly some sort of conflict with Harvard over taking Crimson as the school colors and there may have been a rowing race to settle the issue. I guess Harvard won.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by Wholin1 View Post
    Not been able to verify this, but at one time Leland Stanford was looking to endow a college and to have "naming rights", so to speak. Union supposedly refused and well you know the rest of the Palo Alto story. Can anyone confirm?

    Also at one time there was supposedly some sort of conflict with Harvard over taking Crimson as the school colors and there may have been a rowing race to settle the issue. I guess Harvard won.
    Union and Harvard have two completely different stories on this. But both stories involve them showing up to a crew race claiming the same color (If I recall right Union claims the color was red, and Harvard claims that color was Magenta). Union's version has the schools picking different shades of red (Crimson/Garnet) to seperate themselves before the race. Harvard's story has Harvard students taking a vote to settle an internal school debate between using Magenta or Crimson and had nothing to do with Union. And the vote was decades after the boat race in question and Union had long ago switched to Garnet.
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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Interesting history. Thanks for sharing everyone!
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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by Rolevio View Post
    Union and Harvard have two completely different stories on this. But both stories involve them showing up to a crew race claiming the same color (If I recall right Union claims the color was red, and Harvard claims that color was Magenta). Union's version has the schools picking different shades of red (Crimson/Garnet) to seperate themselves before the race. Harvard's story has Harvard students taking a vote to settle an internal school debate between using Magenta or Crimson and had nothing to do with Union. And the vote was decades after the boat race in question and Union had long ago switched to Garnet.
    You're right. Before they were the Garnet and the Crimson, respectively, I think both schools called themselves the Magenta. Really. And then Union history says they had a fight over who the color belonged to.

    You can read Union's version of the story here: https://www.union.edu/N/DS/edition_di...p?e=932&s=4363

    And here's the Harvard version: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/20...mson-harvards/


    Its up to you to decide who to believe...
    Last edited by Eph72; 03-23-2012 at 11:14 AM. Reason: add complete urls

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by Eph72 View Post
    You're right. Before they were the Garnet and the Crimson, respectively, I think both schools called themselves the Magenta. Really. And then Union history says they had a fight over who the color belonged to.

    You can read Union's version of the story here: https://www.union.edu/N/DS/edition_di...p?e=932&s=4363

    And here's the Harvard version: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/20...mson-harvards/

    Its up to you to decide who to believe...
    It's also up to you to provide complete links.

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by FlagDUDE08 View Post
    It's also up to you to provide complete links.
    Whoops...Here they are:

    https://www.union.edu/N/DS/edition_di...p?e=932&s=4363

    https://www.thecrimson.com/article/20...mson-harvards/

    Hopefully, these will work...

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Union's most famous president Eliphalet Nott once held TWO college presidents jobs at once: Union from 1804-1866 and, interestingly enough, RPI from 1829-1845.

    Insert your own rivalry joke here, lol

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    Re: Union College: Some History

    Quote Originally Posted by RSTuthill View Post
    I am the Dad of a Union alum and my son loved the school. Great place. I have also been inside the Nott and found it fascinating.
    There are some very strange corners in that place. Also bats. Lots of lots of possibly rabid bats. But I haven't been there since the 90's so (hopefully) not anymore.

    Congrats to Union for their showing Friday; ECAC fans will be rooting for you Saturday too.
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