John Calvin Toll Day


By Kelly Krause

When questioned about John Calvin Toll Day, most Union students described memories of XXL neon green “John Calvin Toll” t-shirts cut up for theme party outfits. Few know the significance of the day or who John Calvin Toll was.

Originally started as apart of freshman orientation in 1995, the day of service was renamed five years later in honor of John Calvin Toll, a member of Union’s first graduating class in 1799. The day was renamed  in 2000 when Toll’s great-great grandson, Al Hill (class of ‘46), created a fund at Union in Toll’s honor to promote volunteer work within the student body.

Whereas the day was originally solely for freshman, all classes are now encouraged to participate. Students who volunteer are divided into groups ranging from 5-12 people and assigned a service project in Schenectady. Projects include helping out at local pet shelters, nursing homes, Hamilton Hill Art Center, repainting old murals, and cleaning up Vale Cemetery.

Janet Sweeney, from the Kenney Community Center (the organization that runs John Calvin Toll Day), says the purpose of the day is “to encourage students to get involved in the community outside the walls of Union College”. One senior, whose first encounter with community service was John Calvin Toll Day herfreshman year, now tutors at the Kenney Center every week.

All three Pan-Hellenic sororities on campus have already pledged to participate in John Calvin Toll Day. Eva Pogosian, the Community Service chair of Sigma Delta Tau, says “We are excited to be a part of the tradition of John Calvin Toll day to give back to the Schenectady community in any we can’.

Typically around two hundred students come out to volunteer for John Calvin Toll Day every year. This year, the day falls on October 9th; students should meet at Old Chapel Circle at 9 A.M. Volunteers are not required to have cars, as buses will be available to transport students, and many of the sites are within walking distance. To register, contact Janet Sweeney at 518-388-6609. The first one hundred to register receive a free t-shirt.

For students who want to get more involved in the community, the Kenney Center runs various other volunteer programs, such as after-school homework-help programs for elementary school children. U-Re-Bloom, a new program initiated by President Ainlay’s wife, brings plants and flower arrangements left over from Union events to local nursing homes. Students who have ideas for new community service initiatives should also contact the Kenney Center; Janet Sweeney says the Kenney Center can coordinate with students to help them start any community service project they desire. For example, the Kenney Center helped start the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter after a Union Student brought the idea to their attention. To be sent weekly emails with volunteer opportunities throughout Schenectady, contact U-Care at and asked to be added to the U-Care email list.


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