From college president to motorcyclist: the many layers of Ainlay


By Meghan Creane

After the immense success of the U Are Union Campaign, which raised over $250 million for the school, the board of trustees awarded President Stephen Ainlay a six-month sabbatical from early July 2013 to December 2013.

When asked about his upcoming sabbatical in relation to the success of the U Are Union Campaign, Ainlay explained that while it was in part the success of the campaign that helped him get awarded this time of leave, the sabbatical is not a time to reflect on that success.

He said, “It is not so much about what you have done in the past, it’s really a preparation for the future and laying the groundwork for things to come.”

Some of the projects Ainlay will ponder how to launch into over his sabbatical include a “renovation of residence halls, continued interest in thinking about dining and a number of academic projects including the arts building and the science and engineering complex.”

While thinking about a Union without Ainlay for a few months is hard to grasp, the projects he will be working on leave many of the students full of eager anticipation, while some still question the purpose of a sabbatical.

For example Ann E. Cantwell ‘15 thinks taking a sabbatical so early in his career is “ambitious” for President Ainlay. However, she believes that “the sabbatical program is in tact to strengthen our faculty’s knowledge, so that they can become better educators.

Therefore it might be more beneficial to the community to grant the opportunity to a professor and keep the head of our college on campus.”

During his leave, current Academic Vice President and Dean of Faculty Therese McCarty will take his place, making a short move across the hall from her office to her temporary position in the President’s office. The current Dean of Departments David Hayes will take over McCarty’s current position.

Ainlay has taken one other sabbatical in his life, during which he spent a year in Cambridge, England. That time taught him how to appreciate the “virtues of being away,” allowing him to focus and work without distraction.

However, it is these distractions that Ainlay is going to miss the most about Union during his time away.

He said it best himself when explaining what he’ll miss while he is traveling on sabbatical, “One of the things I love about the place is being in the life of it…and it’s not just the big thing.”

It’s the little things that mean the most to  Ainlay, including an instance this past Saturday where he and his wife, Judith “had two students come over to the house and ask if they could walk Winston.”

This is what he “loves about being on campus, being a part of what is going on.”

While Ainlay is not quite sure where he and Mrs. Ainlay will be going during the six-month leave, one thing he is sure of is that some leg of his journey will be completed via motorcycle.

Unbeknownst to many students, Ainlay is a motorcycle enthusiast, who goes on yearly rides with his two brothers.

The Ainlay brothers have traveled through the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Southwest parts of the United States and have a pact to continue doing so every year in the foreseeable future.

So if you find yourself on the road this summer and see a bespectacled man riding past you on his motorcycle throw out a wave and a “hello,” wave back, because it may well be President Ainlay pondering the next big move for Union.



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