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Union College Receives Record $51 Million Donation

Union College has received the largest single donation in its 225-year history.

It was a celebratory atmosphere with aerial acrobats, dancers, and a drumline as College President David Harris broke the news in Schenectady Friday.

“I’m excited to announce that Mary and Rich Templeton, Union College Class of 1980, have committed $51 million to the Powering Union campaign,” Harris said.

The private college says the money will go toward establishing the Templeton Institute for Engineering and Computer Science.

Rich and Mary Templeton met at Union College. Mary graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics, Rich with a B.S. in electrical engineering. Mary then worked at General Electric and Rich at Texas Instruments.

Mary Templeton was badly injured in 2013 in an accident. A wave slammed her into the ocean floor and paralyzed her instantly from the waist down. The couple says the experience focused their perspectives on what they want to offer the world.

“This is Mary Templeton’s first time back on campus in 39 years," Harris said. "Welcome home.”

“We talked and strategized about how liberal arts and engineering blend together to make each other stronger," said Mary Templeton. "In hindsight, this was the start of thinking about a gift and we believe we can make a difference for Union by helping to strengthen engineering for decades to come.”

Rich Templeton is the chair, president, and CEO of Texas Instruments. He says Union College has the potential to be the best, and most diversified, engineering college.

“Mary and I are also pleased to be able to make a gift that touches so many things that are important to us," Rich said. "Engineering and education - and making sure we can grow diverse representation in those fields - introducing people from all economic backgrounds and diverse backgrounds to the opportunity in the STEM fields.”

Harris laid out three objectives for the funds.

“We have to provide the capacity for engineering and computer science faculty to teach other Union students through first year precepts and other courses," Harris said. "Two, we have to expand our offerings in computer science and engineering to new fields. And third, we need to grow the percentage of women graduating from Union in engineering and computer science to at least 50%.” 

Junior Cathy Xing, a mechanical engineering student, says the initiative makes her feel optimistic.

“In so many of my classes I’m the only female in the class," Xing said. "So I’d feel much more comfortable if I had more girls in the class.”

Xing wants to specialize in robotics, and says they could use the funds for better equipment. "Machines in the machine shops – so for like laser cutting, water jets, so things like that would really help.”

The Templetons’ donation is part of the college’s fundraising campaign, Powering Union, which aims to raise $300 million.

“We have already raised, are you ready? 3-2-1- Fire the cannon. $221 million.”

Founded in 1795, Union has roughly 2,200 students.