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Three US Presidents With Ties to Union College

In 2020, Schenectady came into the presidential spotlight when businessman, politician, and Electric City native Andrew Yang made a bid for highest post in the land. But Yang’s campaign was hardly the first time the office of the president and the City of Schenectady crossed paths. Sure, Barack Obama visited General Electric back in 2011, but presidents have had ties to this area for generations. In the spirit of Presidents’ Day, which the country will celebrate on February 21, here are three past presidents with connections to Schenectady—and Union College specifically.

 

Jimmy Carter

While future president Jimmy Carter was serving in the US Navy, he was stationed in, among other places, Schenectady. When he was there in the early ’50s, he took courses in nuclear physics and reactor technology at Union College, and lived with his wife and sons in Rotterdam.

 

Chester A Arthur

Twenty-fifth US president Chester A. Arthur was born in Fairfield, VT, but moved with his family to Greenwich, NY. Arthur stayed in the area for college, attending Union. Out of his class of 100 students, he was one of six to be elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. After graduating in 1848, Arthur went to his father’s home in Lansingburg, where he took up the study of law.

 

George Washington

While founding father George Washington has ties to Saratoga Springs—he traveled to the site of the Battles of Saratoga after the American Revolution in 1783—America’s first president also has a connection to Union College. In 2018, while Union College librarian John Myers was flipping through the pages of an old almanac, he found an envelope inscribed with the words “Washington’s Hair.” Inside, was, indeed, a lock of hair—one of surprisingly many locks of the president’s hair that have been discovered across the country. (Fun fact: Washington’s hair was natural—he didn’t wear a wig.)