Skip Navigation Links. Skip Navigation Links.

Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D

Stephen C. Ainlay, Ph.D


​Stephen Charles Ainlay became the 18th President of Union College on July 1, 2006.  He also serves as the Chancellor of Union University, whose member institutions include the Albany College of Law, Albany School of Medicine, Albany College of Pharmacy, Union Graduate College and the Dudley Observatory.  He holds a faculty position as Professor of Sociology at Union.

Before joining Union, President Ainlay spent 23 years at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.  At Holy Cross, he was a Professor of Sociology and held a number of positions in the administration, including the Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College.

A native of Goshen, Indiana, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Goshen College, and both his Master’s and Ph.D. in Sociology from Rutgers University.  President Ainlay held a post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton University.  He was also a visiting scholar at St. Edmund’s College in Cambridge University and summer fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto, California.

President Ainlay is a sociologist with a distinguished record as a scholar, teacher and administrator.  His research projects have focused on investigations of blindness, aging, spirituality and various aspects of Mennonite life, all aimed at better understanding the ways in which people find meaning in their lives. His books include Day Brought Back My Night: Aging and Vision Loss; Mennonite Entrepreneurs (co-authored with Calvin Redekop and Robert Siemans); The Dilemma of Difference: A Multidisciplinary View of Stigma (co-edited with Gaylene Becker and Lerita Coleman); and Making Sense of Modern Times: Peter L. Berger and the Vision of Interpretive Sociology (co-edited with James Davison Hunter). He has published numerous articles related to his research areas, and he is a frequent presenter at conferences of scholars and academic administrators.

He has served on the boards of numerous academic and community organizations, including the American Conference of Academic Deans, the Colleges of Worcester Consortium, the Lilly Fellows Program, the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, the Board of Incorporators for the Age Center of Worcester, the Advisory Board for the Executive Office of Elder Affairs for the city of Worcester, and the Council on Aging for the town of Holden, Massachusetts.

President Ainlay has been active in New York higher education, serving on the Boards of the member institutions of Union University as well as the Board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU).  In 2007, he was appointed by Governor Eliot Spitzer to the Commission on Higher Education for New York. He currently serves on the Mighty Waters Task Force, which was formed by U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, Representative of New York’s 21st District, to determine ways of better utilizing the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers and Erie Canal.  President Ainlay serves on the Task Force’s Executive Committee and chairs the Research and Education Committee.