Born in 1951 in Goshen, Indiana, Ainlay earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Goshen College, and both his master’s and Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1981, with a thesis on "Intentionality, identity and aging: an inquiry into aging and adventitious vision loss".
In 1982, he became assistant professor of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass. He became associate professor in 1987, and professor in 1993. He was appointed Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies in 1993, Dean of the College in 1996, and finally Vice-President for academic affairs in 1997. He served in this capacity until assuming the presidency at Union College.
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 Law School, Albany Medical College, Albany College of Pharmacy, Union Graduate College and the Dudley Observatory. He holds a faculty position as professor of sociology at Union.
During President Ainlay’s tenure, Union has enjoyed record applications and the academic qualifications of students have never been stronger. The student body is also the most diverse in the College’s history. More students from historically underrepresented groups, countries outside the U.S., and regions outside of the northeast are enrolling at Union than ever before.
Under President Ainlay’s leadership, the College has pursued a number of strategic priorities. Union has strengthened its commitment to the combination of STEM fields with traditional arts and social sciences. It has also supported diversity, enhanced its historic campus, fostered sustainability, leveraged its location, and partnered with other organizations.
President Ainlay has been a tireless advocate for Union College and an active fundraiser. During his tenure, Union College completed the “You Are Union” campaign, which surpassed its $250 million goal by $8 million. The campaign provided more than $40 million each for financial aid and faculty support; $27 million for curriculum and student life; and $32 million for major capital projects.
President Ainlay has been active in higher education circles. He serves on the Board of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities (CICU). President Ainlay joined with five other college presidents and, with the help of the Andrew Mellon Foundation, created the New York Six Consortium. The New York Six facilitates collaborative efforts between Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith College, Skidmore College, and Union College. In 2007, President Ainlay was appointed by Governor Eliot Spitzer to the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in New York. President Ainlay also currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Loyola University Maryland.
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.
President Ainlay is married to Judith Gardner Ainlay. They are parents of a son, Jesse, an attorney in Boston, Massachusetts; daughter-in-law Jaclyne, a teacher in Marblehead, Massachusetts; and a son, Jonathan, who works at Arizona State University's Gammage Center in Phoenix, Arizona. They also have two grandsons. (with Calvin Wall Redekop & Robert Siemens) Mennonite entrepreneurs Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995 ISBN. According to WorldCat, the book is held in 349 libraries Review by Donald F Durnbaugh, Church History, v66 n2 (Jun., 1997): 421-423
Review by Theron F Schlabach, The Journal of American History, v83 n1 (Jun., 1996): 293-294
Review, by Royden Loewen, The Mennonite quarterly review. 71, no. 3, (1997): 453
Review, by Peter C Blum, The American journal of sociology. 102, no. 1, (1996): 310
(co-ed with Gaylene Becker & Lerita M Coleman) The Dilemma of difference : a multidisciplinary view of stigma New York: Plenum, 1986 ISBN 9780306423048
Review by Harold E Yuker American Scientist v75 n6 (November–December 1987): 644-645
(ed. with James Davison Hunter) Making sense of modern times New York: Routledge, 1986 ISBN 9780710207456
Review, by Richard Perkins Review of Religious Research, v29 n3 (Mar., 1988): 338-339
Review, by Robert W Friedrichs, Contemporary Sociology, v17 n1 (Jan., 1988): 114-115
Day brought back my night : aging and new vision loss New York: Routledge, 1989 ISBN 9780415007641
Review by Corinne Kirchner, Contemporary Sociology, v20 n1 (Jan., 1991): 121