Queer stories that exist outside of the explicit realm of activism are sometimes more difficult to trace as being queer, but exploring stories about the breadth of lived experiences of LGBTQ+ identified individuals and their vastly varied accomplishments is incredibly important. In this section, I seek to highlight the professional accomplishments of two LGBTQ+ identifying former faculty. In cases where these accomplishments are already fairly well known and celebrated by the campus community, I propose that we recontextualize our celebrations so as to view their work as examples of queer work, and understand their accomplishments as manifestations of queer joy. 

Hugh Allen Wilson

Professor Hugh Allen Wilson (1925-2010) was employed at the college from 1962 until 1996. Across his time at Union, he served as a Professor of Music, the director of the Union College choir, the director of the Men’s and Women’s Glee Clubs, and the Chair of the Department of the Arts. He was an accomplished and internationally renowned organist, harpsichordist, and conductor. He retired to Bolton Landing, New York with his partner Marshall Ford [1].

An undated, black and white photograph of Hugh Allen Wilson playing the piano in his home. 

An undated, black and white photograph of the Union College Men's Glee Club, dressed up in concert attire (black suits and ties), lined up in four rows on performance risers. Hugh Allen Wilson is standing to the far right of the very first row. 

A black and white photograph of Hugh Allen Wilson with three people, likely students, dated 1975.

The back of the photograph, with a message written in cursive lettering that reads: To Hugh, ... On the Broadway debut of a former student. Thanks for making it possible. Much affection ... Steven 1975.

The first page of the booklet advertising the Union College Men's Glee Club 1979 Spring Tour. The left page offers "a brief history of the Union College Men's Glee Club," and the write page features a biographical section and photograph of Hugh Allen Wilson, a list of "notable performances of Union College Men's Glee Club," and a list of "major works performed."

The title page of a booklet advertising the Men's  Glee Club 1979 Spring Tour, which took place from March 26 to April 1, 1979. The righthand page reads: Men's Glee Club - Hugh Allen Wilson, Dir. - Union College - Schenectady, New York.

Donald Thurston

Professor Donald Thurston (1929-2023) was employed at the college from 1966 until 1996. He was a Professor in the History and Political Science Departments who specialized in Japanese and Chinese history. In 1978, Thurston and Robert Englebach, a quality systems engineer at General Electric, got together. In 1984, Thurston led Union’s first term abroad to Japan at Kansai Gaidai University, and in 1986, he took 12 students on Union’s first term in China at Nanjing Teachers College. In 1989, he led the project to form the East Asian Studies Department, serving as the inaugural chair. After his retirement, he remained an active and engaged member of the Union community, living in Burnt Hills and spending his summers in Brooksville, Maine. Thurston and Engelbach married in 2008, and had been together for 37 years when Engelbach passed away in 2015. In 2022, Thurston established an endowed professorship called “The Donald R. Thurston and Robert Englebach Professorship in Asian Studies” at Union, and it was one of the largest monetary gifts ever given to the school by a faculty member [2 , 3].

An undated, black and white image of Donald Thurston that was likely taken towards the end of his career, in the early 1990s. 

A black and white professional headshot image of Donald Thurston, dated March 6, 1967. 

[1] December 20, 2010. "College Mourns Prof. Hugh Allen Wilson." Retrieved from the Union College News Archive. 

[2] November 1, 2022. "Prof. Thurston Gives Endowed Chair for Asian Studies." Retrieved from the Union College News Archive. 

[3] June 15, 2023. "Professor Thurston Remembered for Impact on Asian Studies." Retrieved from the Union College News Archive. 

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