article in the Albany Times Union the other day: "You know you're from the Capitol Region if ... you know Rensselaer the city and Rensselaer the county are not pronounced the same." Not every local I spoke to agrees with this assessment, but I do think that I, for one, tend to say Renssel-EAR for the city and RENSS-ler for the county. Although I was firmly informed by a Dutch friend (the Dutch used to own this burg!) that the name is rightly pronounced something like Renssel-ARE. Anyway, forget how it's pronounced for a minute; the real problem for a lot of folks is how it's spelled. The Rensselaer School was started by Stephen Van Rensselaer III, and eventually evolved into Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. The Van Rensselaers were a very prominent family in this area, starting with Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a 17th-century Dutch trader who was instrumental in the founding of New Netherland. There were seven cases of Rennselaer* in OhioLINK, and three of Rensselear. WorldCat turned up 123 and 96 cases apiece.
(Engraving of the original Rensselaer School, located at 703 River Street in Troy. From Arthur James Weise's 1876 History of the City of Troy: from the Expulsion of the Mohegan Indians to the Present Centennial Year of Independence of the United States of America, and Wikimedia Commons.)