April 2016 Cover Story: SUNY Potsdam’s Bicentennial

A celebration 200 years in the making

SUNY Potsdam President Kristin Esterberg celebrates the 200th anniversary of the university March 25 during a bicentennial bash at the school’s student union. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

SUNY Potsdam President Kristin Esterberg celebrates the 200th anniversary of the university March 25 during a bicentennial bash at the school’s student union. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Business.

On March 25, 2016, SUNY Potsdam, the oldest of state system’s 64 campuses, marked the founding of St. Lawrence Academy. The present-day college traces its beginnings to 1816 when the Academy and its first Board of Trustees were formed. Two centuries later, SUNY Potsdam is a story of the evolution of educational excellence.

By Karee Magee, NNY Business

In the small, rural town of Potsdam, 42 students arrived in September 1816 for the first classes held in the one-room building that housed the St. Lawrence Academy, a modest establishment that also served as the town’s church and meetinghouse, but one that served as the foothold for the evolution of the State University of New York at Potsdam.

Two hundred years after the Academy was founded on March 25, 1816, SUNY Potsdam remains a thriving center of education in the north country with nearly 4,000 undergraduate students and about 300 graduate students, almost half of the population of the village of Potsdam.

Serving as a St. Lawrence County cultural hub, the university is renowned throughout the state for its creative focus, including the celebrated Crane School of Music, but long before it became the birthplace of music education, SUNY Potsdam built its legacy on teacher education, which remains the central pillar of its two centuries of success.


At its founding in 1816, St. Lawrence Academy was one of the first 50 colleges established in the United States, making its teacher education program the oldest in the SUNY system, but it was in 1828 that the Academy took strides to create special training and curriculum for teachers.

Prior to the Rev. Asa Brainerd’s appointment as preceptor, education at the Academy focused on subjects, including reading, writing, grammar, mathematics and dead languages. She drafted a new program to train teachers for roles in public education because she believed education should be in the reach of poor as well as the rich.

With the support of the New York State Legislature, choosing St. Lawrence Academy as an exclusive teacher education program, the school began its tradition of excellence.

“SUNY Potsdam has taken a real lead over time in providing education to students,” said Jane Subramanian, retired librarian and college archivist.

Rev. Brainerd’s concept for teacher education has evolved throughout the history of SUNY Potsdam, but it began with a comprehensive view of learning.

Long before the first liberal arts degree was awarded in 1964, a holistic view of education became the core of teacher education at St. Lawrence Academy.

“There’s a large depth there,” Ms. Subramanian said. “The liberal arts was considered a very important part of the coursework.”

According to Ms. Subramanian, education departed from the previous model of focus on individual subjects and onto a comprehensive view of education, including the sciences, math, language, and an important emphasis on the arts with dramatic programs dating back to the late 1800s. The first music teacher was hired in 1931, more than 50 years before the Crane Normal Institute of Music was created.

“I like to think of liberal arts as the backbone of all the education that goes on here,” said Steven J. Marqusee, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at SUNY Potsdam. “The background that you get is essential for success no matter what you go into.”

It was recognized at St. Lawrence Academy that having a broad education would aid teachers, a system that has only evolved through the school’s history.

Mr. Marqusee said that liberal arts is often misunderstood because the old view was students were simply learning a subject like Latin or philosophy, but it’s become more than that. Liberal arts courses teach problem solving, critical thinking, writing and speaking, he said.

“It’s a way of thinking,” he said. “Careers require people to think critically, write effectively and speak effectively in order to be successful.”

It was this new view on teacher training that prompted the growth of the St. Lawrence Academy when the academy system was being replaced by the Normal School Program, a program designed specifically for teacher education, the root of primary and secondary education in the United States.

“There was tremendous competition throughout the state,” Ms. Subramanian said.

St. Lawrence Academy was one of four schools chosen to join the two Normal Schools in Albany in 1866 because of its reputation for successful teacher education.

“It is a long tradition of recognizing that education is more than a set of knowledge about a particular area,” Mr. Marqusee said. “You need to have a college that is nimble and can continue to modify its strengths in order to remain relevant in a changing world, but we’re relying on the basics as well.”

Those basics are even more important today, according to the dean, as SUNY Potsdam prepares students to take part in a global society.

“The people we train as teachers today are not staying locally and teaching in a one-room schoolhouse,” Mr. Marqusee said. “They’re teaching students of different backgrounds. You want someone who has these basic abilities that make our graduates whole.”

The liberal arts focus did more for SUNY Potsdam than facilitating the evolution of educating future teachers, though. Through its Normal School and Potsdam State Teachers College years to the SUNY school today, the university has transformed from a college for teachers to a challenging liberal arts institution.

“We’re known for our creative activity,” said Kristin Esterberg, president of SUNY Potsdam. “What ties us together is we are a creative campus.”

The transformation to a creative campus started with the evolution of the teacher education programs to include music teacher education.


Before the birth of what is now the Crane School of Music in 1884, music education was reserved for conservatories and did not exist within public schools.

“We take it for granted now, but at the time it was a new concept,” Ms. Subramanian said.

The music education program was conceived by Julia Etta Crane, a graduate of the Potsdam Normal School.

After studying music education in Boston, teaching music in Shippensburg, Pa., and Potsdam, and learning performance in England under Manual Garcia, Julia Crane was invited to join the faculty at the Potsdam Normal School and try out her own ideas of teaching music.

It was just two years later that she founded the first music teachers’ curriculum and the Crane Normal Institute of Music with the idea that proper training could create graduates as well-suited to teaching music as they were to teach reading or history.

“It was a wonderful confluence between a vision of music education and teacher education,” said Michael Sitton, dean of the Crane School of Music. “That both preserved her vision, but it also enriched the Normal School. It set its future and established its history.”

Her vision took the concept of a well-rounded education, based on the liberal arts foundation that she had experienced, and interpreted it for music education: an emphasis on excellence in performance.

Julia Crane’s methodology was based on her idea that a music teacher needed grounding in performance to teach students effectively.

“The students who come for that program are not only excellent teachers, they’re excellent musicians,” Ms. Esterberg said.

That commitment to a high level of excellence in performance at Crane established it as a leading music education program in the country.

“What we prove is you don’t need to be New York City to be an amazing performer,” Ms. Esterberg said. “The quality is unparalleled. It rivals any major music center.”

The Crane School of Music’s defining feature, though, is its tradition of innovation, Mr. Sitton said, which was the element behind its birth.

“On the one hand there is a deeply rooted education, but the innovation Crane has sought over its long history has provided opportunities to evolve and change,” Mr. Sitton said.

Change has been welcomed from the very beginning.

When Crane graduate Helen Hosmer was named as the director of the music program in 1930, she improved on Julia Crane’s ideas of music education with a more experiential program. It included bringing new and different types of music to the students at Crane to broaden their knowledge, and sometimes bringing the students directly to the opportunities as with the first study abroad course she introduced in 1936.

Ms. Hosmer initiated a semester’s study in Europe for 18 of her students where they experienced music centers, operas, concerts and the cultures of Germany, England, France and Austria.

Her direction began a path for Crane to provide Crane students with every available experience.

Today that includes master classes with renowned performers, ensembles ranging from jazz to Latin music or West African drum and dance, trips to play in Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as internships with leading companies like Yamaha or nonprofits such as League of America Orchestras.

“That’s really important that these students have access to artists with different techniques,” Ms. Esterberg said. “It brings a different perspective than what we can offer typically.”

Over the years, the students from Crane have performed at some of the most historic events in New York’s history, including at the United Nations in 1958, the 1980 Winter Olympic Games and at the unveiling of the restored Statue of Liberty in 1986.

“Potsdam is very lucky to have the Crane School of Music,” said Vicki Templeton-Cornell, executive director of SUNY Potsdam’s Board of Trustees and vice president for college advancement. “It makes us distinctive in the SUNY system.”

The Crane School of Music’s initiative to provide the best to its students also preceded to set the bar for SUNY Potsdam and inspired the same attitude for other programs, including bringing Bill T. Jones Dance Company to work with the school’s dance students.

The school’s success in performance education and ability to draw professional and world-renowned artists to the region, though, has also created a cultural atmosphere unique to this rural area of Northern New York.

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES SUNY Potsdam's mascot, Max C. Bear gives a high five to Colin Singh, 8, son of Potsdam administrators Shaili and Judy Singh, Potsdam, Friday during SUNY Potsdam's bicentennial bash at the school's student union. (Rizzo's story...03/25/16)


When Ms. Templeton-Cornell moved to Potsdam in the 1970s, what drew her family to the region was the culturally diverse environment that was created by the students, the faculty and the opportunities at SUNY Potsdam.

Although it could be argued that the biggest impact the university has on the region is economic as Potsdam’s second largest employer and its multi-million dollar footprint, Ms. Templeton-Cornell said the benefits expand far beyond that.

“The impact the college has on the region goes far beyond what you could realized,” she said.

Potsdam and the north country have become an artistic oasis that few rural areas can compare to due in large part to the creative work at the university that ranges from musical performances to art galleries.

“It’s a significant part of SUNY Potsdam,” Mr. Sitton said. “The musical performances Crane offers is very important to their lives. It’s very unusual in an area like this to have the number of performances we have here.”

Crane itself offers about 300 performances a year and it has spawned the creation of community bands and orchestras, including the Orchestra of Northern New York, which include faculty, alumni and students of the school.

“I don’t know how many rural environments can host an orchestra of such high quality,” Ms. Esterberg said.

The Community Performance Series seeks to bring world-class performing arts opportunities to the region, including guest artists, children and family programs, and Potsdam Music Theatre.

Faculty, students, and student teachers also bring their musical talents and expertise to the region’s public schools, as well as providing programs for youths at SUNY Potsdam in the performing arts and through various summer camps.

“This community would not be so rich if not for SUNY Potsdam,” Ms. Esterberg said.

The cultural impact that the school has had on the community, though, would not have been possible without the groundwork the community had done in the beginning, Ms. Subramanian said.

The community has always supported the success and growth of SUNY Potsdam from the beginning when residents housed students of St. Lawrence Academy and by raising and providing the money to make the Potsdam Normal School a reality.

“A lot of it has to do with the people who gave of themselves to ensure that the school continued to grow,” Ms. Subramanian said. “A small community like Potsdam promotes that closeness.”

SUNY Potsdam’s community has grown to include the three other universities in the area that make up the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence Valley: Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University and SUNY Canton.

“The educational opportunities are improved by them being here,” Ms. Subramanian said.

Chartered by the New York State Board of Regents in 1970, the Associated Colleges of the St. Lawrence County collaborate in several ways to increase the strength of the educational community in Potsdam and Canton.

“The whole system is a classic case that the sum of the whole is stronger than its individual parts,” said Anthony G. Collins, president of Clarkson University. “There is very little academic overlap and we complement each other’s strengths.”

The collaboration between the universities includes a wide range of opportunities like the ability to cross-register for classes at another of the universities, a faculty exchange program, faculty seminars, including a women’s leadership conference and the annual teaching conference, and shared services like payroll and transportation.

Mr. Collins said that the universities also provide support in the event that services break down and resources need to be shared.

“I can’t speak of a negative experience of working together,” he said. “We meet regularly and talk through ways to increase the collaboration.”

The strongest benefit of the collegiate community, though, Mr. Collins said, is the diverse population it attracts including many engineering students who have interests in pursuing music at the Crane School of Music and faculty with trailing spouses that have three other distinct universities where they can forward their careers.

The diverse student and faculty population brought to the region by the four schools is one benefit of the partnerships and the educational atmosphere of Potsdam where SUNY Potsdam sees a future for growth.

According to Ms. Esterberg, SUNY Potsdam’s student population is made up of one-third north country students. The school has become increasingly popular with students outside of Northern New York and international students.

“That just adds an extraordinary richness to the cultural life of our community,” she said.

Part of the school’s mission, she said, is to become an inclusive place as the world becomes a global economy. Over the past two centuries, SUNY Potsdam has succeeded in expanding its impact and influence beyond the north country and into the rest of the state.

“If you go to just about any school district throughout the north country, so many teachers, superintendents and principals have come from SUNY Potsdam,” Ms. Esterberg said.

SUNY Potsdam totaled nearly 37,000 active alumni in the U.S. and its territories as of June 2013, 24,495 of whom remained in New York State. SUNY Potsdam graduates can be found in all 50 states and every U.S. territory.

Ms. Esterberg said a good portion of those students come from New York City and Long Island, and they take the north country home with them. Many even become world-renowned like opera singers Renee Fleming and Stephanie Blythe.

“I hope they’ll remember their experience and the impact we had on them,” Ms. Esterberg said. “What’s really important is that north country students interact with students from all over New York and with international students so they are well-prepared to live and work in a global society.”


In preparation for its bicentennial, SUNY Potsdam’s administration placed a lot of consideration on how they would approach the third century of the university.

The university once again looked back to its roots with its Looking to the Future Project, inviting input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and the entire community on the future of the school.

“It’s everyone’s campus,” said Joshua LaFave, chairman of the Goals and Planning Committee at SUNY Potsdam. “We are all stakeholders. We all have a part to play. The campus has been successful because of the contributions of all stakeholders.”

In that spirit, the Goals and Planning Committee will begin strategic planning soon and present a report to the administration about the local community’s contributions.

Though it is early days, Mr. Sitton said the university is going to continue with that same tradition of innovation that created the liberal arts foundation of teacher education and the Crane School of Music.

“We’re not trying to go too far to the fads, but go to our strengths and develop what makes sense,” Ms. Templeton-Cornell said.

The university’s newer majors in music business, graphic design, exercise science and computer science look at taking traditional coursework at SUNY Potsdam and finding ways to make it current, according to Ms. Esterberg.

The evolution that Ms. Esterberg sees, though, moves beyond simply adding more majors, but looking toward making programs more accessible to anyone who wants to attend SUNY Potsdam.

This goal includes new additions to the campus like the Center for Applied Learning, the first in the SUNY system, to ensure that every student has the opportunity to complete more high-impact learning experiences including internships, study abroad or research opportunities.

“Our challenge is how to create more opportunities for young people who want to stay in the north country,” she said. “How can we help them translate their ideas into business opportunities?”

This idea has been set in motion with initiatives like Start-Up NY, a program that allows new and expanding businesses to operate tax-free for 10 years on or near eligible university or college campuses. The program seeks to create new jobs and increase economic development.

Ms. Esterberg, though, said that SUNY Potsdam will be looking for additional ways to promote more accessible education and opportunities for the students in Potsdam and those taking classes through its Watertown extension. Accessibility could mean anything from more flexible class schedule for working graduate students to more summer session offerings.

“We’ve got this incredible location and we don’t fully use this beautiful place in the summer,” Ms. Esterberg said.

Another goal is to improve the inclusiveness of Potsdam’s programs for veteran and Native American populations, specifically the Akwesasne population.

The university opened its expanded Center for Diversity in February as part its Native American Teaching Initiative and to aid the 30 percent of students who identify as students of color.

The center now has a new computer lab, new staff and student offices, work station, and student lounge.

The Center for Diversity seeks to assist all students in their transition at SUNY Potsdam, as well as their development.

The Native American Teaching Initiative, Ms. Esterberg said, is a grant-based program created to alleviate the shortage of Native American teachers in the state. The grant allows participants to receive financial assistance, academic support services, field experiences, job placement and mentoring services.

Although the university is still early in the process of developing a strategy as it begins its third century, Ms. Templeton-Cornell said any changes will be in keeping with the mission of SUNY Potsdam.

“The landscape is going to change, but we are going to stick to our mission of delivering a high quality of education,” she said. “It’s not always a consistent pattern in schools that you say what you are and continue to be what you say, but that is what we do at SUNY Potsdam.”

Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at 661-2381 or kmagee@wdt.net.


SUNY POTSDAM: A two-century timeline of significant events

St. Lawrence Academy is founded and the first Board of Trustees established.

1826_NorthAcademySeptember 1826: NORTH ACADEMY BUILDING OPENS — St. Lawrence Academy moves from its former residence in a cramped one-room schoolhouse to a new, four-level sandstone building on North — now Elm — Street, across from the present Civic Center.

1837_SouthAcademyNovember 1837: SOUTH ACADEMY OPENS — Needing more space for the growing institution, the South Academy is constructed beginning in 1836, on South — now Main— Street.

April 1866: POTSDAM CHOSEN FOR NORMAL SCHOOL — Potsdam is selected as the location of one of the four State Normal Schools established under Chapter 466, Laws of 1866, along with Normal Schools in Cortland, Brockport and Fredonia.

April 1867: ACADEMY BECOMES POTSDAM NORMAL SCHOOL — St. Lawrence Academy becomes
Potsdam Normal School. New York State purchases the campus lands and buildings.

Potsdam Normal School

Potsdam Normal School



TO POTSDAM — Julia Etta Crane founds the first Normal School training course for public school music teachers in the United States. This is the genesis of Crane’s reputation as the birthplace of American music education.

1886: CRANE NORMAL INSTITUTE OF MUSIC FOUNDED — Julia Etta Crane establishes the first special music teachers’ curriculum, and incorporates the Crane Normal Institute of Music. This is considered the founding of the present-day Crane School of Music.

1886_CraneNormalInstitute1896: HOUSE PURCHASED FOR CRANE — Julia Crane purchases the house formerly owned by Mr. DeWitt Anstead at 60 Main St., opposite the Clarkson School of Technology and next to the three-story Potsdam Normal School building.

1916: CENTENNIAL MARKS FIRST 100 YEARS — A tablet marking the original location of the academy is erected on Union Street.

1919: NEW NORMAL SCHOOL BUILDING COMPLETED — The first Normal School building was demolished to make way for a new building. The sandstone classroom and administration building holds a theater as well.

1926: NEW YORK STATE PURCHASES CRANE INSTITUTE — The Crane Normal Institute of Music becomes the Crane Department of Music at Potsdam Normal School.

1930_HelenHosmer1930: HELEN HOSMER NAMED TO LEAD CRANE — Dr. Helen M. Hosmer, a Crane Normal Institute of Music graduate, returns to her alma mater to direct the Crane Department of Music.


1936: FIRST STUDY ABROAD COURSE — Helen Hosmer initiates a European Study Tour, the first semester-long course offered abroad by any U.S. Normal School.

1938: NORMAL SCHOOLS TURNED INTO COLLEGES — The New York State Legislature passes a bill that would give all Normal Schools the status of a college.

1942_PotsdamTeachersCollegeJuly 1, 1942: POTSDAM STATE TEACHERS COLLEGE — Potsdam Normal School becomes the Potsdam State Teachers College.


February 1948: STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK ESTABLISHED — With the founding of the State University of New York, Potsdam State Teachers College officially becomes the State University of New York College at Potsdam.

1950_NewCampusConstruction1950: CONSTRUCTION OF NEW CAMPUS BEGINS — Following the creation of SUNY, the College begins construction of a new campus on its Pierrepont Avenue land.

1954_ClockTower1954: THE ICONIC CLOCK TOWER — The clock tower atop Satterlee Hall is the main symbol of the college since it was first constructed. It is the campus’s first and only clock tower.

1954: DOWNTOWN BUILDING PASSED TO CLARKSON — The College passes ownership of its former downtown red sandstone building to Clarkson University, which renames it Snell Hall.

1958: CRANE PERFORMS AT UNITED NATIONS — The Crane Chorus is invited to perform with the Symphony of the Air, in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York City.


1956_CraneHall1971: CRANE SCHOOL OF MUSIC IS ESTABLISHED — The Crane Department of Music becomes The Crane School of Music, the college’s third school to confer degrees.

1972: SCHOOL OF LIBERAL ARTS & SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES ESTABLISHED — The School of Liberal Arts, which later becomes The School
of Arts and Sciences, is established.

1980_CraneOlympics WEB1980: CRANE AT 1980 WINTER OLYMPICS IN LAKE PLACID — The Crane School of Music was invited to serve as the official musicians for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., the second time the Adirondacks have played host to the winter games.

May 1986: CRANE SCHOOL OF MUSIC CENTENNIAL — The Crane School of Music celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding in 1986.

1986_StatueLiberty WEBJuly 3, 1986: CRANE CHORUS AT UNVEILING OF STATUE OF LIBERTY — The Crane Chorus was invited to perform at the unveiling of the refurbished Statue of Liberty.

1998: 50 YEARS OF SUNY — The State University of New York marks its 50th anniversary. SUNY Potsdam remains
the oldest of the system’s 64 campuses.

2013_ChancellorPresident WEB2013: DR. KRISTIN G. ESTERBERG — 16th president of SUNY Potsdam and first woman to lead the institution in inaugurated president of the college.

2014_PerformingArtsCenter WEBApril 2014: PERFORMING ARTS CENTER COMPLETED — SUNY Potsdam celebrates the grand opening of its new $55 million Performing Arts Center. The state-of-the-art facility is home to the college’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

JASON HUNTER n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES SUNY Potsdam's mascot, Max C. Bear gives a high five to Colin Singh, 8, son of Potsdam administrators Shaili and Judy Singh, Potsdam, Friday during SUNY Potsdam's bicentennial bash at the school's student union. (Rizzo's story...03/25/16)

March 25, 2016 – BICENTENNIAL MARKS THE FOUNDING OF ST. LAWRENCE ACADEMY — SUNY Potsdam celebrates its 200th anniversary on the St. Lawrence Academy’s Charter Day.


SUNY POTSDAM / Notable 20th & 21st century Alumni

Anthony Brennan

Class: 1975
Education: Bachelor’s in chemistry, SUNY Potsdam; master’s in chemistry, Rochester Institute of Technology
Career: Professor of material science and engineering, University of Florida, and founder of Sharklet.

Blythe_Stephanie_mugStephanie Blythe

Class: 1992
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in English writing and vocal performance, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam
Career: Mezzo-soprano opera star who has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, with the Paris National Opera, and the San Francisco, Chicago Lyric and Seattle operas. Co-founder and artistic director of the Fall Island Vocal Arts Seminar at the Crane School of Music; honorary chair of Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam.

Boles_Lynne_mug WEBLynne Boles

Class: 1974
Education: Bachelor’s in English/journalism, SUNY Potsdam; master’s in TV & radio, Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University
Career: Marketing & communications expert, The Cincinnati Consulting Consortium; former vice president and general manager of global advertising, Proctor & Gamble; other former positions at P&G include director of North America advertising development, and director of European advertising development; member, Board of Trustees, SUNY Potsdam.

T.C. Boyle

Class: 1968
Education: Studied English and history, SUNY Potsdam; M.F.A, University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop
Career: Award-winning author of 24 novels, including “The Women,” “Wild Child,” “When the Killing’s Done,” “San Miguel” and “The Harder They Come;” Professor of English, University of Southern California.

Marc Butler

Class: 1974
Education: Bachelor’s in English, SUNY Potsdam
Career: New York state assemblyman for the 118th District, including St. Lawrence County; ranking minority on the Assembly Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry Committee; serves on the Assembly Agriculture, Higher Education and Insurance committees; previously assemblyman for the 113th
District, Herkimer County legislator, Newport village trustee, and Newport village deputy mayor.

Christianson_Robert_mugRobert Christianson

Class: 1972
Education: Bachelor’s degree, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam; graduate work in composition, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
Career: Emmy-winning composer for his music for ABC Sports; Known for composing the NCAA Basketball Theme for CBS, themes for the Winter Olympics and the music for “Sex and the City.”


Fleming_Renee_mug WEBRenée Fleming

Class: 1981
Education: Bachelor’s in music education, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam; graduate studies, Rochester’s Eastman School of Music; Julliard School; voice study as a Fulbright Scholar, Germany
Career: Grammy-winning soprano known for singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XLVIII, the 1980 Winter Olympics, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the 2009 inaugural celebration concert for President Barack Obama; creative consultant for Lyric Opera of Chicago; author of “The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer.”

Linda Gibbs

Class: 1982
Education: Bachelor’s in political science, SUNY Potsdam; SUNY Buffalo School of Law
Career: Principal for social services, Bloomberg Associates, New York City deputy mayor of Health and Human Services, 2005 to 2013; former commissioner of New York City Department of Homeless Services.

Hajidin_Saad_mug WEBSaad Hajidin

Class: 1988
Education: Bachelor’s in printmaking, SUNY Potsdam
Career: Senior director at Polo Ralph Lauren; designer known for knitwear and sweater designs, including those worn by the 2014 U.S. Winter Olympic Teams; former designer at Donna Karan and Liz Claiborne.

Mary Helander

Class: 1974
Education: Bachelor’s in computer science and mathematics, SUNY Potsdam; Master of Science, Syracuse University; Ph.D., University of Buffalo; docent in quality technology and software engineering, Linköping University, Sweden
Career: Master inventor and math research scientist at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center; holds 15 patents

Land_Haden_mug WEBHaden Land

Class: 1974
Education: Bachelor’s in mathematics and computer science, SUNY Potsdam; master’s in computer science, Syracuse University
Career: Vice president for research and technology, Lockheed Martin; member, National Cybersecurity Hall of Fame; voted “Most Influential Hispanic” by Hispanic Information Technology Executive Council.

Lorre_Chuck_mug WEBChuck Lorre

Class: 1974
Education: Attended SUNY Potsdam for two years
Career: Creator, executive producer and writer of TV series “The Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Mike & Molly.”


Palmatier_Thomas_mug WEBCol. Thomas Palmatier

Class: 1976
Education: Bachelor’s in applied music, SUNY Potsdam; M.F.A in Music; Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo.
Career: Former commander of the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own;” former commander and conductor of the U.S. Army Field Band; first officer to command both of the Army’s premier bands; conducted music for presidential inaugurations and state visits.

Pittas_Dimitri_mug WEBDimitri Pittas

Class: 1999
Education: Bachelor’s in music, Crane School of
Music, SUNY Potsdam; Metropolitan Opera’s Young Artist Development Program
Career: Tenor opera singer who has performed for the Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House of Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera, Bolshoi Opera of Moscow, Hamburg State Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company.

Patricia Ritchie

Class: 1991
Education: Associate degree in social work, Mater Dei College of Ogdensburg; bachelor’s in pyschology, SUNY Potsdam
Career: New York state senator since 2010; chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources Committee; deputy majority leader for Senate and Assembly relations.

Stephan Savoia

Class: 1975
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in social theory and art photography, SUNY Potsdam; master’s in journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia
Career: Photographer, Associated Press; received the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 1993 for images of the 1992 presidential campaign; won the same prize in 1999 for photographs of key players and events stemming from former President William J. Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinksy and the impeachment hearings.

Jamie Szafran

Class: 2008
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in musical studies and computer science, SUNY Potsdam; master’s degree, University of Buffalo
Career: Aerospace technologist, NASA; lead developer on the spacecraft command and control system’s common services team; engineer working with the SwampWorks rapid prototyping research and development lab.

Valesky_David_mug WEBDavid Valesky

Class: 1988
Education: Bachelor’s degree, SUNY Potsdam; master’s in public policy research, University of Connecticut
Career: New York state senator since 2004 representing the 53rd Senate District, including Madison County and parts of Oneida and Onondaga counties; vice chairman of the Health Committee; deputy leader of the Independent Democratic Conference.

Vroman_Lisa_mug WEBLisa Vroman

Class: 1979
Education: Bachelor’s in music education, Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam; M.F.A, Carnegie Mellon University
Career: Soprano who starred for several years as Christine Daae in the Broadway musical “The Phantom of the Opera;” Well known for her performances in“Die Fledermaus” and “Les Miserables.”

Marilyn Weiner

Class: 1963
Education: Bachelor’s in education, SUNY Potsdam
Career: Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker who has produced more than 225 documentaries and four public television series including “Journey to Planet Earth,” “Women at Work,” “Faces of Man,” and “The World of Cooking.”

Eileen Goss Whelley

Class: 1976
Education: Bachelor’s in sociology and political science, SUNY Potsdam; master’s, Bowling Green State University, Ohio
Career: Executive vice president and chief human resources officer, XL Group PLC; executive vice president, human resources, Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.; executive vice president, human resources, Hartford Investment Management Company; executive vice president, human resources, NBC Universal Inc. and General Electric.