SUNY Potsdam launches $27 million Take the Lead Campaign


Campaign Launch Photo
Campaign leaders gathered with students to celebrate the completion of the leadership phase of Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam. For a full caption, see the attached release.

Founded in 1816 as the St. Lawrence Academy, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest in the SUNY system. Now, as SUNY Potsdam approaches its bicentennial year, the College is ready to mark another milestone.

SUNY Potsdam is the first campus in the State University of New York system to launch its third comprehensive campaign.

Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam aims to raise $27 million by the College’s bicentennial in 2016. The Take the Lead Campaign has already raised $17.4 million in its advance phase—or 64 percent of the goal.

“I am thrilled on behalf of the State University of New York, the SUNY Board of Trustees and the entire SUNY System Administration leadership team to say congratulations SUNY Potsdam—this is a fabulous campaign. I love ‘Take the Lead,’ because that is what SUNY Potsdam has done since 1816,” Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher said. “I want Potsdam to soar and use this campaign to lay the foundation for another 200 years of academic excellence and service to New York.”

SUNY Potsdam will kick off the Campaign with a campus celebration on Friday, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Barrington Student Union. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends will join in the festivities to celebrate the remarkable progress so far, and thank the generous donors whose gifts have made such a difference to the campus already.

“People often use the word ‘family’ to describe the Potsdam campus community. It is remarkable to watch alumni and friends, like strong branches, nurture and support budding students to allow them to grow and flourish, leaving an amazing example of leadership. The Potsdam family tree has at its roots an educational and creative tradition that will continue to hold strong into the College’s third century,” President Dr. John F. Schwaller said. “The Take the Lead Campaign will ensure that every student’s experience at SUNY Potsdam will be transformational.”

Built on the momentum of tradition, innovation and creativity, Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam will shape the College’s third century.

The strategic priorities of the Take the Lead Campaign are:

The Annual Fund for Potsdam: The Annual Fund for Potsdam provides flexibility and prepares the College to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities and meet pressing needs. Unrestricted gifts to this area will ensure a competitive edge.

Scholarships: Scholarships are essential for providing access and recruiting deserving and academically promising students. Scholarships will help elevate the entire institution’s intellectual capital, and fulfill the College’s historic mission of making the best in higher education affordable to all.

Academic excellence: By investing in faculty excellence, state-of-the-art academic equipment, technology and facilities, the campus will motivate its students. The learning environment is the heart and soul of the SUNY Potsdam experience.

The student experience: Students who participate in high-impact learning experiences are more successful in their lives. Experiences such as student-faculty research, study abroad, internships and leadership opportunities will increase graduates’ confidence and marketability.

The arts: The arts distinguish Potsdam among her state and national peer institutions. The campus aims to expand its arts outreach and weave creativity into the fabric of life and learning not only for SUNY Potsdam students, but also for the entire Northern New York community.

“In Potsdam, there’s just something that was and is extraordinary. It draws me there every year. There are so many things in the world that stop us from being the powerful people we can be, and Potsdam made me realize that I could grab my dreams,” said Campaign Honorary Co-Chair Stephanie Blythe ’92, a Metropolitan Opera star. “As we go out into our lives and become passionate about what we have learned and about passing that on, the greatest honor that the College could give me is the need to give back to the place that has given me so much. Potsdam created that need in me. I hope it creates that need in you.”

The acclaimed bestselling novelist T.C. Boyle ’68 serves as Campaign Honorary Co-Chair along with Blythe. Boyle will speak at the launch of the Take the Lead Campaign on Friday night.

Michael Galane ’74, a senior director for the Hewlett-Packard Company, and famed lyric soprano Lisa Vroman ’79 both serve as National Chairs.

Rounding out the Campaign Steering Committee are: Lynne Boles ’74, William Flynn ’70, Deborah Diefendorf Hind ’75, Gary Hind ’77, Janice Rowlands Johnson ’56, Christine Meda ’70 and J. Richard Munro.

Campaign volunteers and SUNY Potsdam faculty and staff gathered along with Chancellor Zimpher in New York City last week to thank leadership donors. Blythe and Vroman performed and spoke at the dinner. Students from the award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble performed scenes from three operas, and Tanasia Betts ’13 presented an inspiring spoken word poem that she wrote for the occasion.

After the event, attendees gathered for a photo (attached). From left: Anne Schwaller, President John F. Schwaller, Campaign Honorary Chair Stephanie Blythe ’92, Tanasia Betts ’13, Crane Assistant Professor of Piano François Germain, graduate student Joy Tamayo, Benjamin Dickerson ’15, Heather Ferlo ’15, D’Nasya Jordan ’13, Yvonne Trobe ’15, graduate student Jordan Davidson, James Bucki ’13, Cameron Brownell ’14, Campaign National Chair Lisa Vroman ’79, Professor of Opera Carleen Graham and Crane School of Music Dean Michael Sitton.

“Potsdam has so much to celebrate—its hardworking and extremely talented students, its dedicated and brilliant faculty and emeriti, as well as its accomplished and extremely generous alumni and friends. Now, we are very proud to celebrate the launch of our third and most ambitious comprehensive campaign. Our success will ensure that the highest quality education and life-changing experiences will continue at SUNY Potsdam for future generations,” said Vice President for Advancement Vicki Templeton-Cornell.

For more information about Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam, visit

Founded in 1816, and located on the outskirts of the beautiful Adirondack Park, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges. SUNY Potsdam currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its handcrafted education, challenging liberal arts and sciences core, excellence in teacher training and leadership in the performing and visual arts.