All in the Family
n 1970, Dr. Frederick Brouwer uprooted his family from their home in Kentucky and moved them to Potsdam, New York. He had taken a job at SUNY Potsdam as a philosophy professor and would later go on to chair the College’s Philosophy Department for a decade.
Since that beginning in the early 1970s, Dr. Brouwer’s children and grandchildren have grown close to the College and the community
in a family legacy that remains close today.
Helen Brouwer, Dr. Frederick Brouwer’s widow, is a member
of the Village of Potsdam board of trustees. David works for the College’s Computing and Technology Services. Emily took courses at Potsdam toward her master of education degree. Paul graduated from The Crane School of Music in 1987 and now lives with his family in Maine. Dr. Peter Brouwer graduated from SUNY Potsdam in 1979 and currently teaches math education at the College. Today, Peter’s three sons have begun establishing a third generation of Brouwers who are forming their own connections to Potsdam.
While outsiders may find this deep connection unique, the Brouwer family story is just one of many family stories at Potsdam.
David Brouwer was just 10 years old when he moved to Potsdam with his family.
After graduating from Potsdam High School, David attended Dartmouth College and enrolled in the school’s math program. He went on to work in Maine for several years before being offered a severance buyout 1989, at which time he decided to come back to Potsdam to be with his ailing father.
He stayed and helped his mother for some time before packing up to travel the country for a while.
“I wanted to see family and friends,” he
said. “It was a good chance for me to travel.”
In 1992, David came back to Potsdam
and took a job in SUNY Potsdam’s Computing and Technology Services, where he
remains employed today. David helps maintain the College’s hosting services and network. “I take care of things behind-the-scenes that nobody cares about unless it’s not working.”
David said there are four main reasons why he chose to remain in Potsdam: family, friends, the area and his job.
Even after exploring much of the country, David said this region of New York is special.
“Everyone is really open, and people form much deeper connections. I’ve talked to people from other schools, and they don’t seem to have the same kind of openness that we have. It’s unique
“This is such a unique area,” he said. “The rivers, lakes and mountains… I love being outdoors, hiking, biking and canoeing. I really love living in this area.”
Emily Brouwer describes the magnetism that drew her back to Potsdam as the North Country vortex:
“Even though you try to get away, somehow you find yourself coming back.”
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Emily was only 5 years old when her family moved to Potsdam. She went on to attend college and graduate school in Boston, earning a teaching degree in French and experiencing big-city life.
She then joined the Peace Corps and was originally deployed to Haïti. But within weeks, she found herself in the middle of the first coup d’état of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was evacuated with other Americans in Haïti at the time.
Emily was reassigned to Cameroon, where she lived — quietly and uneventfully — for the next two years.
Of all the places she could have gone after being in the Peace Corps, Emily decided to come back to Potsdam in hopes of finding a job teaching French.
“I knew I wanted to have a family,” she said. “While I loved living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I knew as a teacher I could never afford to buy my own home. The Peace Corps also made me re-evaluate living in a small town. So I came back to Potsdam.”
She eventually landed a full-time French teaching position at Madrid-Waddington Central School, where she’s been teaching for the last 10 years.
Emily married Don Cannamela, a SUNY Potsdam graduate who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. Together, they have Theo, 5, and Tess, 6 months.
“There’s something very appealing about living in the North Country,” she said. “I look back at friends still living in Boston and can’t imagine living that lifestyle. Small-town life is a great way to raise your family.”
Dr. Peter S. Brouwer always found himself coming back to Potsdam.
He was in eighth grade when he first moved to Potsdam with his family. And even though he would leave the area
several times in his adult life, Dr. Brouwer
would find himself returning to the Potsdam and the College that originally brought his family here.
As a grade-school student, Dr. Brouwer
always had an interest in math and computers. When it came time for him to attend college, he was greatly influenced by a visit from one of SUNY Potsdam’s faculty members.
“Charlie Smith, a highly esteemed math professor from SUNY Potsdam, came to my high school,” Dr. Brouwer said. “He told me about Potsdam and how it had a math and a science program — those were the two things I wanted from a college. I was really impressed that the school’s faculty members had reached out to me and how much they seemed to care about education.”
Dr. Brouwer graduated in 1979 from Potsdam’s BA/MA program in just four years, earning his master’s degree in mathematics and his bachelor’s degree in computer science. He went on to attend the University of Massachusetts to earn his master’s degree in computer science. Soon afterward, he returned to Potsdam to teach math at the College — and to be with his future wife, Diane Mimkin.
After Diane graduated in 1981, the young Brouwers left Potsdam and went to work for IBM in the early 1980s.
But Dr. Brouwer was drawn back to the College after just three years in the private sector. His father had become ill, and he wanted to help him and his mother through a difficult time. The Brouwers also wanted to start their own family.
“Potsdam is a great place to raise kids,” he said. “It’s a very safe community, and there are all kinds of outdoor recreational opportunities. That’s the kind of environment we were looking for as a young family.”
Dr. Brouwer began teaching at SUNY Potsdam once again, but three years later, he left the College to attend the University of Buffalo, where he earned his doctorate
degree in math education. He came back to Potsdam in 1992 to return to his teaching post but was instead named to the post of assistant provost - a temporary appointment that lasted a total of five years.
Even during his assignment as assistant and acting provost, Dr. Brouwer never lost sight of what it was he had set out to do from a young age: teach. Influenced by his father who was a well-regarded professor and his first contact with Dr. Charlie Smith, Dr. Brouwer himself hoped to teach education to aspiring math teachers.
In 2000, Dr. Brouwer went back to doing what he loved best. He began teaching math education and has been doing it ever since.
“I always wanted to teach,” he said. “Throughout all of it, it’s what I always wanted to do.”
In the late 1970s, a young Diane Mimkin from the suburbs of Rochester chose to attend SUNY Potsdam over SUNY Oswego because of the College’s computer science program. What she didn’t know at the time was that her older bother, Michael, had also decided to attend SUNY Potsdam that same year.
Diane graduated from SUNY Potsdam in 1981 with her degree in computer science and geography. In the months immediately following her graduation, Diane would marry Peter Brouwer, who, just two years
older than her, had himself recently graduated from SUNY Potsdam and had returned to Potsdam to await Diane’s graduation.
Diane and Peter left Potsdam to work at IBM during the company’s heyday. But they returned to Potsdam soon after Peter received a teaching job at SUNY. They left again in the mid-1980s for Buffalo so Peter to complete his doctorate degree. But Buffalo seemed too chaotic, and the couple yearned to get back to the North Country.
“Buffalo was like sensory overload,” she said. “I wanted to be a mom, and it was a difficult place to raise a family.”
So the Brouwers returned to Potsdam, where Dr. Peter Brouwer would teach and become acting provost for some time. Diane would raise their three boys.
While Dr. Brouwer had roots in Potsdam,
Diane said it was the character of the area that also helped keep the family here.
“It’s incredible all the photographs we have of us all hiking outdoors or camping somewhere along a river,” she said. “Here, there’s opportunity to do something other than hang out at the mall. Even now, Peter and I are hiking the high peaks of the Adirondacks, and I have gotten pretty serious about cycling.”
As her sons — Andrew, Nathan and Daniel — were growing up, Diane became an active leader in their Boy Scout troop. She encouraged her sons to participate in their community and helped Andrew and Nathan both become Eagle Scouts.
Diane began working part-time at Clarkson University seven years ago, helping
the institution administer a National Science
Even while her sons grow older and her part-time job has become busier than ever, Diane remains active in her family’s lives and the community. She continues to take part in Boy Scouts and serves on the Potsdam village/town recreation board.
“Giving back,” she said, “is important to me and our family. It’s what makes the community stronger and an overall better place to live.”
With all of the college-credit courses he took in high school, Andrew Brouwer entered his freshman year at SUNY Potsdam technically as a junior.
Just this past summer, Andrew learned he had been accepted into the BA/MA program for math — the same program his father, Dr. Peter Brouwer, was enrolled in 20 years ago. When Andrew graduates in 2009, he will have earned his master’s degree in mathematics and his bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Just for his own pleasure, Andrew will throw in a minor in literature as well.
Andrew is still unsure what he wants to do after Potsdam. What is certain, however, is that he will have no trouble doing pretty much anything he wants.
“I’ve thought about going to grad school or maybe med school,” he said. “I’m just not sure right now.”
A National Merit Scholarship finalist, Andrew was accepted and had opportunities to go to more elite, private schools. He chose SUNY Potsdam instead.
Andrew was awarded the Mt. Emmons Scholarship — a full ride scholarship that includes tuition, room and board, and even a stipend for books — given to just four incoming freshman students each year. That scholarship had a lot to do with his decision, without a doubt. But Andrew was also already familiar with the college because of his college-credit classes and because his father taught at SUNY Potsdam.
From his perspective as a college student, Andrew is certain he made the right choice.
“Everyone is really open, and people form much deeper connections. I’ve talked to people from other schools, and they don’t seem to have the same kind of openness that we have. It’s unique to Potsdam.”
Nathan Brouwer is the second of Dr. Peter Brouwer and his wife, Diane’s, three sons.
Nathan, currently a senior at Potsdam High School, began forming his own connections to SUNY Potsdam at a young age. He began working for PACES, Potsdam Auxiliary and College Educational Services, as a caterer in eighth grade. Still working for PACES, Nathan also is taking college-credit courses at SUNY Potsdam.
Nathan earned his Eagle Scout last year for helping design, print and raise money for signs along the recently completed and dedicated Red Sandstone Trail, running along the Raquette River from Hannawa Falls to Potsdam.
While still undecided where he’ll eventually attend college, Nathan already has developed strong ties to the College and community that has always been home to him.
With Daniel it may be too soon to tell his connections to Potsdam, but no matter where he decides to pursue his studies and live life, we will always consider him part of the family.