Twenty years after his graduation from SUNY Potsdam in 1977, Gary M. Hind took on what has become a decade of vital service to the College.
It began in 1997 when a former DK (Delta Kappa Theta) fraternity brother and then vice president of advancement, Ray Agnew, asked Hind to join the College’s Foundation Board. Within a few years, Hind would become vice president of the Foundation Board and then president — a position he would hold for seven years before stepping down this past fall.
During this year’s President’s Commencement Dinner, which will be held on May 19, SUNY Potsdam will honor Hind with the prestigious Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors given by the College.
“I’m incredibly honored by this award,” Hind said during an interview in February from his Saratoga Springs, NY, office. He added modestly: “I hope the College can continue to grow the number of active alumni so this award can be shared by others.”
But before talking much more about his own service, Hind quickly pointed out that his wife, Debbie D. (Diefendorf) Hind ’75, has been equally engaged with the College. In fact, Debbie currently is serving as president of Potsdam’s Alumni Association Board of Trustees.
“Debbie devotes a lot of her time to the College,” he said. “It’s what she enjoys doing.”
"I can’t name one person from high school or from law school that I’m still in contact with, but I can name a whole list of people from Potsdam."
While Hind is a Potsdam alumnus, he actually spent more time attending Clarkson University — three semesters at Potsdam and four semesters at Clarkson. But his loyalty has remained with Potsdam.
“The ’70s were a great time to go to college,” Hind said. “It was much easier because tuition was more affordable. I didn’t come out of Potsdam with huge student loans. It was also a lot of fun. Back then the drinking age was 18, and everyone socialized at the downtown bars. On the weekends, you couldn’t even get in the front door.”
After Potsdam, Hind, who is originally from Syracuse, went on to attend Albany Law School and was hired directly out of school by Saratoga Springs-based Ayco Company as a financial lawyer. Today, Hind is an assistant executive vice president of the company, which offers comprehensive financial planning high-earning corporate executives. The Ayco Company holds 350 of the Fortune 500s high-level corporate executives, presidents and CEO’s in its client list.
Yet Hind still finds time to volunteer and serve the College.
In addition to serving on the Foundation Board, Hind also co-chaired with his wife, Debbie, the very successful Campaign for Potsdam, which ended in 2003. He and Debbie also sponsored the “Greek Panel” for the Mary E. English Commons in Satterlee Hall, a display of panels showcasing the College’s history opening this summer. “Debbie (a former Alpha Kappa Phi - AGO sorority member) helped conduct research for the project and spent a lot of time in the archives,” he said.
The Hinds also established the Gary and Deborah Hind Scholarship, which targets education majors. Two students currently are recipients of that scholarship.
“It’s such a neat thing to go to the Scholarship Luncheon and talk to the families of these students,” Hind said. “It makes a big impact when you get to meet these students in person.”
Each year, SUNY Potsdam presents the Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Awards to organizations or individuals who have provided significant and/or unique contributions to the North Country region through professional accomplishments and public service to the community and the College.
One of the reasons Hind said he and Debbie have continued volunteering and supporting for the College so extensively is because they understand how financially difficult it is for college students nowadays.
“There were a lot of different programs back in the ’70s, so I didn’t owe much when I left Potsdam,” Hind said. “But I don’t know if I would have be able to go to law school if I came out with a huge debt,” he said. “We were fortunate enough to be able to put two daughters through college, and we both feel it’s important that college students graduate without being saddled with debt.”
For the Hinds, they share a common interest in supporting the College that gave them so many fond memories and continues to hold a special place in their lives.
“It makes a difference when both [husband and wife] graduated from the same place,” he said. “We feel like the place did us both well.”