The SUNY Potsdam campus was unusually quiet this summer, when the College normally would have been welcoming back hundreds of alumni, emeriti, families and friends for Reunion Weekend. While the campus couldn’t celebrate milestone class years with its graduates in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SUNY Potsdam alumni across the globe were able to engage in new ways through Virtual Reunion Week 2020.
“We weren’t quite sure what to expect, since this is the first time we have attempted to bring alumni together virtually with a weeklong series. But SUNY Potsdam alumni and supporters are proud of their alma mater, and I think what we were able to pull off is certainly noteworthy. We had great engagement levels all week, and were able to raise thousands of dollars to help support programs and scholarships,” said Director of Alumni Relations Mona Ouimet Vroman ’85. “Since our alumni and friends were not able to physically visit Potsdam this summer, we hope that we were able to bring a bit of Potsdam to them!”
During SUNY Potsdam’s Virtual Reunion Week, 554 alumni and friends registered to be alerted to events each day—but any of the College’s followers on the associated social media accounts were able to take part. Overall, the live videos or events posted on Facebook, YouTube or Zoom had more than 16,000 views and 1,800 comments.
The total for Reunion Giving this year was $1,397,930. This comes from the total giving of this year’s Milestone Classes: 2015, 2010, 2005, 2000, 1995, 1990, 1985, 1980, 1975, 1970, and the 50-Year Club (Classes of 1969 and earlier). During the Virtual Reunion Week activities, SUNY Potsdam raised $17,453, through both its online Reunion Giving Campaign initiative and an online auction to benefit the Pay It Forward Scholarship program.
The Reunion activities included a kick-off with President Kristin G. Esterberg; a Crane Alumni TromboneS (CATS) event including historic performances and remarks by Professor Mark Hartman; a tour of campus led by Victoria Hocking ’19; “Arts in Action” led by Emma Simon ’12; an estate planning seminar offered by Roger B. Linden ’74; a tour of the Wagner Institute for Sustainability and Ecological Research (WISER), and more. Fitness Center Director Ashley Keenan ’14 challenged her fellow alumni to complete a 5K walk/run during the week and post photos with their race “number” printouts, and 43 graduates responded!
Live performances included a solo jazz piano set with Russ Kassoff ’74, a concert featuring perennial Reunion Weekend favorite Double Axel, and a Microburst & Friends concert co-presented by Community Performance Series, including familiar local musicians and alumni: Michael Welch (guitar), Andy Van Duyne '75 (guitar), Tim Savage '84 (saxophone), Guy "Chip" Lamson '81 (keyboard) and special guest Jennifer Kessler '92 (vocals & violin). In honor of the Class of 1970’s 50th Reunion, The Crane School of Music streamed audio of the 1970 spring concert featuring the Crane Chorus and Crane Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Brock McElheran (Hon. '84).
Reunion wrapped up with a special Zoom event streamed over Facebook, including recognition of the 2020 Alumni Association award recipients, class gifts and the final virtual auction to benefit the Pay It Forward Scholarship Program, which supports students facing financial challenges that cannot be met through traditional funding assistance.
This year’s Alumni Association award recipients included:
- Minerva Award: John Angier ’88 & Eileen Goss Whelley ’76
- Distinguished Service Award: Michael Paestella ’95
- Rising Star Award: Joshua Redman ’11
- Honorary Lifetime Membership: Michael Sitton
- St. Lawrence Academy Medal: Jan Harting-McChesney ’74
- Helen M. Hosmer Excellence in Music Teaching Award: Diane Ercolini Havern ’92
For more information on SUNY Potsdam’s Virtual Reunion Week activities, visit www.potsdam.edu/alumni-friends/reunion-week-2020.
To learn more about how SUNY Potsdam connects with alumni around the world, visit www.potsdam.edu/alumni.
About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit www.potsdam.edu.