Printer-friendly version

SUNY Potsdam Concludes $33.5 Million Take the Lead Campaign

Lisa Vroman
Lisa Vroman ’79, National Campaign Co-Chair, acknowledges the historic generosity of the Take the Lead Campaign during her remarks.

The State University of New York at Potsdam celebrated the successful conclusion of Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam with stories and song on Sept. 30, the 200th anniversary of the first day of classes at the College.

During the celebration, students, faculty, alumni and community members took to the stage at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music to thank donors and share how generous gifts made their unique experiences possible.

The Take the Lead Campaign raised more than $33.5 million to support scholarships and programs at SUNY Potsdam, surpassing its final goal by $1.5 million and breaking all previous records for campaign giving at the College. In keeping with this historic achievement, the culminating campaign celebration was held on the 200th anniversary of classes first beginning at St. Lawrence Academy—SUNY Potsdam’s predecessor institution—in 1816.

“I am thrilled to think of what opportunities these gifts have and will create—all made possible because one person, and then another, and then many others, cared enough to give back. Thank you so much for taking the lead for Potsdam,” said Campaign National Co-Chair Lisa Vroman ’79, the famed lyric soprano.

As the event marked the incredible generosity and leadership represented by the successful Take the Lead Campaign, it also wrapped up the College’s bicentennial celebrations, as the campus launches into its next hundred years of excellence. Speakers and performers closed their remarks by proudly declaring, “I am Potsdam’s third century.”

The celebration featured 15 student speakers, who spoke passionately about the opportunities they have been able to take advantage of at SUNY Potsdam, thanks to donor support.

“The Take the Lead Campaign has strengthened our family, as its furthered how SUNY Potsdam faculty and staff can help students like me and heightened what we can accomplish. And for that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Torie Keeton ’19, a scholarship recipient who has completed a number of high-level internships as she pursues a career in mental health.

Four Crane students performed works from Aaron Copeland’s opera, “The Tender Land,” alongside Professor David Pittman-Jennings. Samantha Martin ’18 sang “Laurie’s Aria” to open the celebration—a work that was last performed on the Crane stage by soprano superstar Renée Fleming ’81. Accompanied by pianists M. Maxwell Howard ’12 and Jarrett Larson ’14, the group joined together to sing the soaring finale work, “The Promise of Living.”

“I can trace so much of my success back to the generous spirit of the Potsdam family. It really is hard to find words to match the significance of these gifts,” said Crane vocal performance major Helena Waterous ’17, a scholarship recipient who had the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall and to premiere new operatic works thanks to donor support. “So, we say a very heartfelt thank you, and we shine in whatever we do—and most importantly, we pay it forward when the opportunity arises.”

Six faculty members took their moment in the spotlight to speak about the hands-on research and field projects they have been able to conduct with students, with campaign support. The youngest speakers were Emersen, Jaren and Braden Garrow, community youth who have been able to take advantage of after-school tutoring and educational enrichment led by SUNY Potsdam teacher education students, through donor-supported programs at the Rebecca V. Sheard Literacy Center.

Following the campaign celebration, which also streamed live online, campus community members streamed into the College’s new Performing Arts Center, for a reception with live music.

A new sculpture marking the successful conclusion of the Take the Lead Campaign was unveiled before the audience. Created by Professor of Art F. Douglass Schatz and student Ashley Goff ’18, the metalwork maple tree sculpture is inspired by the campaign’s artwork, and will have a permanent home in the lobby of the Performing Arts Center.

That evening, a special dinner was held for campaign donors and volunteers. National Campaign Co-Chair Michael Galane ’74, a vice president for HP, was honored during the dinner for his unwavering leadership, as he was presented with the 2016 Roger B. Linden Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor bestowed by the College.

Since going public in 2013, SUNY Potsdam’s Take the Lead Campaign broke record after record. It exceeded the original goal of $27 million just a year after launching, prompting the College to increase the goal to $32 million for the final phase, called the Third Century Challenge. During the 2015-16 fiscal year, SUNY Potsdam brought in an impressive $4.3 million to complete the campaign.

As of June 30, 2016, the Take the Lead Campaign had raised a final total of $33,505,172, with contributions and pledges from 13,717 donors.

Overall, the Take the Lead Campaign garnered 187 Leadership Donors (giving $20,000 or more), of whom 57 were named to the Chancellor’s Circle (recognizing donors who gave $100,000 or more). The College also received eight gifts in excess of $1 million during the campaign.

The strategic priorities of the Take the Lead Campaign were academic excellence, scholarships, student experiences, the arts and the Annual Fund for Potsdam. The College exceeded its fundraising goals for all of these categories, including the establishment of 99 new endowed scholarships and the creation of 48 additional program endowments.

Through the Take the Lead Campaign, SUNY Potsdam raised:

  • $8.4 million for scholarships,
  • $5.2 million for transformational student experiences,
  • $11.3 million for academic excellence, and
  • $8.1 million for the Annual Fund for Potsdam.

In addition, 38 percent of all gifts, representing $12.7 million, also supported the arts in these categories.

The acclaimed bestselling novelist T.C. Boyle ’68 served as Campaign Honorary Co-Chair, along with Metropolitan Opera star Stephanie Blythe ’92. The National Co-Chairs were Lisa Vroman ’79 and Michael Galane ’74. The rest of the Campaign Steering Committee included: Lynne Boles ’74, William Flynn ’70, Deborah Diefendorf Hind ’75, Gary Hind ’77, Janice Rowlands Johnson ’56, Christine Meda ’70 and J. Richard Munro.

Established in 1968, the Potsdam College Foundation is a non-profit corporation dedicated to stewarding the continued growth of private giving in support of SUNY Potsdam. Its mission is to ensure a quality future for the College and its people, by establishing endowments to support scholarships and programs to ensure campus needs are met.

To find out more about Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam, visit

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. As the College marks its bicentennial in 2016, SUNY Potsdam is celebrating a 200-year legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 4,100 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 leadership in the arts. Empowered by a culture of creativity, the campus community recently completed Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam, which raised $33.5 million for scholarships and programs.

Media contact:

Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, Office of Public Affairs,
(315) 267-2918