State University of New York at Potsdam

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Not to be confused with the German University of Potsdam in Berlin-Brandenburg
State University of New York at Potsdam
SUNY Potsdam logo
Motto"To Learn - To Search - To Serve"
Endowment$28.975 million[1]
PresidentDr. Kristin Esterberg
Academic staff
Location, ,
United States
CampusRural, 240 acres (0.97 km2) maintained
ColorsMaroon and Gray
AthleticsNCAA Division IIISUNYAC
AffiliationsState University of New York
Satterlee Hall at SUNY Potsdam

The State University of New York at Potsdam, also known as SUNY Potsdam, or, colloquially, Potsdam, is a public college in the village of Potsdam in St. Lawrence County, in the U.S. state of New York. Founded in 1816, it is among the oldest colleges in the United States. It is composed of the College of Arts & Sciences,the School of Business, the School of Education and Professional Studies, and the Crane School of Music.


Potsdam was founded by Benjamin Raymond in 1816 as the St. Lawrence Academy. In 1834, the academy was chosen by the New York State Legislature to exclusively offer a teacher education program for its senatorial district. With funds from the state, and from support by preceptor Reverend Asa Brainerd, the first diploma in teaching was given in 1836, thus beginning the academy's and eventually the college's longstanding tradition of excellence in the field of teacher education.

In 1866, the State Legislature ended its funding of teacher education departments in private academies, and began establishing several normal schools throughout the state. The Village of Potsdam was thus named as one of four locations for new normal schools, and in 1867, the St. Lawrence Academy became the Potsdam Normal School.

By 1886, the Potsdam Normal School had become the first institution in the United States to offer a normal training course for public school music teachers in the United States. Founded by Julia E. Crane, the Crane Normal Institute of Music continues today as the world-renowned Crane School of Music as a leader in the field of music education.

The State University of New York was founded in 1948, and Potsdam became one of its founding members, and was thus renamed New York State Teachers College at Potsdam. In 1964, the college's mission changed to providing multiple programs, and the university adopted its current name.

During the 1980s, despite the college's traditional strengths in music and education, the college gained recognition for its quickly blossoming mathematics program under the guidance of Clarence F. Stephens. Known as the Potsdam Miracle, Stephens transformed a practically non-existent department to having the third largest number of mathematics majors of any institution in the United States during his tenure.[citation needed]

The college had a total enrollment of approximately 4,500 students and approximately 930 freshmen entered Potsdam in 2010. That was the biggest first-year class since 1982, and an 11.4 percent increase over the previous year's incoming freshman class, which had 835 students.[citation needed]


The campus is in the small village of Potsdam, near the Canada–United States border. It is situated in the St. Lawrence Valley, between the St. Lawrence River and the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. It is about 10 miles northwest of the border of the Adirondack State Park in Parishville.

The school sits on 240 acres (97 ha) and consists of 44 buildings. Barrington Drive runs through the center of the campus, with all academic buildings on the northwest side of the street, and all campus life and residence buildings on the southeast side. The Crane School of Music campus is in the northern part of the campus, east of the academic quad.

The college has two libraries, the Frederick W. Crumb Memorial Library in the center of the academic quad, and the Crane Music Library in Schuette Hall at the Crane complex. The college also has six performance facilities: Hosmer Hall, Snell Theatre, and Wakefield Recital Hall (three venues in The Crane School of Music), the Proscenium Theater, the Black Box Theater, and the Dance Theater (three venues in the college's new Performing Arts Center). The college also houses an art gallery and the Maxcy Hall Athletic Facility.

SUNY Potsdam is home to the Charles T. Weaver Anthropology Museum, a teaching museum that allows students to curate exhibitions and have hands on experience with the museum's collection.[2] Also on campus is the Art Museum at SUNY Potsdam, also known as the Gibson Gallery, which stresses its mission to connect students, faculty and all those on campus with visual art.[3]

The affiliated non-profit organization that provides dining services and runs the union market and college bookstore on campus is known as PACES or Potsdam Auxiliary College Education Services. This organization is the largest financial supporter of the college, annually donating significant portions of their proceeds back to the college in support of scholarships and other initiatives on campus.

Student activities:

  • Welcome Weekend Carnival
  • First Saturday
  • Friday Night Movie Series
  • Family Weekend
  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Dance-a-thon
  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Winterfest
  • Snowball
  • Springfest
  • Relay for Life
  • Chicken Dancing
  • Theatre & Dance Productions
  • Opera
  • Concerts at Hurley's
  • Mr./Ms. University
  • Athletic Games & Intramural Sports
  • BEAR-Con
  • Hack Potsdam


In 1981 and 1986, under Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Welsh, the Potsdam Bears basketball team won the NCAA Division III National Championship. In 1979, 1982, and 1985, the Potsdam Bears were national runners-up for this title. The SUNY-Potsdam men's ice hockey team has competed in the NCAA for 27 years, from 1976 to the present. Most recently, they played in the State University of New York Athletic Conference,[4] which is a Division III athletics conference. The 1995-96 Men's Ice Hockey team won the hockey program's only SUNYAC title in school history, under Hall of Fame Coach Ed Seney.

SUNY Potsdam athletics were recently placed on NCAA probation due to an inadvertent error in the awarding of international student grants. The teams affected by the NCAA probation are men's and women's hockey, women's volleyball, men's and women's lacrosse, and women's soccer.


Many SUNY Potsdam students participate in the Army ROTC and Air Force ROTC programs. Students can apply for ROTC scholarships to the university, and may commission as officers in the United States military upon graduation.

Army ROTC[edit]

SUNY Potsdam is a partner school of the Golden Knight Battalion, one of 272 Army ROTC Battalions in the United States. SUNY Potsdam students are the second largest group represented in the battalion, which is composed of approximately 100 ROTC Cadets. The headquarters for the Golden Knight Battalion is at 49 Elm St. in downtown Potsdam, where it has been for decades.

Notable faculty emeriti and alumni[edit]

SUNY Potsdam's Carson Hall

In pop culture[edit]

  • The university was mentioned in the American comedy TV series Will & Grace, in its 81st episode ("Dyeing Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard") guest-starring Rosie O'Donnell.

A cappella[edit]

SUNY Potsdam has four a cappella groups on campus - The Potsdam Pointercounts (1993–Present), The A Sharp Arrangement (1994–Present), The Potsdam Pitches (2007–Present) and Stay Tuned (2012–Present). All four groups have competed in the ICCAs (International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella) run by Varsity Vocals.

Potsdam Miracle[edit]

The Potsdam Miracle refers to the unusual success of the Mathematics Department at SUNY Potsdam, USA, under the guidance of Dr. Clarence F. Stephens, in attracting large numbers of students to become successful mathematics majors. For example, in one year, about 25% of the degrees conferred by Potsdam were in mathematics and over 40% of the institution’s honor students were mathematics majors. The 184 majors that year was the third-largest number of colleges and universities in the United States.

Seven of the eight valedictorians for the period 1980–1987 were mathematics majors. No student who graduated from SUNY Potsdam between the time of its founding in 1816 and the arrival of Stephens in 1969 is known to have earned a Ph.D. in mathematics. However, twelve students who graduated during Stephens's tenure are known to have done so, half of them women.

The Potsdam Miracle confirmed the effectiveness of the Potsdam Model of mathematics education. The model is based not on lowering student standard but in raising teaching standards.

In explaining the program in Dilip Datta's book Math Education at its Best: The Potsdam Model, Stephens said his primary goal was to create the most favorable possible conditions for students to learn and for faculty to teach. He and a team of other student-oriented faculty members taught a course, "How to Read Mathematics Literature with Understanding and to Become Independent Learners", to students early in their study of mathematics. For undergraduates, that was typically in the freshman or sophomore year, while for graduate students it was during their first year.

The Potsdam Model is “based on the premise that the study of pure mathematics can be undertaken successfully by a large number of students if they are provided with a supportive environment including: careful and considerate teaching by a well-trained and dedicated faculty, continual encouragement, successful (student) role models, enough success to develop self-esteem, enough time to develop intellectually, recognition of their achievement, and the belief that the study is a worthwhile endeavor.”

Stephens had largely developed his ideas and earlier implemented them at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University). Although no graduates of Morgan are known to have received a Ph.D. in mathematics, nine did so during his tenure there. Hence, the Potsdam Model is sometimes called the Morgan-Potsdam Model.


  1. ^ As of June 2015. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2014 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2014 to FY 2015" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers. July 1, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 31, 2016.
  2. ^
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External links[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to State University of New York at Potsdam at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 44°39′45″N 74°58′27″W / 44.662487°N 74.974244°W / 44.662487; -74.974244