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Former SUNY Potsdam prez granted lifetime membership in alumni association


POTSDAM - The SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association recently honored former President Dr. John F. (Fritz) Schwaller with Honorary Lifetime Membership, in recognition of his seven years of leadership and service to the college.

Honorary Lifetime Membership is presented to non-alums who have made exceptional contributions to the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association and/or the college. Dr. Schwaller was lauded for his dedication to the college and its alumni.

Many times, students complete their degrees at an institution of higher learning without having met the campus president until they receive their diploma at Commencement. Such cannot be said ofDr. Schwaller, the 15th and immediate past president of SUNY Potsdam.

Determined to be accessible to the student body, new students and their families were often surprised to learn that the white-haired, friendly gentleman who just helped move a refrigerator into their new residence hall was none other than Dr. Schwaller, the college’s president. Fritz and his wife, Anne, were present at campus academic, athletic and arts events on virtually a daily basis.

During his first year as president, Dr. Schwaller quickly recognized the deep devotion and appreciation of many alumni for the unique learning opportunities they received at SUNY Potsdam and attempted to capture that essence by coining the phrase “handcrafted education.” For the next seven years, Dr. Schwaller worked to promote that abiding principle in all that he did.

Instrumental in marshaling the funds that were allocated to purchase the fleet of 141 new Steinway pianos for The Crane School of Music, he was also was a leader in garnering state support for the construction of the new Performing Arts Center, the college’s first new academic building in nearly 40 years.

Dr. Schwaller also instituted Potsdam’s test-optional admissions policy, the first of its kind in the SUNY system, and oversaw a reaccreditation visit from Middle States, which gave Potsdam a glowing review.

In addition, Dr. Schwaller established partnership agreements with the University of Hidalgo in Mexico and with the University of Potsdam in Germany. A tireless advocate for SUNY Potsdam, he worked to enhance the reputation of all aspects of the college, and has been instrumental in helping to raise funds for Take the Lead: The Campaign for Potsdam.

In support of students, he and Anne established the John F. and Anne C. Schwaller Scholarship for Study Abroad, offering students the opportunity to experience life-transforming travel and study in foreign countries. The Schwallers have also created a fund to help faculty remain effective scholar teachers.

Following his time at SUNY Potsdam, Dr. Schwaller plans to return to the college classroom in the SUNY system. He has accepted a faculty position in the Department of History at the University at Albany, and will begin teaching there in Spring 2014.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s Alumni Association, visit

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