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Nancy and Michael Griffin

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One Year in Potsdam
September 2017

The year was 1983. A young couple, looking to establish their professional lives after meeting in graduate school, moved from Pennsylvania to Potsdam, N.Y. Their intentions were to gain some experience and then move forward. What they did not realize at the time was that they would move forward at SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University over the next 34 years.

Nancy and Michael Griffin (Clarkson ’00 MS) have each had indelible impacts --Nancy upon SUNY Potsdam and Michael upon Clarkson University. Together, they have helped to shape how each institution is known and experienced.

Their connection to the Potsdam community happened gradually with each becoming engrossed in their work, engaged with the people, connected to causes in the area and enticed by the natural beauty and recreational opportunities of the region. Potsdam, the community, became home.

Nancy was an agent of positive change at SUNY Potsdam. Beginning as a graphic designer, and then the director of College Relations, she transitioned over to the fundraising side of the College, spending the remaining 20 years of her career building relationships with those who would soon become donors to SUNY Potsdam. The impact of her work is extensive, with over 110 established endowed funds, as well as the Rebecca Sheard Literacy Center; Becky’s Place and the Kilmer Student Research fund among the many lasting gifts that Nancy helped donors make possible, thereby directly impacting many students, faculty and the community.

Michael’s career at Clarkson culminated as the director of News and Digital Content Services. His career may best be defined by how Clarkson adapted and grew through the advances in technology and the advent of social media. Pride comes from being an instrumental part of the University’s first web presence and serving as its first webmaster; discovering how to market Clarkson in an ever-changing world, including many mentions in both national and international media; and the excitement of a merger in 2016, which extended the University’s footprint to New York’s capital region.

With retirement now at hand, and the days of a regular work week behind them, the Griffins plan to give more of themselves to the community. For those who live in the Potsdam area, it is impossible to think of December without acknowledging the profound impact the Potsdam Holiday Fund has upon the community. Nancy and Michael helped found the Potsdam Holiday Fund, with Nancy presently serving as the vice president and Michael as secretary. The Fund provides new toys, clothing, boots and food to families and senior citizens in need in the Potsdam and surrounding North Country areas. In 2016 they distributed hundreds of new gifts and warm winter garments to more than 600 needy children with five tons of food delivered to nearly 300 needy families and 100 senior citizens.

Retirement will not mark the end of the affiliation and impact the Griffins will have upon Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam. Rather it will usher in a new phase of meaningful support they have planned for over the past several years, as they will continue to volunteer for Canton-Potsdam Hospital, and Michael will continue his service as a member of the Rotary Club of Potsdam

Also included in their plans is the continuation and enhancement of a scholarship they established in honor of Nancy’s father at SUNY Potsdam, as well as continuing their support of Clarkson with the eventual creation of a scholarship through their estate plans.

“We were fortunate to enjoy working at our respective institutions and it made sense to give back to each campus and to be part of it.” Speaking of her father’s scholarship, which supports non-traditional students, Nancy shared, “Dad was ‘nontraditional’ before they had a name for it. He worked in the steel mill while he earned his college degrees. Although it was a struggle, he made it work.” 

“We have great appreciation for those who go back to school later in life,” Nancy continued, “Many are single moms, and our current recipient is a single dad. Being able to encourage and support him and past recipients is important to us. We have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students. We are so happy to have established it while he was still living, as he was able to meet some of the students.”

Extolling the virtues of giving and its impact upon them, Michael shared, “We encourage others to give while living so they too can witness the impact of their philanthropy. We have ensured that our estate plans will enhance and perpetuate our values and what we have supported throughout our lifetimes.” 

“People give to people,” he said “The reason we give to organizations is because we believe in them, and because someone asked.”

Joseph G. Nestich Scholarship

Bill Ayers '17
Nancy and Michael Griffin
with Bill Ayers '17 (Potsdam)

Nancy and Michael established a
scholarship endowment at
SUNY Potsdam
in 1993 in honor of Nancy’s father. The endowment is structured to provide annual financial support to non-traditional students. Recipients must show high financial need and academic excellence. For purposes of the scholarship, non-traditional is defined as students entering college after spending a number of years in the workforce or raising a family.  Preference is given to female students managing family responsibilities.

(rev. 10/2017)

Nancy and Michael MS'00 (Clarkson) Griffin
Nancy and Michael MS '00 (Clarkson) Griffin

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About "Partnership"

SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University will soon celebrate 120 years of a partnership in service to the North Country and tens of thousands of students. Over the years, many of the students from each campus joined to form their own partnerships, most often in marriage. This newsletter celebrates those partnerships. In 2015 “Partnerships” received “Best in Category” honors from SUNYCUAD, SUNY’s organization for professionals in the field of Advancement, including alumni and development officers. “Partnerships” won top honors in the category of Innovations in Fundraising.