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Francis "Sonny" '63 & Mona Sage

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Quality of Clarkson Drives Support
Spring 2013

“Wow, it has changed, and all for the better!  Not only in terms of the physical plant, but the curriculum is stronger and the disciplines are more diverse.  There are still some staples, such as Professor Egon Matijevic and the cold weather, but Clarkson continues to offer a warm personal experience that produces successful leaders.”  Those are the words Francis “Sonny” Sage had to say, while reflecting on the Clarkson he fondly remembers and the one that exists now.   Sonny has celebrated many of his life’s milestones in Potsdam, including earning three degrees and the births of his three children.  He is now months away from another milestone, celebrating his 50th Reunion.  

Originally from Victor, New York, Sonny knew at an early age that he wanted to be a chemical engineer.  When it was time to choose a college, he found Clarkson appealing due to its rural location and his scholarship package would pay for a private college.  He was confident the challenging engineering program would keep him focused.  During his sophomore year, he married his high school sweetheart, Mona.  Mona relocated to Potsdam and quickly became immersed in both the campus and community offerings.  After earning his undergraduate degree, Sonny furthered his education by obtaining his master’s and Ph.D. at Clarkson. He believes he was fortunate to spend a year as a Chemical Engineer Instructor while pursuing his graduate degrees. Thus, they made their home in the North Country for an entire decade during the 1960s.  Consequently, Sonny and Mona have strong ties to the area and many fond memories. 

Sonny accepted a research position with Conoco, Inc. (now ConocoPhillips) and never left.  Sonny devoted his career to managing research programs in mid and downstream petroleum technology.  When DuPont bought Conoco his research areas greatly expanded and offered even more challenging development programs.  Mona went on to earn two degrees from Oklahoma State University.

Though Sonny’s career took him to faraway places, Clarkson was never far from his mind.  In fact, many of his Clarkson connections made sure of it.  Thus, he was tapped to serve on the Engineering Advisory Board.   He also recruited Clarkson graduates on behalf of Conoco for several years.  Through these interactions, Sonny was able to keep a pulse on the latest happenings at the University.  “I enjoyed going back to see my friends, classmates, and observing the progress the department made on educational and research goals. I look forward to visiting Professor Shankar Subramanian in the Chemical Engineering Department during the Reunion.”

Sonny explained that he and Mona have always had such strong confidence in the quality work being done at Clarkson that they were eager to support it.  This is evidenced in the fact that Sonny and Mona have been loyal annual fund donors for decades. They believe giving is more like investing than just handing over money. In honor of Sonny’s 50th Reunion, the Sages decided to plan a special gift to Clarkson. Making sure to take advantage of Conoco’s matching gift program for retirees and working with the Annie Clarkson Society, the Sages established an endowed scholarship. 

While determining the criteria for scholarship selection, the Sages reflected on Sonny’s undergraduate experience.  They realized the transition from a student to a professional happened during Sonny’s junior year.  He believes it was at this critical point in his experience that he finally saw the big picture.  Thus, the Francis E. ’63 and Mona K. Sage Endowed Scholarship will be awarded to a chemical engineering major in their junior year who demonstrated leadership and integrity during their first two years.

This is the Sages’ first endowed scholarship, but they are no strangers to philanthropy.  Giving back, both monetarily and through volunteerism, is a value that has deep roots within their family culture.  “It is something that Mona and I witnessed in other family units and we knew it would naturally be woven into ours.”  Mona and Sonny are involved with several non-profits and advisory boards within their Oklahoma community. 

During their “downtime”, the Sages enjoy traveling the world.  They have visited all seven continents.  They also stay young by spending time with their four grandchildren.