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Bill '70 and Sandi Shusda

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An Equal Partnership
Spring 2015

For Bill and Sandi Shusda, the decision to include Clarkson and Potsdam in their estate plans was an easy one.

Both had come from families that valued education. While everyone in Sandi’s family was able to go to college, Bill was the first in his family to earn a college degree.  His grandfather was, as Bill describes him, “a humble peasant who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty” -- an immigrant from Lithuania who worked his whole life in a mine near Lyon Mountain in northern New York.

Bill’s father, who also worked in the mine, was not able to attend college but he encouraged his son to apply to Clarkson, where Bill earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and graduated as an officer in Army ROTC in 1970. As Bill thinks back on his family and the education he received at Clarkson, one of the greatest lessons he learned from them is the Clarkson motto: “A Workman that Needeth Not to be Ashamed.”

The following year, Sandi Wagoner completed her student teaching and graduated with a degree in math education from Potsdam. The two had met during Sandi’s junior year and Bill’s senior year, when Sandi and a friend visited the dorm where Bill lived, which Sandi remembers was strictly prohibited for Potsdam co-eds. Two years later Sandi and Bill were married, thus beginning their “formal partnership” that is still going strong after 42 years.

One of Sandi’s most vivid memories of Potsdam is going downtown for ice cream on the coldest day of the year, and rafting on the Racquette River in the spring. 

Sandi and Bill are very grateful for the education they received at Potsdam and Clarkson, which is why they chose to leave a legacy to both colleges by designating an equal percentage of their estate for Potsdam and Clarkson. Sandi’s bequest to Potsdam is unrestricted, to be used for the greatest needs of the college, because, as she stated, “I don’t know now what will be needed” when her bequest is realized.

Bill’s bequest is designated for a scholarship endowment for Clarkson undergraduates in civil and environmental engineering. Bill knows first-hand how difficult it is to attend college with scarce financial resources. During Bill’s freshman year at Clarkson, his father lost his job, yet Bill was ineligible to receive a scholarship.  He had to borrow quite a lot to finish college but was able to repay all of his debts.  About his choice to endow a scholarship, Bill said, “I don’t want a kid to have to leave school because he can’t afford to pay.”

“Both schools gave us a good work ethic,” they said. “The colleges allowed us to get the jobs we wanted” – teaching for Sandi and civil engineering for Bill.  “We wanted to give equally to both institutions because we wanted to do what was fair. After all, we’re an equal partnership.”  They feel very good about putting their money to good use after they pass away, joking that “You can’t take it with you. You won’t need it after you’re gone.” 

Their advice to other Potsdam-Clarkson couples who are planning their estates is to “think about how much good the schools have done for you, then pay it back.” 

Bill recalls one of his first jobs after graduating from Clarkson, as the building superintendent during the construction of Maxcy Hall on the Potsdam campus.  “It was a very different experience, being a ‘working stiff’ rather than a college student,” he said.  Bill retired in 2003 after a 30-year career as a civil engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation. During that time, he also served in the Army Reserves for 23 years, serving much of his reserve time with the Army Corp of Engineers at Fort Drum. Through his service in the reserves, Bill and Sandi developed many friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

Sandi retired in 2007 after completing a 30-year career as a math teacher at Nazareth Academy in Rochester and later at the Lima Christian School near their home in Lima, New York. She still enjoys tutoring students in math. Sandi felt very well prepared by the teacher preparation program at Potsdam, and she is also grateful to the outstanding master teachers she was assigned to as a student teacher at the elementary and junior high schools in Rome and Clinton, New York.

The couple is now thoroughly enjoying retirement. They are active volunteers in their community and avid bicyclists, having ridden more than 6,000 miles (1,200 this year) since purchasing “comfort” bikes to ride the trails in the Mendon, New York area.  Both are members of the Mendon Foundation, and Sandi makes quilts and raffles them for charity, recently raising $6,000 for the Lollipop Farm near Rochester.

They have also traveled extensively throughout the country and around the world. They’ve been to all U.S. states but Hawaii, and 10 countries in Europe. Next year they plan to travel to Switzerland. 

Still, though, they love coming back to Potsdam to see good friends and visit the campuses. Although much has changed since they graduated in 1970, it’s still the same “warm” and friendly place they remember – in any season.

What is endowment?
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(rev. 3/2015)

Bill '70 and Sandi Shusda

Bill Shusda '70 (Clarkson) & Sandi (Wagoner) Shusda '71 (Potsdam)

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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.