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Clarkson University Honors Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe with Highest Community Service Honor: The Bertrand H. Snell Award

Clarkson University's highest community service honor, the Bertrand H. Snell Award, was bestowed upon Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe at a dinner hosted by Clarkson President Tony Collins and University trustees on May 11.

Tony Collins (right) presents the Bertrand H. Snell Award to Stepanie Ratcliffe.The Bertrand H. Snell Award was created by the Clarkson board of trustees in 1981 to recognize individuals of outstanding merit and to honor Snell’s significant contributions to the University, the North Country, and the nation. Snell, the congressman who introduced the original St. Lawrence Seaway legislation in 1917, was a Clarkson trustee for 47 years.

The award recognizes a new generation of leaders who share Bert Snell’s commitment to the North Country and greater community. Recipients are chosen for their professional, business or educational accomplishments, combined with demonstrated integrity and concern for the community. This is only the 14th time in more than 35 years that Clarkson has presented the award.

"Through her role as executive director of the Wild Center, Stephanie Ratcliffe drives innovation, creative problem-solving solutions and forward thinking behind the positive change and growth to our Adirondack-North Country region" said Clarkson President Tony Collins. "Her ceaseless work to make the Wild Center and Tupper Lake a true tourism destination has brought to life the original vision of the Wild Center's founding board members. Clarkson University is proud to honor Stephanie with the Bertrand H. Snell Award."

Stephanie Ratcliffe has served as executive director of the Wild Center in Tupper Lake, N.Y., since 2007, after joining the launch team as director of operations and programs, four years before its 2006 opening.

A transformational leader, Ratcliffe has been at the helm during the creation of the Wild Center museum’s current exhibits and programs, including all of the interior live exhibits and multimedia presentations. She has been responsible for the majority of major initiatives, including the development of Wild Walk, an award-winning 850-foot-long elevated treetop walkway.

Ratcliffe oversees several initiatives on climate change, including the Youth Climate Program, which was recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, and by international groups such as UNESCO. She also oversaw the production of the award-winning film “A Matter of Degrees,” narrated by Sigourney Weaver, and convened at the Wild Center a national policy conference and two regional conferences on climate change.

She was one of 17 international science museum directors selected to participate in a year-long leadership program funded by the Noyce Foundation. The Noyce Leadership Fellows program seeks to enable chief executives of science centers to deepen their institutions’ involvement with their communities.

Ratcliffe also serves as executive committee secretary and diversity committee chair of the Board of the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) based in Washington, D.C., serving science centers internationally.

Dedicated to the sustainability of Adirondack communities, Ratcliffe understands the many roles that museums can play, including as economic drivers, and has served as a board member of the Adirondack North Country Association since 2004.

Originally from West Virginia, Ratcliffe earned her bachelor of science degree in art marketing and museum management from Appalachian State University and her master of science in teaching/museum education from George Washington University.

She was recruited to join the Wild Center team from her position of senior director for all exhibitions at the Maryland Science Center, where she worked for 13 years. She began her career in museums at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Prior to her work at the Smithsonian, she also developed exhibits for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

Ratcliffe and her husband, Peter Shrope, artist and Town of Brighton supervisor, live in Rainbow Lake, N.Y.

Bertrand H. Snell was one of the North Country's most highly regarded political leaders and entrepreneurs. Born in Colton, N.Y., he founded the Raquette River Paper Company in Potsdam and the Snell Power Company at Higley Falls. In 1914, Snell won his first race for elected office, a seat in the House of Representatives. Later, despite the endorsement of his opponent by President Herbert Hoover, Snell won the House Minority Leader's position, which he held for eight years until his retirement in 1938.

One of his most enduring contributions to the North Country during his 24-year career in Washington was his sponsorship of the original St. Lawrence Seaway legislation. Snell died just months before the Seaway opened in 1958.

In his 47 years as a Clarkson trustee, including 25 as chairman of the board, Snell and his family generously supported projects like Snell Hall, the Sara M. Snell Auditorium, and the Snell Athletic Field. Snell’s late daughter, Helen Snell Cheel, was also a generous benefactor of the University who helped make possible the construction of both the Cheel Campus Center and Bertrand H. Snell Hall. His son-in-law, William E. Petersen, and his grandson, W. Hollis Petersen, continued the family tradition of support of the North Country and Clarkson University, serving as trustees.

The Bertrand H. Snell Award assures the remembrance of Clarkson's patron, while it recognizes and honors a new generation of leaders who embrace the institution’s mission and its role in the North Country regional economy. Past recipients of the award include former New York State Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy, former New York State Senator Jim Wright, former Congressman John McHugh, former Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities President Abraham Lackman, former Executive Director of NYSTAR of the New York Foundation for Science, Technology, and Innovation Edward Reinfurt, and Dr. Francis Trudeau, founding president of the Trudeau Institute.

The award itself is a five-inch, cast-bronze medallion, revolving in a bronze ring and set on a polished block of Potsdam Sandstone. A likeness of Bertrand Snell is cast on the obverse side with the words “achievement, integrity and community concern” displayed on the reverse.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Clarkson University's highest community service honor, the Bertrand H. Snell Award, was bestowed upon Wild Center Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe. Above, Clarkson President Tony Collins (right) presents the award to Ratcliffe.

[A photograph for media use is available at]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Kelly Chezum, VP for External Relations, at 315-268-4483 or]

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