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Joy & Richard Dorf '55

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Transformational Gifts
Fall 2015

Who could have predicted that when they first met at the Potsdam Methodist Church in October of 1956, that Joy MacDonald and Richard Dorf would be making gifts in excess of $1 million each to both of their alma maters – Clarkson University and SUNY Potsdam.

Dick, a 1955 Clarkson graduate, and Joy, a 1958 Potsdam State Teacher’s College graduate, married on June 15, 1957. For them, their Clarkson and Potsdam educations “opened doors, made us employable and enabled us to do the work we wanted to do. Because of the size of the two schools, it was personal. We were known. Socially, we had a lot of fun, with lots of good memories. The excellent programs fit us, and they were affordable. With scholarship supplement, we left college debt free.” 

Upon his graduation from Clarkson with a degree in electrical engineering, Dick taught at Clarkson from 1956 – 1958. He earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Colorado University in 1956 and his Ph.D. from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1961. Joy went on to earn a master of divinity degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1974 and served as a Presbyterian pastor until she retired in 2006. Dick is retired from the University of California, Davis, where he was a professor of electrical and computer engineering and professor of management. Throughout his career, he has authored several engineering texts and co-founded six technology firms.

Grateful for their educations and subsequent careers, in 2007 Dick and Joy made arrangements to establish the Richard C. ’55 and Joy M. Dorf Chair in Entrepreneurism and Innovation, which is housed in the School of Business at Clarkson University. Their endowed chair has supported the work of Dr. Augustine A. Lado who specializes in entrepreneurship in developing countries and is leveraging Clarkson’s expertise in engineering and technology.

Motivated by the impact of their gift upon Clarkson, the Dorfs wanted to do something similar for Potsdam. Their gift established SUNY Potsdam’s first ever endowed position, the Joy (MacDonald) Dorf ’58 and Richard Dorf Endowed Director for Applied Learning, and supports the work of Jenica Rogers, who also directs the College Libraries. As the Dorf Director, Rogers provides leadership for the SUNY Potsdam Center for Applied Learning.

Supporting Potsdam and Clarkson in significant and meaningful ways was important to the Dorfs. As Joy explains, her roots are in the North Country. “PSTC was there for me, and now SUNY Potsdam is there for others from the North Country. I want to do my part to ensure that others get the same opportunities, even better, than I had. At both schools, we have been presented with opportunities for our schools to take new steps into the future. We are so grateful that we have been able to participate in these new directions. They are very important in equipping this new generation of students.”

Dick and Joy have personal hopes for the impact of their gifts, sharing that “students today must learn to see themselves as world citizens. Our challenges, both local and global, are many. We hope that our students will find their place and their hope in working with one of these challenges. Our gifts will help to bring to fruition many bright dreams and possibilities. These gifts help not only the students, but the faculty and the whole identity of each school.”

When asked how their gifts make them feel, the response is immediate: “They make us glad! We are participants in an ongoing line of folks who saw, and continue to see, the importance of education at every level. In our situation, it is the value of a four-year college education. Many came before us and many more will come after us. We hope others will consider how they can support both Potsdam and Clarkson in meaningful ways.”

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(rev. 1/2016)

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Joy (MacDonald) Dorf '58 (Potsdam) & Richard Dorf '55 (Clarkson)

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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.