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Burns Receives Clarkson University’s Top Alumni Honor

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Potsdam, N.Y. - Robert R. Burns of Potsdam, N.Y., retired village administrator and engineer for the Village of Potsdam, has received the Golden Knight Award from his alma mater, Clarkson University. Burns Receives Clarkson University’s Top Alumni Honor

Presented each year during Reunion Weekend, Clarkson’s most prestigious alumni award is given to alumni who have distinguished themselves either by service to Clarkson through Alumni Association activities or have demonstrated outstanding career achievement, bringing distinction to themselves and to Clarkson.

Robert Burns received his bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from Clarkson in 1959, a master of science in industrial engineering in 1971, a master’s degree in engineering science in 1975, and a Ph.D. in engineering science in 1977. While at Clarkson, Burns was a member of Chi Epsilon honor society, president of Theta Chi fraternity, and a cadet officer in ROTC.

After being commissioned following graduation, he served for two years in the Army Corps of Engineers at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. In 1961, he became a design engineer at the New York State Department of Transportation in Syracuse. In 1964, he accepted a position as director of facilities at SUNY Canton, supervising campus construction, physical plant and campus security.

Burns became director of facilities at SUNY Potsdam in 1967, overseeing construction and renovation projects in excess of $100 million. In 1985, he became village administrator and engineer for the Village of Potsdam, supervising all departments, implementing the policies set by the village trustees, conducting contract negotiations with employee bargaining units and serving as acting superintendent of public works until his retirement in 1996. He has been a registered professional engineer in New York since 1974.

Burns has a long history of involvement with the Potsdam community. He is a past member of the board of the Canton- Potsdam Hospital; past village trustee; past chairman of the village zoning board of appeals; past member of the board of North Country Savings Bank, serving two times as chairman; and served for 15 years as a member of the town-gown committee.

His is currently a member of the Potsdam Rotary club, having served as secretary; president and chair of a district committee; a member of the board of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce, having served a term as president; and a member of the board of Bayside Cemetery.

Following retirement, Burns volunteered as supervisor of extensive renovations of a community playground and supervisor of construction of a used bookstore for Friends of the Potsdam Library.

He has received numerous awards over the course of his distinguished career. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary’s highest award, by the Potsdam Rotary Club; recipient of the President’s Award for Community Service from SUNY Potsdam, with his wife, Ellen; and the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce Citation for Community Beautification for the restoration of Clarkson-Knowles Cottage (the Burns’ home), which has been placed on the national register of historic places. Burns was honored with the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce Commitment to the Community Award and received the Gordon C. "Stub" Baker ’27 Chapter Service Citation from Clarkson University in 2005.

As an alumni representative, he served on a committee exploring Greek housing on the hill campus, on the committee to determine appropriate uses of the downtown campus buildings, and as a marshal at Clarkson’s Centennial parade. During the 2008-2009 academic year, he supervised the placement of the Golden Knight statue, donated by the Class of 2008, at its location in front of the Cheel Campus Center, and renovations of the Clarkson Family Mausoleum at Bayside Cemetery. Burns is a former member of the Clarkson alumni council, past regional chapter president, past reunion activities chair, and reunion giving co-chair for the 50th anniversary Class of 1959.

Burns lives in Potsdam with his wife, Ellen, a 1959 graduate of SUNY Potsdam.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, 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 engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Robert R. Burns of Potsdam, retired village administrator and engineer for the Village of Potsdam, has received the Golden Knight Award from his alma mater, Clarkson University. Left to right: Clarkson University President Tony Collins, Burns, and Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Steve Newkofsky.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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