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His & Hers Scholarships

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Spring 2014

Ever since they were undergraduates, Irving and Shirley (Wolf) Crane knew that the Potsdam-Clarkson connection would be an important part of their lives.

Now more than 50 years later, Irv and Shirley treasure that connection, which brought them together during their senior year and also brought them many close friends.  A number of them form a network they call their “extended family.”

Several years ago, as Irv and Shirley approached their 50th reunions – his at Clarkson and hers at Potsdam -- they began to consider ways to honor both of their alma maters that had greatly enriched their lives. They started to think about ways to give back to the colleges so that future generations of students could experience the benefits of a Potsdam and Clarkson education.

While Irv and Shirley had both been longtime donors to scholarship programs at Clarkson and Potsdam, they wanted to do something special in honor of their 50th class reunions in 2012. With guidance from development staff at both colleges, the Cranes decided to endow a scholarship at Potsdam and double their endowed scholarship at Clarkson that they had established for Irv’s 45th class reunion.

The couple’s contributions to their scholarship endowments were augmented by corporate contributions from the ExxonMobil Foundation Educational Matching Gift Program which matches personal contributions at a 3:1 ratio.  Irv urges alumni to find out if their company offers a match for donations. A number of companies match donations from both current and retired employees and their spouses at a 1:1 ratio. Some match at higher ratios.   As Irv puts it, “Don’t leave money on the table” if a company does offer a match.

Both Irv and Shirley had received scholarships that made college possible for them without having to take out many loans or work during the school year. Thanks to their scholarships, Irv and Shirley were free to participate in extracurricular activities that were an important part of their learning experience. At Potsdam, Shirley was very involved as a member of student government, campus guides, and the Agonian Sorority.  Irv played soccer and baseball at Clarkson and was a member of the Zeta Nu Fraternity. He has great memories of playing soccer for Coach Jack Hantz and baseball for Coach Hank Hodge.

Potsdam and Clarkson always had a close connection. “Many couples got together at the other campus,” Shirley said, “and we worked on numerous activities jointly such as Ice Carnival which crowned a king from Clarkson and queen from Potsdam.” 

“We both felt that the four years of challenging academics, sports competition, cultural events, and social activities have significantly enriched our lives,” Irv said. “Clarkson helped me greatly to mature. When I look back at who I was arriving as a freshman, and who I was leaving Clarkson, I realize that I was two different people.”

“We thought it was important to give to both Clarkson and Potsdam,” Shirley said, “since we both benefitted from the education each of us received, and from the experiences we shared at each of the colleges.”  Shirley’s bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Potsdam and master’s degrees from other institutions launched her 24-year teaching career in special education.  Irv’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Clarkson prepared him well for his 37-year career with the ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company.

In recognition of Irv’s Clarkson education and career at ExxonMobil, the couple established the Crane Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Clarkson University in 2006. The scholarship is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate student enrolled in a program in engineering, science or industrial/business management. In addition to outstanding academic credentials, the student must also demonstrate a strong commitment to his or her personal growth and development through extensive participation in extracurricular activities at the university.

At Shirley’s 50th reunion, the process to establish an endowed scholarship at Potsdam was set in motion.  The scholarship was in place in time to award the first recipient in early 2013.   This scholarship is titled the Crane Family Endowed Scholarship for Math and Science Education.  Shirley and Irv’s scholarship serves as a strong motivator for students to become outstanding math and science teachers, who will in turn prepare outstanding students for the engineering and scientific workforce of tomorrow.

Irv and Shirley talked about the importance of alumni contributions to both state-supported as well as private universities.  “I don’t think that people realize that SUNY Potsdam receives a relatively small percentage of their annual operating budget from New York State,” Shirley said.  Irv added that the percentage of alumni who give to the institution is very important to a college’s ability to attract support from external sources such as corporations and foundations. “If there’s a low participation rate by alumni,” Irv said, “companies are hesitant to invest in the university.”

In reflecting on their two endowed scholarships, Irv said, “We believe that you should leave someplace better than when you arrived.”  Indeed, they have made a difference, leaving both Potsdam and Clarkson a better place for future generations of students.

What is endowment?
Learn more about endowed funds
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(rev. 4/2014)