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Bertrand H. Snell - A North Country Leader
[A JPEG image of Bertrand H. Snell’s portrait for newspaper use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/bertrandsnell.jpg.]
On Friday, October 13, Clarkson University will honor the life and contributions of Bertrand H. Snell, an important historic figure in the North Country, at a dedication ceremony for the newly constructed Bertrand H. Snell Hall.
Bertrand H. Snell was a powerful and influential entrepreneur and statesman living at the turn of the century. Born in 1870 in Colton, Snell established numerous businesses in the Potsdam area and served for 24 years as a member of the U.S. Congress. He also served on the Clarkson Board of Trustees for 34 years.
Snell learned the value of hard work and self-discipline from his father, a pioneer in the lumber business. After receiving schooling in Colton and Potsdam, Snell entered Amherst College in the fall of 1890 and graduated in 1894. It was there that he met classmate and future president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge. They forged a friendship in their shared values of private enterprise, equality of opportunity and personal success.
Bertrand H. Snell worked summers in the lumber camps where he earned the respect of the other workers, the respect that later formed his grass-roots support when he ran for United States Congress in 1914. Snell soon moved from the lumber camps to other business ventures, such as the Canton Lumber Company in Potsdam, the Racquette River Paper Company in Potsdam, and the Snell Power Company in Colton.
He married Sara Louise Merrick in 1901. They settled in Potsdam and had two children, Helen Louise and Sara Louise.
In 1914, Bertrand H. Snell entered the world of politics. He was elected to Congress and quickly rose to a position of influence. He served under several presidents, including his friend Calvin Coolidge, until his retirement 24 years later. He ended his political career in 1938 universally admired and recognized for his leadership and character.
After his retirement from politics, Snell returned to the North County and pursued numerous business and philanthropic interests. He was elected to the Clarkson Board of Trustees in 1911, and served as its president from 1920 to 1945. In 1945, Bertrand and Sara Snell contributed $150,000 to purchase the Normal School Building, which was then named “Snell Hall” in their honor. Snell’s family has carried on his legacy of outstanding service and generous philanthropy to Clarkson.
The dedication ceremony for Bertrand H. Snell Hall will be held at 4:00 pm on Friday, October 13, followed by a reception. The community is invited to attend.