Many SUNY Potsdam alumni, supporters honored during Reunion Weekend
Friday, July 21, 2017 - 5:33 pm

POTSDAM -- SUNY Potsdam’s Alumni Association honored several people during the school’s recent Reunion Weekend.

Two alumnae from the Class of 1971, Joyce "Jackie" Tantillo Aab and Joyce Barnholt Yianoukos, received the 2017 Distinguished Service Awards.

“The Distinguished Service Award is presented to alumni who have made exceptional contributions to the Alumni Association and/or the college,” a news release from SUNY Potsdam says.

They were honored for their “outstanding dedication as volunteers and generosity as donors to the college,” according to the release.

“Through their volunteer leadership and philanthropy, Jackie Aab '71 and Joyce Yianoukos '71 have ensured a bright future for many generations of schoolchildren and SUNY Potsdam education students who benefit from programs offered at SUNY Potsdam's Rebecca V. Sheard Literacy Center,” school officials said.

Beginning in 2013, during Yianoukos's "Magic of Books" drive, she connected with many of her classmates, Alpha Delta Kappa sorority sisters, former work colleagues and fellow area educators, asking them to join her in buying their favorite book – or a favorite of their students, or their own children. The result was a collection of more than 1,500 books for the literacy center, which serves more than 250 children who are mentored after school by SUNY Potsdam teacher education students.

The center now has children's and adolescent literature that is used not only by the children and their college student mentors, but also by literacy faculty who use the books in their undergraduate and graduate courses.

Brig. Gen. Dr. Leon L. Robert Jr. '77, a member of the Class of 1977, received the 2017 St. Lawrence Academy Medal.

The St. Lawrence Academy Medal is presented to a SUNY Potsdam graduate “who has made significant contributions to the field of professional education or related fields. The Alumni Association recognized Robert for his extraordinary career in education and his service to the nation as a military leader,” school officials said.

Robert has achieved the rare distinction of completing a successful 30-year military career while also leading a world-class academic career.

As professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Life Science at the United States Military Academy at West Point, he leads a team of 35 civilian and military faculty who teach and mentor more than 1,400 students each semester.

“His peers and students have said that he is both a gifted teacher who cares deeply about his own students and a skilled leader and mentor of teachers,” according to the SUNY Potsdam release.

John L. Priest received the Honorary Lifetime Membership.

The distinction is is presented to non-alums who have made “exceptional contributions to the SUNY Potsdam Alumni Association and/or the college,” school officials said. Priest was recognized for his “generous support and outstanding commitment to the SUNY Potsdam community,” according to the release.

Along with his wife, Lynne Boles from the Class of 1974, Priest has had a “tremendous impact” on SUNY Potsdam and its students, school officials said.

The couple have been “loyal supporters of Potsdam for decades,” the SUNY Potsdam news release says. Boles has made a gift to the college every year since her graduation. In particular, they share a great love of the performing arts, with Priest having spent decades acting in both professional and amateur theatre.

They established the Performing Arts Center Programs Endowment at SUNY Potsdam.

The Julia E. Crane Alumni Association honored Carol "Kickie" Holloway Britt with the 2017 Helen M. Hosmer Excellence in Music Teaching Award.

The award is presented each year to an alumnus or alumna in public school music education who has “demonstrated exemplary service” in any of the areas of choral, instrumental or general music education, school officials said. Britt was honored for her career as an accomplished music educator, musician and conductor.

She earned her bachelor's degree in music education from The Crane School of Music in 1969 and later completed her master's degree at the college as well, in 1974. She has led a 48-year career as a teacher and artist, inspiring and mentoring countless students, alumni and fellow music educators along the way.

A talented musician, skilled jazz vocalist and respected educator, she has taught at every grade level in the public schools in New York state. She also worked at the secondary and college level for more than 35 years, teaching a variety of courses in music, voice and music business, the school said.

The 2017 Minerva Award went to Robert Christianson, Class of 1972.

The award is presented annually to an alumnus or alumna who has “demonstrated outstanding professional achievement” in his or her field. It is the highest honor that a SUNY Potsdam graduate can receive from the association. Christianson was recognized for his “outstanding” musical contributions and achievements,” school officials said.

Emmy-nominated composer, arranger, conductor and keyboard player Christianson has made some of the “most recognizable musical contributions to broadcast television, film and the orchestral stage over the course of his career,” according to a news release from SUNY Potsdam.

Christianson attended SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music as an organ major. Potsdam and Clarkson students rocked out to his keyboard skills in the group Tin Penny. After graduation, he pursued graduate work in composition at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Christianson then headed back east, to begin his career in New York City as the musical director/conductor for several Broadway shows, including "Godspell," "Gilda Radner – Live From New York" and "The Magic Show." He also went on to conduct the "Saturday Night Live" band, and performed and arranged music in the band for "The Late Show with David Letterman."

He has written eight lm scores and more than 25 award-winning themes for CBS, ESPN and ABC, including the iconic "NCAA Basketball Theme" and the theme packages and promo music for the 1997 Winter Olympics. His musical scores span programming for network and cable television, encompassing hundreds of hours of television scoring and promos for everything from dramas to documentaries, for networks such as NBC, HBO, A&E, TBS, Discovery, the Travel Channel and Animal Planet.

Erin E. Wagner received the 2017 Rising Star Award.

"The Rising Star Award is presented to an alum who has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in the first decade following graduation. Wagner was recognized for her outstanding accomplishments so early in her career, as well as her generosity and leadership," school officials said.

The 2017 Minerva Award went to John T. O'Shaughnessy, class of 1988.

The Minerva Award is presented annually to an alumnus or alumna who has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement in his or her field. It is the highest honor that a SUNY Potsdam graduate can receive from the association. O'Shaughnessy was recognized for his distinguished and innovative career and his contributions to inspiring SUNY Potsdam students," a news release from SUNY Potsdam says.