POTSDAM -- SUNY Potsdam recently recognized one of its alumnae, Betsy Northrop of the Class of 1961, with one of its most prestigious honors, the Leadership Through Service Award.
Northrop was presented the award posthumously in recognition of her lifelong dedication to making the North Country a better and more welcoming place.
Northrop’s family and her longtime partner, William Kirchgasser, professor emeritus of geology, accepted the award in her memory at the president’s dinner before commencement in May.
SUNY Potsdam established the Leadership Through Service Awards to honor those outstanding individuals who have demonstrated a commitment of service to the Potsdam community. Each year, award recipients are acknowledged for demonstrating a special contribution to the betterment of the Potsdam region through dedicated service.
“Betsy spent thirty years as an educator, and even after her passing, the Potsdam community continues to learn from her tireless and selfless example,” said College President Dr. John F. Schwaller. “Her volunteer efforts made a difference in the lives of many North Country residents, as her willingness to contribute through both education and community involvement represent a moving example of service.”
Born in 1939 in Geneva, N.Y., Northrop attended the Glass Factory Bay School, one of the last one-room schoolhouses in the state. After graduating from Victor Central School in 1957, she earned her bachelor of science degree in education from SUNY Potsdam in 1961. Northrop was a member of Delta Kappa Pi and was a nominee for the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.
She went on to teach for 30 years, first founding a pre-school in Ellis Hollow, N.Y., and then serving as an elementary school instructor for several school districts. Returning to the North Country, from 1975 to 2000 Northrop was a third-grade teacher for Heuvelton Central School, where she also served a term as president of the Heuvelton Teachers’ Association. During that period, she was invited to participate in a conference on elementary education in Sydney, Australia, where she worked as a visiting educator at several schools in eastern Australia.
Northrop’s volunteer service shows her broad array of interests and her passion for a variety of causes, including education, religion, tolerance, and the musical arts.
As a volunteer, she found the time to serve on the SUNY Potsdam School of Education Alumni Advisory Board and was a long-time member of Delta Kappa Gamma Education Honorary Society. In 2002, she was elected to the Canton Central School Board of Education. An active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Canton, Northrop was a chairperson for several committees there. She was a founding member of the St. Lawrence County chapter of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. From 2003 to 2009, she served on the board of directors for the Orchestra of Northern New York, and was President from 2005 to 2008.
She died on Aug. 31, 2009, of cancer.