Professor emeritus Donald Potter dies at age 91

By Dan Snyder ’17

Professor of geology emeritus Donald Potter passed away peacefully at his home the morning of January 20. Potter’s death followed complications from a fall. In an email to the campus community, Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart announced Potter’s death.

Potter was a Williams College graduate who received his master’s from Brown University and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. He joined the Hamilton faculty in 1954 and retired from formal teaching in 1988, at which time friends and former students established the Donald Potter Endowment in Geology, which funds for undergraduate geological field research. Supported by grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation, Professor Potter included numerous students in his research during his time at Hamilton. His scholarly activity continued past his time on the Hill as he pursued interests in the Adirondacks and led weeklong alumni trips to Big Bend National Park in Texas.

An avid outdoorsman, Potter served with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division which was at the time an elite troop of skiers who fought in the U.S. invasion of Italy during the Second World War. Potter, a native of the Adirondacks, never lost his love for skiing, and as recently as last fall, he went cross-country skiing in the Kirkland Town Park.

Potter was very active in the local community. In 1972, he helped establish the Clinton A Better chance program, sang in the choir at St. James Church and mentored local high school participants in the Science Olympiad.

In her email, President Stewart described Potter as, “a warm, gracious and caring man.” Former students of Professor Potter expressed similar memories of the beloved professor in the comment section of the press release about his death on the Hamilton website. Jay Eveleth ’57 wrote, “Professor Potter was a wonderful teacher and patient skiing coach when the Hamilton ski team was the most rag-tag bunch which ever occupied the slopes.” Dr. Susan Grant ’88 wrote, “Some of my favorite memories of Hamilton were with Doc Potter and trips to Big Bend, the southwest national parks, hunting for minerals, and leading Adirondack Adventure trips. What a fantastic role model. I hope to have his enthusiasm and love for the outdoors into my 90’s too.”

In his final weeks, Professor Potter received many letters and cards from friends and former students. He died in the company of his family.

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