Chapter 5: Return of the Clarksons From New York City

Although Emilie had not claimed relationship to other Clarksons in her will, there had been Clarksons from other branches who came to Potsdam during her lifetime to support Clarkson College. The tree pictured demonstrates the connection between Emilie and Gen. Matthew’s family. It was other descendants of Gen. Matthew who “returned” to Potsdam.

Banyer Clarkson: Clarkson College Trustee (1918-28)

Banyer Clarkson
Banyer Clarkson

Banyer Clarkson served as trustee to the college for 10 years during Annie’s tenure. Banyer’s father, Mathew, was a brother to Annie’s father, T. Streatfeild, both sons of David Clarkson, head of the New York Stock Exchange. No doubt Annie recruited him when she realized that Elizabeth was seriously ill. Elizabeth’s tenure as trustee ended with her death in 1918, which was the year Banyer’s tenure began. He served until his death in 1928. Banyer was a gentleman of leisure who had many collections. His wife, Helen, was active in the garden club (Dubois).

Banyer’s father, Mathew, was a gentleman scholar who collected the family history in the texts, referenced here as Anonymous. Mathew’s wife, also his cousin, Susan Mathilda Jay, was a founding director of the New York Cancer Hospital, established in 1884.

An interesting detail passed on by one of Banyer’s inheritors: “In their early marriage they were very active socially. Mathew became tired of this social life and stated to his wife ‘that he wished henceforth to stay home.’ While accepting no invitations he had numbers of people visit them to discuss world politics” (Dubois).

David A. Clarkson: “A True Friend of the College” 1940

David Clarkson

Another Clarkson was important to the college in the 1930s, but never served on the board. David A. Clarkson was honored by students in the 1940 Clarksonian yearbook as “A True Friend of the College.” However, there is no record of how he demonstrated his friendship. David A. was a real estate broker who, with Banyer in 1928-29, sold land in the lower Manhattan produce area, which had long been owned by the Clarkson family (“Plottage”). Reports conflict as to David A.’s relation with the Potsdam Clarksons. Chapman claims that David A. was the son of David L. Clarkson, who had lived at 30 Leroy Street in Potsdam. However, an obituary for David A. in The New York Times reports he was born in Tivoli, the son of T. Streatfeild Clarkson, which would make him Annie’s great uncle, brother to her father T.S., unless there was another T. Streatfeild, since Annie’s grandfather did not live in Tivoli. This confusion is not surprising given the use of the same names among extended family. David A. was a vigorous writer of letters to the editor of The New York Times in 1935-36, opposing the Democratic Party establishment and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Robert Livingston Clarkson: Clarkson College Trustee (1942-1967)

Robert Clarkson
Robert Livingston Clarkson

In the 1940s, a Clarkson College alumnus, Revis Stephenson, went headhunting for potential trustees in the New York City headquarters of American Express. The president of the company was Robert Livingston Clarkson. Robert had never heard of Clarkson College nor of the Potsdam branch of the family, but was intrigued and joined the board in 1942 (B. Clarkson, “Clarksons on the Board,” 1).

Robert was a generation younger than Annie. His great-great-grandfather, William Bayard Clarkson, was brother to Annie’s great-grandfather, David Clarkson — both of them sons of Gen. Matthew, one of the original proprietors of Potsdam. Robert was a former president of Chase National Bank and director of many companies, including Republic Aviation Corp., Continental Baking Co., Consolidated Oil Corp., American Sumatra Tobacco Corp., National Distillers Products Corp. and General Precision Equipment Corp. (“Chosen”). He was in a position to help Clarkson College expand its pool of trustees beyond local leaders to national leaders. Clarkson Hall on the Downtown Campus was named in his honor.

His wife, Cora Shields, worked hard in various philanthropic efforts, including the New York National War Fund Drive in 1945 (“New York Leaders”). The first academic building on the Hill Campus of Clarkson College was named in 1976 to honor her and her son: the Cora and Bayard Clarkson Science Center.

Their eldest son, Robert Livingston Clarkson Jr., joined the board in 1955. Unfortunately, Robert Jr. died in 1966, followed by Robert Sr. in 1967. The only remaining child, Bayard “Barney” Delaford Clarkson, took up the family mantle.

Bayard “Barney” Delaford Clarkson: Clarkson College/University Trustee (1967-Present)

Bayard “Barney” Delaford Clarkson

On the board almost continuously since 1967, Barney is the longest serving trustee. Barney had been expected to join his father in finance, but his stint with the American Field Service in Europe during World War II sparked his interest in medicine. After returning from the war, he got his MD from Columbia, then did his residency at New York Hospital, not far from Memorial Hospital, where he made contacts. In 1958, when Barney was considering joining Memorial, his mentor at New York Hospital said, “Don’t you think you ought to go into something more respectable?” Memorial was the first organization in the U.S. and most of the world to focus on cancer, a disease not at all understood at the time. The staff were mostly scientists who had worked in the chemical warfare division during WWII. After the war, they turned their skills to fighting cancer with chemotherapy. To other scientists, it looked like they were “injecting people with stuff they pulled off the shelf.” In fact, they were following up studies of mustard gas from WWI that showed promise against some forms of cancer. Now, Memorial Sloan Kettering is world renowned for cancer research. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Barney Clarkson worked at running his own research lab and publishing nearly 500 papers before he retired in 2016. After his retirement, Barney began writing the history of Memorial Sloan Kettering, so more on his time there will be forthcoming in his own words (B. Clarkson, “Intellectual Champion,” 1). 

Barney’s interest in developing research programs at Clarkson College was not a goal shared by the board when he first joined. Many board members wanted to keep Clarkson a small, local institution. In the 1960s, the board had been unanimous in envisioning the college’s mission simply as providing high-quality undergraduate education. Through the 1970s and 80s, Barney fought to build consensus about the importance of research. The passionate speech he gave to argue for it is one of the longest published in Clarkson Magazine. Barney sees graduate research as the engine that will pull undergraduate research forward (B. Clarkson, “Intellectual Champion,” 2).

Bayard Delaford Clarkson Jr

Barney and his wife Virginia (“Ginny”), a poet, have been actively affiliated with Clarkson College and Potsdam since 1967. They feel that these are our “kind of people” and love it in Potsdam (B. Clarkson, “Intellectual Champion, 1). They purchased burial plots in Bayside Cemetery, intending to remain in Potsdam forever. Ginny was laid to rest in Bayside in May 2020.

Their son, Bayard Delaford Clarkson Jr., a psychiatrist practicing in Manhattan, joined the board in 2000.