North Country natives Newton and Memorie Munson have led full lives and rewarding careers. Now living in Williamsburg, Virginia, Newt and Memorie look back to where it all began in the 1960s — in Potsdam, New York.
Newt began his term at Clarkson in 1962 as a mechanical engineering major. From modest means, Newt says the only way he was able to attend Clarkson — and afford the $1,300-per-year tuition — was due to a full tuition scholarship. “I painted houses, worked as a houseboy at the Zeta Gamma Sigma house and worked as a “rink rat” at Walker Arena, scraping snow off of the ice and dragging out 50-gallon drums of water to resurface the rink,” Newt remembers. Unfortunately, Newt’s career as a rink rat was short-lived — he became the victim of automation; he was replaced by a Zamboni!
When Newt was not painting houses or scraping snow, he was launching rockets as a member of the Clarkson Rocket Society. “Once a year, we would launch zinc-sulphur rockets from Cape Vincent,” Newt recalls. One rocket was piloted by an intrepid pioneer, Gus the Mouse. “Gus didn’t return,” Newt laments, “which is something we would never think of doing today!”
Memorie grew up in the Colton area and looks back to her fourth-grade year at Colton-Pierrepont, “Newt might not remember, but it was there that I first met him.” It would be years later that the two would meet again, officially. “He was only at C-P for that one year, but I was sure to find him again.” It was at a Halloween party at the Nazarene Church that Newt and Memorie would be reunited. Invited by, or “set-up” by a cousin, Memorie went in costume (“I was a beatnik”) and met Newt again. They dated for six years and were married in June 1967.
Memorie studied social studies at SUNY Potsdam (where both Newt and Memorie’s mothers attended “Potsdam Normal School”). She was the editor of The Raquette newspaper. “It was where I got to hang out in the student union.” She also attended SUNY Albany. Memorie returned to Potsdam and taught social studies at Potsdam High School for three years. After moving around as Newt pursued his career in other locales, they returned to Potsdam, where Memorie worked as a substitute teacher. “I wasn’t getting full-time teaching jobs, so I answered an ad in the newspaper for a real estate job. I was handed a stack of index cards (our database) and was told to ‘go sell them.’ I did! This began my long career in real estate.” Memorie sold houses for Nothnagle in Rochester and Long & Foster in Virginia. She and her son, Ben, started their own agency in Williamsburg in 2017 — the Memorie Group Inc., “the name to remember in real estate.” When asked about her unusual name, Memorie recalls, “My mother heard that name of a radio contestant years before I was born and vowed that when she had a child, she would name it Memorie. Good thing she had a daughter!”
Newt followed a challenging and varied career after graduating from Clarkson, starting at General Electric and developing an interest in computers. He moved on to IBM, in Essex Junction, Vermont, and then database management at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, returning to Clarkson as the manager of academic services in the late 70s. He returned to his hometown of Canton to work for St. Lawrence University as the director of computer services in the early 80s and then spent three years at Grinnell College, in Iowa, where Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett were on the board at that time. “I have one of the original Macintosh computers,” Newt says. Newt would spend 11 years at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he was the only RIT employee selected for the first-year Executive MBA program, in 1993.
Newt and Memorie then moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where Newt was the chief technology officer for the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, a part of the College of William & Mary, for 3 years.
Go On and Do Great Things
Newt said that without his full tuition scholarship to Clarkson, he never would have attended. He feels that offering the opportunity to others to earn an education and allowing them to go on and do great things is what he needs to do.
Memorie has established a scholarship at SUNY Potsdam, because she saw the value of an education and the need for people to help others achieve it. “My father worked in the lumber industry so that he could afford to help send his sisters to the Normal School,” Memorie says.
Newt wants to give back to the area he came from, and one stipulation he has for the scholarship is that recipients be from St. Lawrence County or the North Country. After doing well in their careers and in investments, the Munsons said it was an article in the Annie Clarkson Society Newsletter on Roger Dilmore ’68 that gave them the impetus to start their scholarships. “I invested well in stocks and now I want to invest in Clarkson,” Newt says proudly.
Newt and Memorie Munson are true success stories of Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam and believe that investing in the future by supporting Clarkson and SUNY is the right thing to do. Now, that’s something to remember! — by Jeff Macharyas