Dedication of the Edward Eldred Potter Memorial Plaque
                                                 at Union College Schaffer Library, 1 August 2008
 

Introduction – Ellen Fladger 

Paul Ward

Thank you for that introduction. At this time I would certainly wish to thank Union College President Stephen Ainlay for agreeing that a memorial plaque was appropriate at Union College given the promise by then President Richmond made to Edward’s mother, Rose Eldred Potter, 89 years ago that her son’s name be memorialized at Union.  Arrangements for this dedication were made possible through the kind and cooperative efforts of Kathryn Quinn, Assistant to the President, and Ellen Fladger, Librarian and Director of Special Collections and Librarian Tom McFadden. 

In preparing this program, I discovered that Union College played an important role in the founding of the Albany Normal School in 1844. This school evolved through the years into the University at Albany in the 1960’s.  When legislation was passed in May of 1844 to create a teacher training school at Albany, the legislation required the appointment of an executive committee of five educators to provide immediate and continuing oversight over this new institution.  One of the committee members selected by the State Superintendent of Education was Dr. Alonzo Potter, then Union College Professor of Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy and acting college “Vice President”.  Alonzo Potter’s name appeared on all the diplomas of those graduating from the Normal School during his tenure. Potter was also called upon to recruit the first principal of the school. Journeying to Newburyport, MA he interviewed and hired on the spot David Perkins Page. Then a leader in the Normal School movement, Page proved an excellent choice.

We regret that President Ainlay was unable to attend this dedication. However, it is my pleasure to introduce the Union College Director of Alumni Affairs who will present a statement on behalf of President Ainlay.  Mr. Nick Famulare ’93.

[Acknowledge U Albany Alumni representative, Robert Umholtz ’51, member of the Alumni Board of Directors. ]

We are pleased to have with us today three descendants of the Potter family attending this dedication. 

At this time I would like to introduce Edward Potter’s niece by marriage, Mrs. Gloria Potter. Her late husband Frank Potter was one of three sons of Carl Potter, brother of Edward Potter. Also representing the Potter descendents is Jessica Mintzer, great grand niece of Edward Potter daughter of Susan and grand daughter of Gloria Potter.

The third Potter descendent actually found us though the Potter Club Alumni Association website. Living in the capital district we soon made contact. Over the past few months we have been able to share Potter family information and through her interest and energy has greatly added to the Potter family history.  It is my pleasure to introduce a grand niece of Edward Potter, daughter of Gloria and mother of Jessica, Susan Potter Mintzer.

 [Susan Potter Mintzer introduced]

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the death of 1st Lt. Edward E. Potter. He was one of more that 116,000 Americans who died in WWI.  The fact that we are here today to dedicate a plaque in his honor, is a result of a unique set of circumstances:
    - Promise made by Union College to memorialize his name
    - 
The establishment of the Edward Eldred Potter Club in 1931
    - The Memoirs of Edward E. Potter, written by Edward’s older sister, Cordella Potter Lackey

This memoir vividly revealed to Potter Club members and others Edward’s spirit, philosophy, ideals, and humor.  His sister’s brief biography portrays him somewhat of a dreamer; but at the same time outgoing and very adept and making various items; from furniture, canoe paddles, trunks etc. This stood him in good stead when a student at State College.  The diary of Dean of Women Anna Pierce recorded numerous occasions when Edward painted doors, made book cases, and did numerous other chores for her.  Indeed, the only tangible belonging of Edward’s at the University archives is a slim English published book on woodworking.  He enjoyed the theater and in high school as well as overseas he was active in planning and acting in various plays.  His true love, however, was reading. In the 35 of Edward’s letters published in the Memoir, he is constantly requesting of his “Sis” and family specific books mainly dealing with philosophy, biography, and history to be sent to him.  Excerpts from his two diaries expresses his love of philosophy.  Several essays in these diaries were used as the basis for papers submitted for English course work. His distinguished English Professor Dr. R.H. Kirkland said of him [He] had a fine mind, a high ambition and unlimited pluck to see things through. He was one of my “best” boys.

Throughout these letters, his sister Cordella was always kidding him about the opposite sex. Edward proclaimed his particular interest in redheads. However, he told his sister that he saw many girls and never only a single girl and thus there was safety in numbers. He also said that in attaching himself to one female that “affairs are very much like measles – extremely catching and to be expected, but not usually serious”.

Upon his arrival in France he quickly made friends with the French, began to learn their language and was frequently invited to various family homes for dinner and conversation.  He worked hard at his flight instruction. In one of his letters, he mentioned that in a two week period he had flown 64 times!  Finally soloing in May 1918, he was commissioned a 1st Lt.

It is interesting that being assigned to ferrying airplanes that on that fateful August 1 date, he was assigned to fly a de Haviland DH-4 a very difficult plane to fly. A volume written about the DH-4 states:
The de Haviland DH-4 lives in the public memory as a ‘flying coffin’, the product of the wasteful aviation effort of WWI, A sort of accident-prone albatross, a death ship, a crate you can’t send boys up in.

Incidentally, the DH-4 was only American built plane to be used in the war and only during the last 70 days of that conflict.

Prior to this date he was exuberant during his training and stay in France. Indeed, in a postscript in a letter sent to a friend on the day of his death he wrote:  “Don’t waste any sympathy on me, I’m having the time of my life…My ship is ready, once more good luck.”  It is sobering to think of how many others with the intelligence and promise of Edward Potter were killed in that war and subsequent conflicts.  Sadly The Great War, WWI, for a time was known as the war to end all wars.

The recently dedicated WWII memorial in Washington D.C. has a Wall of Honor with 4,000 gold stars; each star representing 100 armed forces personnel killed in the conflict. In front of this Wall is a reflecting pool and bordering the pool is a large curved granite base; writ large are the words composed by Joseph E. Persico, class of  ’52, and Potter Club member:

“Here, We Mark the Price of Freedom”

1st Lt. Edward E. Potter also paid that price!

Dedication Program: (Click on each photo.)
       

Some Attendees: (Click on each photo)

1. Robert Umholtz and Paul Ward; 2, Milan Krchniak and Bernard McEvoy; 3. Robert Lanni and Robert Umholtz;
4. James Panton and Joseph Dolan

Attendance List of Potter Alumni:

Robert Coan 55

Fred Culbert 65, Pres.

Joseph Dolan 52

Milan Krchniak 53

Robert Lanni 52

Howard Lynch 43, Pres.

Bernard McEvoy 57

Peter McManus 54

Claude Palczak 53

James Panton 53

Robert  Umholtz 51

Paul Ward 53, Pres.

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