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Freeman Named First Jesanis Chair At Clarkson

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POTSDAM — Call it a ‘brain gain.’

Typically, large urban areas mine rural areas like the north country to augment their talent pool — but this time, the north country reversed the brain drain.

Marilyn Miller Freeman has been named the first Michael E. ’78 and Janet D. Jesanis Endowed Chair at Clarkson University.

“Marilyn Miller Freeman embodies Clarkson’s evolution to excellence and the aspirations we have for building an exciting vision from a foundation of strength and stability,” said Anthony G. Collins, Clarkson University president. “She is not only an outstanding scholar aligned to the research pursuits of our faculty, but also a faculty mentor who embraces the roles of service to profession and inspiration to students that distinguish Clarkson faculty in the higher education community.”

Ms. Freeman spent over three decades as a U.S. Department of Defense researcher and administrator before stepping down in 2012. She was deputy assistant secretary for research and technology for the last two of those years, managing a more than $2 billion annual budget.

In that role, she was in charge of 21 laboratories and research, development and engineering centers, with more than 10,000 scientists and engineers dedicated to protecting soldiers.

“We dealt with body armor and armor for our vehicles, we dealt with making better vehicles,” she said. “We dealt with large and small arms, ensuring the human dimension was being researched and understanding the effects of brain trauma and traumatic experiences for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, we did medical research, soldier research – everything a soldier wears, camouflage, boots, food, everything. I was lucky because in my career I was able to work in almost every one of those laboratories.”

Ms. Freeman is no stranger to the north country; she has kept a vacation home on the Thousand Islands.

“I love the north country because we’ve had a summer home on Grenadier Island for 25 years,” she said. “I said, ‘Gee, I’d really like to look at opportunities up there.’”

Clarkson’s commitment to technological innovation and entrepreneurship were attractive, Ms. Freeman said.

“I really liked the atmosphere and the values, the opportunities and the progressiveness of the administration, and I like the students a lot, they seem very hard working,” she said. “I really think the smaller universities offer a tremendously great opportunity for students who often would get lost in larger universities.”

She and her husband plan to move close to Clarkson’s Potsdam campus.

She received her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She began her career in 1975, teaching high school math in Englewood, Ohio.

“I always said I would like to go to academia,” she said. “I was originally a teacher. I wanted to go back to teaching.”

At Clarkson, Ms. Freeman will help oversee graduate programs in materials science and engineering.

“I’m kind of not in a specific role as a department director or chair, what I am is sort of an in-between,” she said.

Her skills at forging interdisciplinary cooperation, honed by her service for the Pentagon, will be harnessed at Clarkson.

“That is what I did in the army,” she said. “I had to make sure that you have the right people to work on the problems even if they were in different organizations and make sure opportunities were not just siloed, but that you brought people with the right skills together to solve problems — that is something the administration here would like to do.”

The Jesanis Chair was established by a donation from Michael E. Jesanis, Clarkson class of 1978, and his wife, Janet D. Jesanis, of Sunapee, N.H., in order to create a prestigious faculty chair and attract individuals representing science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Janet and I are thrilled that Dr. Marilyn Freeman has been appointed as the first holder of the Jesanis Chair at Clarkson,” Mr. Jesanis said.“She has amassed a superlative track record during her outstanding career and we’re sure she will make a major contribution to the University’s academic quality and research program.”

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