By Jill Potter, daughter
May 3, 2017: Evelyn Goodwin Potter, who established a public affairs department at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn in 1959 and served as the center's director of public affairs for nearly two decades, died on April 13, 2017, in Bronxville. Ms. Potter lived in Westbourne in Alger Court/Stoneleigh Plaza for almost 30 years. She was 93.
She died of complications from Alzheimer's disease, an affliction that her daughter Jill said robbed her of her memory but not her ability to laugh and love.
She became associated with SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1954 and served as associate for community relations during a five-year period when the medical center was rapidly expanding. She was named director of public affairs in 1959 after convincing administrators that a public affairs department was needed. Under her direction, the department grew and covered publicity and media relations, publications, special events, community relations, employee communications, and alumni affairs. In 1967, she was appointed assistant to the president and served in dual posts working with a number of notable presidents, including Dr. Chandler Brooks and Dr. Calvin Plimpton, to help implement the medical center's future policies and goals.
She was responsible for creating numerous publications, including a quarterly newsletter (the Downstate Reporter), and authored the paperback Medical Education in Brooklyn: The First Hundred Years, published by Downstate in 1960 to mark its centennial year.
She worked closely with notable faculty to publicize their research and achievements, including Dr. Samuel Kountz, the first African American transplant surgeon, and Dr. Eli Friedman, the inventor of the portable dialysis machine. In the spring of 1971, she featured an article in the Downstate Reporter on the plans of Dr. Raymond Damadian to develop a nuclear magnetic resonance device to scan the human body to detect cancer, now known as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Dr. Pascal Imperato, dean of the school of public health at SUNY Downstate, described her as "the best public relations professional he ever met." In announcing her departure from Downstate in 1975, then President Dr. Calvin Plimpton said, "Ms. Goodwin brings a style and grace which permeate her activities and uplift those around her. For her, a cold fact is still stark, but she can dress it with a charm that gives it life and influence. We wish her well and know that while there will be a successor, there can be no replacement."
After leaving Downstate, she served as vice president of university relations at Clark University in Worcester, MA, and later as vice president of The Cantor Concern, a leading executive search firm for the public relations industry.
She retired in 1986 and devoted herself to her passions, reading, bridge, and traveling.
She was born on October 28, 1923, in Dumont, NJ. After her mother's untimely death in 1929, she moved to Tenafly, NJ, and was raised by members of her maternal family. She started working immediately after her graduation from Tenafly High School but took four years off after receiving a small inheritance which she used to attend college.
She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1949 with a BA in English and returned to New York to work. In 1950, she married Neil Thomas Potter and had two children, Jill and Eugene. She is pre-deceased by her husband, Neil Potter, and her younger sister, Mari Brunner, and is survived by her son, Eugene Potter, and daughter, Jill Potter.
She made an entry in her personal diary in 1988 according to her daughter, Jill, that said, "I read in Howard's End yesterday that life is a romance and I guess it is. I feel that I've managed to make mine a rather satisfactory and even beautiful one."
Pictured here: On left, Evelyn Goodwin Potter.
Photo courtesy Jill Potter