Yesterday, we presented faculty and staff with recognition awards at our second annual All Employee Recognition reception. I cannot help but be impressed by the dedication and commitment to Alfred University demonstrated by so many. I feel privileged to have them as colleagues.
Three years ago, we started the “Fiat Lux!” Awards as a way to recognize people whose efforts or achievements make the University’s light glow just a little brighter. Awardees to date are a diverse group, and include alumni, faculty, staff, and students. Our newest recipients, announced during our awards ceremony today, are just as diverse, and just as outstanding.
One is Gary Ostrower ’61, professor of history. This year marks his 50th anniversary as a member of our faculty. His colleagues respect his intellect, incisive mind, and scholarly acumen. Alumni recall him as one of the mainstays of Western Civilization, a team-taught course that tortured students who struggled to make it to class by 8 a.m., but who now remember it as one of the best courses they took at Alfred. His mastery of the subject and his teaching style earned him the honor of being named a Joseph Kruson Distinguished Professor and a Fulbright Lecturer.
But students and alumni also comment on his concern not just for those in his class, but across campus, something that has been recognized by naming him the ombudsperson for the University. It was his suggestion to right an injustice done more than 50 years ago when Warren Sutton ’61 H’17 was forced to drop out of the University. An African-American and one of the University’s most-outstanding basketball players in generations was dating the blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter of the University’s treasurer. In the face of pressure from the administration, Sutton left school, fearing his scholarship would be taken away.
When I first met Gary in 2016, he raised the issue of the injustice done to Warren and suggested how we might make amends. We did so, in part, by bestowing a honorary doctorate on Warren in 2017. So passionate about letting others know that Alfred University had righted the wrong done to Warren, Gary spearheaded a campaign to call Warren’s story to the attention of the national media. The most recent results of Gary’s efforts was an article in December in the Philadelphia Inquirer
The second “Fiat Lux!” award-winner is Nadine Shardlow ’86, ’17 MS. As director of our Opportunity Programs for the past 19 years, Nadine is known for her firm, yet warm, guidance of Opportunity Program students. She stresses the value of an education to our students and the amount of work that it takes to achieve their goals. Some of that comes from personal experience. A year ago, Nadine won the Bob Condrate Lifelong Learner Award at the employee recognition luncheon for her persistence and drive to earn a master’s degree in college student development. Nadine accomplished the feat 30 years after she had received a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
As a coach and as a role model, Nadine sets a great example for this University in how to encourage students to succeed. And that’s exactly why we have named Nadine the executive director of the Pamela Lavin Bernstein Center for Advising, a role she takes on in addition to her responsibilities as director of the Opportunity Programs.
Our final “Fiat Lux!” award yesterday went to Abigail Smith ’19, who will receive her BFA degree this Saturday. Just weeks before her Senior Show, and while wrapping up work in her other courses and preparing for finals, Abigail stepped into the role of Ariel in “The Tempest” staged by our Division of Performing Arts in April.
It’s not exactly the classic “understudy-makes-good” tale. Abby was not in the cast, but a last-minute call for help from Becky Prophet ’70, professor of theater and director, prompted Abby to take on the role three days before the production opened. Aware that she might falter with only a few days to learn her lines, the cast, being creative, gave her a book as a prop in case she forgot a line (In the play, Prospero, her father, has a fondness for books). She barely had to glance at the book, she had learned her lines so flawlessly.
Becky knew from past experience that Abby was up for the challenge, and she was. Her inspiring example of grace and excellence under pressure is why Abby deserves the “Fiat Lux!” Award.
In their own ways, everyone—alumni, faculty, staff, and students—contribute to the light Alfred University sheds upon the world. The latest recipients of our “Fiat Lux!” award deserve a particular shout-out for their extraordinary efforts on our behalf.