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Outstanding 2014 Seniors made the most of their four years of AU experiences
4/21/14

Kelly McNamara, a communication studies and sociology major with a minor in women’s and gender studies from Hurleyville, NY, and Kevin O’Connor, a biology major and environmental studies minor from South Portland, Maine, are this year’s recipients of the Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Awards at Alfred University (AU).

McNamara and O’Connor will each receive a handcrafted ceramic tile and a $5,000 check at AU’s Honors Convocation Friday, April 25, as well as speak at Commencement May 17.

Faculty, staff, and students may nominate graduating seniors for the award. Recipients are then chosen by a campus-wide committee on the basis of scholarship, extracurricular leadership, and personal character.

“I am so pleased that Kelly and Kevin were chosen as this year’s Outstanding Seniors among this year’s really great field of nominees,” said Kathy Woughter, AU’s vice president for Student Affairs. “Kelly’s involvement in the Women’s Leadership Academy, as a student-athlete, as the diversity director for Student Senate, and so much more proves that students can, and should, strive for a well-rounded and holistic experience while they’re at college. Kevin is a role model for everyone, including me, on the value of diving into new experiences, challenging oneself and then bringing newfound skills and interests forward to serve the common good.  Both students have contributed so much to Alfred University and we are the better for it.”

“As an Alfred University student, I have been able to succeed beyond expectations I ever set for myself,” said McNamara. “I have been given the opportunity to explore my interests, build lifelong relationships with faculty and peers, and gain a better understanding of who I truly am.”

McNamara is involved in various diversity and leadership activities across campus. For the past two years she has served as Student Senate Diversity Director, during which time she led focus groups with multicultural clubs and co-founded the Institute for Cultural Unity. She also is a member of the Women’s Leadership Academy, which she says contributed to her interest in women’s issues, ultimately leading her to add a minor in women’s studies.

McNamara also nurtured her interest in leading by becoming an Orientation Guide and then an Orientation Guide Director. In addition, she served as an FYE (First Year Experience) Peer Leader and assisted Dr. Robyn Goodman, professor of communication studies, in her “Pop Culture Goes Global” class. Finally, as president of the AU Circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, McNamara led meetings and organized events such as “Box City,” to raise awareness and money for the homeless, and an arts and crafts auction for the SPCA. 

McNamara is a member of the Honors Program, Phi Beta Kappa, and the Gary Horowitz Leadership Development Program. For two years, she was a member of the AU Women’s Basketball Team. Her involvement on campus led to her being presented the Richard V. Bergren Student Innovation Award on behalf of the Institute for Cultural Unity as well as the Alfred University Omicron Delta Kappa Circle Leader of the Year Award.

O’Connor said his experiences at Alfred have helped him to develop more confidence and a stronger sense of self, and he feels “the faculty, staff, and community members whom I’ve formed bonds with here have made this place really feel like home.”

During his time at AU, he has become involved in a host of organizations including the Alpha Helix Biology Club, of which he was president in 2012; the Gary Horowitz Leadership Development Program; Green Alfred; and the Vice President’s Advisory Council. He has also volunteered and interned with numerous non-profits and businesses, including the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology in Portland, Maine; Cow Island Conservation Corps; Fort Lyons in Casco Bay, Maine; and NiSource Columbia Gas of Ohio. As liaison for the Environmental House, O’Connor has led residents through various projects as well as remediated conflicts.

In spring 2013, O’Connor studied abroad at Universitet I Nordland in Bodø, Norway. He then taught conversation-based English classes throughout the summer in Hungary and Slovakia for six weeks.

“These experiences helped me find what I was sincerely interested in and how I wanted to pursue my future. I grew so much as a person during this time,” he said of his experience.

O’Connor is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the national honor society for academic excellence in all disciplines, and Sigma Xi, the international honor society of science and engineering. His academic record has earned him the Gilman Scholarship, the Jonathan Allen Leadership Scholarship, and the H.O. Burdick, Hannah Shaw Burdick, Kenneth H. Burdick, and Carol Burdick Scholarship.

The hand-crafted, ceramic tile made by Wayne Higby, internationally acclaimed artist and professor of ceramic art in the School of Art & Design at AU, and the $5,000 cash award presented to the Outstanding Seniors, are made possible courtesy of an endowment created by Robert L. MacNeil Jr. of Wyndmoor, PA, a friend and business colleague of Marlin Miller, a 1954 alumnus of Alfred University as well as a member and former chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees.