Alfred University News

Torch for World University Winter Games carried through Alfred University campus

The cold and rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of five students jogging along Pine Street on the Alfred University campus, passing an LED-lit torch to each other as they made their way toward Harder Hall. The five were part of the torch relay run that was held Wednesday morning ahead of the FISU 2023 World University Winter Games, set to open Jan. 12 in Lake Placid.

Alfred University was chosen to host the initial leg of the torch run for two reasons: the awards medallions that will be presented to competitors at the Games were designed and created by glass science researchers in the University’s Inamori School of Engineering; and the University’s commitment to sustainability in its engineering programs.

Four of the five torch bearers—Ashley O’Toole, Mikaela Perez, Neil Peters, and Alina Zabihailo—are Saxon student-athletes. The fifth, Charles Bellows, is a doctoral student in glass science engineering whose thesis project developed the glass awards medallions that will be presented to athletes competing in the Lake Placid Games.

Four torch relay runners

 Alfred University students participating in the torch relay run, from left: Ashley O’Toole, Alina Zabihailo, Mikaela Perez, and Neil Peters.

“This is like no other Winter Games in history,” said Erin Hamlin, who served as emcee at a ceremony in front of Harder Hall following the torch relay run. Hamlin is a four-time Winter Olympian and the first American (male or female) to win an Olympic medal in luge singles competition (bronze at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia). “This is in keeping with our mission of sustainability and saving winter.”

Even the torch used in the relay run symbolizes FISU’s (the International University Sports Federation) commitment to sustainability. In the past, carbon-based fuel had been used to provide the torch flame; this year, with an emphasis on combatting the effects of climate change, the torch is illuminated with LED lighting.

Alfred University’s Inamori School of Engineering, under the leadership of Dean Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, has shown its commitment to sustainability through numerous recycling initiatives in its glass science program. The awards medallions developed and created at Alfred University are made from recycled glass material and, like the torch, change from blue to orange in color when an LED light is shone on them.

“This project is very special to me professionally and personally,” said Gaustad, who as an undergraduate studying ceramic engineering at Alfred University developed a passion for sustainability. “I wanted to make massive, meaningful changes. It (her time at Alfred) kicked off a two-decade career in sustainability and recycling. When I became dean (in 2019) I wanted to infuse sustainability into our curriculum.”

Gaustad was instrumental in the 2020 creation of the Center for Glass Innovation at Alfred University, a nation-leading collaboration between the University and New York State and Alfred University which aims to bolster markets for recycled glass and improve the quality of glass available for recovery throughout the state. The Center will use an initial $1.7 million grant from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and $2.5 million in follow-up funding to research ways New York State-based glass manufacturers can increase their utilization of recycled glass feedstock. This three-year project, a partnership between Alfred University and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, will play an instrumental role in helping recycling markets and municipal recycling programs find new and more profitable ways to recycle glass. 

In September, the University hosted a two-day Glass Sustainability Conference, in which glass science educators, and researchers, and glass manufacturers discussed glass recycling and reuse initiatives.

“It is fitting we are here at Alfred University for the start of the torch relay,” said Mark Zupan, Alfred University president. He noted that Alfred University is the only institution in the world to offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in glass science.

Zupan also pointed to significant breakthroughs in glass research—including the development of glasses for people with color blindness as well as the invention of Gorilla glass used on the screens of smart phones—which involved Alfred University alumni.

Gaustad recognized Bellows, recently retired glass science professor William LaCourse, and Stuart Yaniger, glass research chemist, along with graduate students Lucas Greiner and Jacob Kasprik, for their work in the Winter Games medals project.

Becky Prophet, retired professor of theater and mayor of the Village of Alfred called Wednesday’s celebration “a great moment for the University and the village. Alfred University and the engineering school are great for our community and the world.”

Torch run ceremony participants

Participants in Wednesday’s torch relay run and ceremony were, from left: Ashley O’Toole, Mikaela Perez, Neil Peters, Alina Zabihailo, and Charles Bellows (student torch bearers); Mark Zupan, Alfred University president; Gabrielle Gaustad ’04, dean of the Inamori School of Engineering; Becky Prophet, retired theater professor and village of Alfred mayor; Geoff Redick, publicist for the FISU Games; and Erin Hamlin, 2014 Olympic luge medalist and ceremony emcee.

After Wednesday’s ceremony, the torch travelled north, where a similar ceremony will be held Thursday (Dec. 8) in Plattsburgh, NY, and Montreal, Quebec, Canada. More than 15 other communities throughout the state will host torch runs over the next several weeks, culminating with the lighting of the flame during the Games opening ceremony on Jan. 12. The 31st annual FISU Winter Games will be held Jan. 12-23 in Lake Placid, with the glass awards medallions produced at Alfred University being presented to hundreds of athletes from around the globe.