Alfred University News

Alfred University announces 2023 Marlin Miller Outstanding Seniors

Alfred University students Knox VanRenselaar and Owen Nelson have been selected to receive the 2023 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award. The pair were chosen from among 11 exceptional nominees for the prestigious honor.

Winners of the Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award are chosen based on scholarship, extracurricular achievement, personal character and conduct, and nominations by faculty, students, staff, or alumni. The award was established to honor Alfred University alumnus Marlin Miller ’54, H ’89, H ’19 one of Alfred University’s most generous supporters. Miller was a member of Alfred University’s Board of Trustees for a half-century, from 1972-22, and is Board Chair emeritus.

VanRenselaar, from Amsterdam, NY, is a double major who earned bachelor’s degrees in history and theater (minor in adolescent education) in December 2022, with a grade-point average of 3.98 in history and 4.00 in theater. The child of Marcella VanRenselaar, they are a graduate of Hillcrest High School in Midvale, UT.

They earned several awards and accolades during their time at Alfred University, including being inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta, Omicron Delta Kappa, Pi Gamma Mu, Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Theta Kappa honor societies. VanRenselaar has been honored numerous times for their talents in theater. The recipient of the Henry and Agnes Guenther Scholarship (awarded for exemplary leadership in the Alfred University Theater Department), they won the 2021 Region 2 Vasta Award given by the Kennedy Center American Collegiate Theater Festival; claimed the first place award for the 2021 National Partners of the American Theatre Classical Acting; and placed first in the 2021 Irene Ryan acting competition in Region 2 of the Kennedy Center American Colligate Theater Festival.

VanRenselaar worked at Scholes Library for more than three years, first as circulation desk assistant, then as circulation desk student supervisor. They were a peer leader in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a residential assistant, and an intern in the Alfred University Food Pantry. They are pursuing a master’s degree in philosophy and social policy from The George Washington University.



“Knox VanRenselaar has distinguished themselves in every way possible through their experiences here at Alfred University. Knox has also outstripped almost every student I have had intellectually as they engaged in critical thinking and full application of connecting ideas and facts across many,” said Becky Prophet ’70, retired professor of theater, in her nomination of VanRenselaar.

“In so many ways Knox VanRenselaar is the model of a truly great teacher. They are also the model of a truly fine leader. Their collaborative work, their efforts to engage all people at all levels, and the goal of the best for all is the most leadership and the most potent kind of engagement and teaching,” Prophet continued.

“Knox balanced two jobs, a rigorous course schedule, numerous theater productions, and a thriving social life, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA every semester. They were always an active participant in every class, going above and beyond for their fellow students,” remarked Lilly Winning ’22, a classmate of VanRenselaar who nominated them for the award. “They are well-known and well-liked across the University, and in the village as well. They give back to Alfred University by being a remarkable person, student, actor, teacher, and friend who will contribute to the University’s legacy for years to come.”

Nelson, from Amherst, NY, majors in materials science and engineering. He has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.60 and has been named to the Dean’s List throughout time at Alfred University. The son of Donald and Beth Nelson, he is a graduate of Amherst High School.

The recipient of a Presidential Scholarship and Ceramic Grant from Alfred University, Nelson is a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society.

He is president of the Materials Advantage engineering society and is president of Alpha Eta Beta, the engineering study club he founded in 2022. Nelson was a member of the Alfred University swimming and diving team from 2019-21.

Nelson completed an engineering internship with PCC Airfoils, Sanford, NC, from May to August 2022. He has served as an Alfred Ambassador with the University’s Admissions Office since Fall 2021, helping with recruitment events and working as a campus tour guide.

“Owen created Alpha Eta Beta, also known as the Academically Honest Bois, and restarted Materials Advantage at Alfred University, allowing for students to take advantage of a road trip to MS&T (Materials Science & Technology, conference and expo) thereby learning a great deal of what is going on in the material science world,” said student Cameron Wright in nominating Nelson for the award. “Without Owen, many of the engineering students would have never gotten together to help one another with homework and studying in a practical manner. We have all become friends where we were once mere acquaintances, and I passed most of my classes last year due to him starting this group.”

“Owen is largely involved in multiple clubs and organizations and is part of their leadership,” said Margaret Weiss, student activities coordinator in Alfred University’s Division for Student Experience. “He is a former student-athlete and is very active in student activities events and is always willing to help plan and coordinate when asked.”

VanRenselaar and Nelson will be honored during Commencement ceremonies on May 13, when they will offer comments to their classmates and others in attendance.