Alfred University News

Alfred University announces 2024 Marlin Miller Outstanding Seniors

Alfred University students Brian Ngatunga and Emilia Donenberg Smith have been selected to receive the 2024 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award. The pair were chosen from among 21 exceptional nominees and five finalists 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.

Ngatunga, from Mwanza, Tanzania, is set to graduate one year early with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics and a minor in marketing with a 3.95 grade-point average. The son of Juliana John and Peter Linus Ngatunga, he is a graduate of Kokomo High School, Kokomo, IN. Ngatunga spent his first two years of high school in his native Tanzania before spending his junior year in an exchange program at Asheville High School in Asheville, NC, and then his senior year in Kokomo.

Ngatunga is an Honors Program student who has been on the Dean’s List each semester since Fall 2021. He has been inducted into the Delta Mu Delta, Alpha Kappa Phi, Pi Gamma, Mu Kappa Tau, Alpha Iota Delta, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies and serves as president of the latter. He is a recipient of the CUTCO Foundation Scholarship (April 2023), the Diversity Leadership Award (April 2023), and the Fiat Five Award (April 2022).

He is president of the International Students Association, co-chair of the President’s Committee on Diversity, Student Senate Diversity chair, and coordinator of the Institute of Cultural Unity. He has been involved in several projects at Alfred University, including working with the chief diversity officer to develop and implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives; helping develop plans for usage of the Foster Lake recreational area in order to enhance student experience; and Entering the Kenya Market, a comprehensive research project with fellow students which focused on perspectives of U.S. companies on doing business in the African nation of Kenya.

Since the Fall of 2021, Ngatunga has worked as a Helpdesk consultant for Alfred University’s Information Technology Services, as a food server for AVI Fresh, as a student ambassador for Admissions, as a Teaching assistant for the College of Business, and previously served as a Resident and Community Assistant for the Office of Residential Communities and Peer Mentor for the AU Advantage Summer Bridge Program. After graduation, he hopes to either work in the field of business or marketing analytics or enroll in graduate school in the United States.

In nominating Ngatunga for a Marlin Miller Award, Eliza Ordway, director of Student Activities, lauded him for his campus involvement. Among his accomplishments was successfully resurrecting the International Student Association.

“Since setting foot on this campus Brian has been engaged. He is willing to listen, learn, and lead. He is an ambassador for admissions spreading the word and his love of Alfred University,” Ordway said. “He is an active voice in the Presidents Committee on Diversity and Student Senate, all while working three jobs and spreading kindness everywhere he goes. He wants to make the Alfred experience better for all students not just those in his inner circle.”

Shelly Freyn, professor of marketing, who nominated Ngatunga for the award, cited numerous projects he has been involved with during his time at Alfred, including Argyle Earth—in which he performed market research and conducted a feasibility study evaluating food processors in the Western New York region to adopt innovative technology converting waste heat to electricity—and the Startup Allegany Collegiate Competition, for which he led a team that won second place.

“Brian is continually learning and applying his coursework both inside and outside the classroom,” Freyn said. “I think Brian is the epitome of a Marlin Miller Award recipient for his academic success, countless hours of service, community involvement, and amazing attitude in representing the University.”

Smith, from Wilmette, IL, is pursuing a dual degree in fine arts and physics. She has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.89 and has been named several times to the Dean’s List at Alfred University. The daughter of Geri Donenberg and Kenny Smith, she is a graduate of New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL.

The recipient of a Presidential Scholarship, Smith participates in the Honors Program at Alfred University. She is the recipient of the 2023 Natasha Goldowski Renner Prize in Physics and a 2023 American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Scientific Creativity Award.

In 2023 she earned a Corning Museum of Glass Scholarship to study under renowned glass artist Martin Janecky. In the summer of 2022, Smith was a glassblowing assistant/teacher at Urban Glass and Brooklyn Glass in Brooklyn, NY. The previous summer, she was an intern at Los Angeles Glassblowing.

During her time as a student at Alfred University, Smith has served as a teaching assistant in the School of Art and Design, teaching glassblowing, and worked as a peer leader in mathematics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since August 2020, she has served as a volunteer firefighter and Emergency Medical Services first responder for the A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Company in Alfred.

Smith has shown her art in numerous exhibitions at Alfred University. In 2022, she exhibited at the Pilchuck Staff Show at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA. She has also been active in dance, participating in the Performing Arts Division-organized “Evening of Dance” three years in a row. This fall she plans to work full at Wave Glass, a glassblowing studio in Murano, Italy.

“Emilia’s work ethic and ability in glass making is tremendous. She certainly puts in more time than most and it shows in her ability to sculpt glass on a large scale and create dynamic installations combining glass with neon,” said Angus Powers, professor of glass, in nominating Smith for the award. “Emilia has also been highly active in Performing Arts working with faculty and guest artist to choreograph and perform in groups and as a soloist. Emilia stands out in her dance work just as she does in the glass studio. A strong artist in all of her creative pursuits!”

Smith “has been an absolute leader for women in the studios,” Powers continued. “Glass blowing has traditionally been a male dominated specialization and it is people like Emilia that are showing younger students that they can not only make glass, but they can be a leader and find leadership roles in the glass community.”

Garrett McGowan professor of chemistry, himself a glass art enthusiast, cited Smith’s academic work as a double major in art and physics in nominating her for the Marlin Miller Award. “She has had some amazing (art) installations over the years,” McGowan said. “She is very active on campus and shares her knowledge and abilities with her peers.”

Ngatunga and Smith will be honored during Commencement ceremonies on May 11, when they will offer comments to their classmates and others in attendance.