Alfred University News

Alfred celebrates 50th year of village’s lone traffic light

Alfred University’s motto, “Fiat Lux!”—which translates from Latin to “Let There be Light!”—was changed slightly last weekend, when the Village of Alfred and the two institutions of higher education which call Alfred home, Alfred University and Alfred State College, marked the 50th anniversary of the village’s lone traffic light.

The traffic light, located at the intersection of Main and Pine streets, was installed in 1974 and is one of a number of features which reflect Alfred’s uniqueness. That uniqueness helped Alfred earn the title of the “Ultimate College Town,” as outlined in an article published in the Washington Post about a year ago. In that story, writer Andrew Van Dam described the Village of Alfred as the “collegiest” town in America, noting that when school is in session, 85 percent of the village’s population is comprised of college students, far and away the highest percentage of any college town in the country.

“Wedged into a hilly expanse of western New York, far enough from any city or landmark that its precise location is tough to describe, Alfred is defined by public Alfred State College and private Alfred University, which face off across its main street,” Van Dam wrote. “If you go left at the town’s only stop light, you’re on one campus. Turn right, you’re on the other. Now that’s a college town.”

“We are the only locality in the United States with more higher education institutions (two) than traffic lights (one),” Mark Zupan, Alfred University president, commented at the Saturday, June 8, celebration marking the traffic light’s 50th anniversary, held during Alfred University’s Alumni Reunion weekend. “Our village is distinctive in many other ways.”

man speaking on a stage

Mark Zupan, Alfred University president, makes comments during the June 8 Traffic Light Festival celebration in the Village of Alfred.

Zupan also pointed to the annual Hot Dog Day celebration and parade held each spring, and the local fire department, A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Company—whose volunteers include a number of Alfred University faculty members—“that boasts a higher percentage of Ph.D.s than any other such volunteer fire-fighting group in the country.”

Alfred University’s motto, Fiat Lux! while shared with other colleges and universities, is unique, nonetheless, Zupan noted.

“The motto of Alfred University is ‘Fiat Lux!’ which means ‘Let There Be Light!’ in Latin. While we share the motto with over 30 other schools in the country, we are the only one with an exclamation mark associated with the motto. Our motto derives from one of the opening verses of the book of Genesis in the Bible. It refers to the power of light to illuminate; the warmth to a community setting such as Alfred that light provides; and the wide-ranging spectrum of colors that come together to give light its power,” Zupan said.

“On the jubilant occasion of our traffic light’s Golden Anniversary, let me offer just one slight modification to our University’s motto: “Fiat Unum Lux!” or “Let There Be One Light!”

The Traffic Light Festival was jointly coordinated and organized by former village mayor and retired Alfred University professor Becky Prophet, the Village of Alfred, Alfred University, and Alfred State College. The celebration included a parade down Main Street to the light, and a street fair held near the intersection, with musical entertainment. Among the distinguished guests were several former mayors of the Village of Alfred, including Gary Horowitz H ’91, who was mayor in 1974 when the traffic light was installed.

Horowitz served Alfred University for 28 years, first as a member of the history faculty, then director of Alumni and Parent Programs, and finally as senior development officer in University Advancement. He was highly involved in the Alfred community. In addition to serving as mayor of Alfred, he was a member of the Community Chest Board of Directors, as well as other civic and cultural groups, and also  He is also former publisher of the Alfred Sun, the community’s weekly newspaper.

Alfred University named Horowitz an honorary alumnus in 1991. He was on campus during Reunion weekend to participate in a panel discussion on the power of mentorship at Alfred University.

In addition to Horowitz and Prophet, other former mayors in attendance for the festival included retired Alfred University faculty Bill Hall and Gary Ostrower, as well as Craig Clark and Justin Grigg, Alfred University associate dean of the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies/AUNY. 

Current mayor Jim Ninos was also in attendance. Former mayor  Virginia Rasmussen was not in attendance, but provided comments which were read during the ceremony.