Alfred University News

Alfred University service projects pay tribute to Martin Luther King

Alfred University students, faculty, and staff honored the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with service projects in Alfred and Rochester.

ALFRED, NY – Alfred University students, faculty, and staff honored the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with service projects in Alfred and Rochester.

Alfred University’s Institute for Cultural Unity and the Gary Horowitz Service Learning Program collaborated on a day of service on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 20. Volunteers wrote letters of encouragement: their messages will support Operation Gratitude’s care packages to veterans and deployed troops, Girls Love Mail’s encouragement for women recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Love for the Elderly’s outreach to residents of care facilities. Volunteers composed and decorated dozens of personalized, uplifting messages, some including original drawings and poetry.

MLK Day of Service volunteer Dillon Smith ’19, a graduate student who serves as Military Affairs liaison, received similar letters during his active military service. Smith’s National Guard Unit was deployed to Iraq during his junior year at Alfred. He returned home in August 2017 and resumed his studies the following January, ultimately earning his degree in experimental psychology and criminal justice.

“I will never forget all of the packages, letters, and Girl Scout cookies Alfred University sent to me,” said Smith, who is pursuing a master’s degree in college student development. “When you’re deployed, it is really meaningful to know that someone is thinking of you, so I am happy to do the same for others.”

The MLK Day of Service is part of Alfred University’s week-long celebration of Dr. King’s leadership and legacy.

“A day of service on Martin Luther King Day is an important tradition at Alfred University, reintroduced in 2019 as part of the University’s week-long celebration of Dr. King’s contributions to civil rights and social justice,” commented Service Learning Coordinator Corey Fecteau. “It’s fitting to honor Dr. King’s vital work by beginning the semester with service and reflection on how we can contribute to bettering our communities and society.”

The weeklong celebration honoring King will culminate with a Community Dinner on Sunday, January 26, from 6-9 p.m. in the Knight Club, Powell Campus Center. The keynote speaker for the dinner will be Brian Saltsman, director of student diversity and inclusion at Alfred University. Anyone wishing to attend the dinner and presentation by Saltsman can RSVP here.

“I am proud to be a part of a community that strives to not only lift themselves but to elevate others through its service, compassion, and dedication to the ideals of Dr. King and other social justice advocates. To have colleagues and peers whom are capable of consistently doing the right thing when it is difficult or uncomfortable makes my job that much more rewarding,” Saltsman said. “Our theme this year – ‘If not Us, Who? If not Now, When?’ – provides us with a clarion call to action on behalf of all those whom may not otherwise be advocated for in our communities. Service to one is service to all, that is at the heart of what I have seen and experienced while here at Alfred.” 

Also on Monday, Art Force 5, program at Alfred University that uses community-based art to inspire discussion on topics of equality and social justice, hosted a one-day exhibition at Rochester’s Museum of Play. The exhibition included mosaic artwork honoring important figures in the women’s rights movement. The mosaics were created in various communities under the supervision of Art Force 5. Five were created outside National Football League stadiums during the 2019 season; a sixth was created during a two-day residency in the Adirondack community of Keene Valley, NY; and a seventh, of Coretta Scott King (Martin Luther King’s widow), was created Monday as part of the exhibition at the museum in Rochester

“Yes, we serve others and their communities,” explained Dan Napolitano, assistant dean of the Alfred University School of Art and Design and founder of Art Force 5, “but the true benefactors are the college students, as they are given the opportunity to develop themselves as agents of change. I could not be happier to witness the students’ growth.”

For more information about Art Force 5’s upcoming projects, contact or visit

In photo above, Alfred University senior Kelsey Oliveira (left) and graduate student Dillon Smith (center) volunteered to write letters of encouragement to various groups as part of Monday’s Martin Luther King Day of Service organized by the University. Pictured at right is Nataly Villanueva, who accompanied Smith as a volunteer for the Service Day activity.