Alfred University News

Alfred University presents inaugural Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design

Earlier this spring, Wayne Higby, director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, established an award to honor his late friend and colleague, Rick McLay ’89, who retired in 2019 after a 36-year career at Alfred University and passed away in December 2020. On Thursday, May 6, the University presented the inaugural Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design.


ALFRED, NY – Earlier this spring, Wayne Higby, director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, established an award to honor his late friend and colleague, Rick McLay ’89, who retired in 2019 after a 36-year career at Alfred University and passed away in December 2020. On Thursday, May 6, the University presented the inaugural Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design.

“We are here to honor Rick for his many years of inspired service to our University,” Mark Zupan, Alfred University president, commented before presenting a certificate to Ellie Gamble, a sophomore fine arts major from Kansas City, MO. “I am honored and delighted to present this inaugural award.”

Gamble receives a $1,000 prize, which was funded by a gift from Higby when be established the award in March. “The Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design, while serving to honor the memory of Rick McLay, is also meant to celebrate the gifts of a new generation of designers,” reads the inscription on the award certificate. The award will be given annually; beginning next year it will be presented during Honors Convocation ceremonies.

McLay, who earned a B.F.A. degree from Alfred University in 1989, wore many hats as the University’s Director of Creative Services. He designed and coordinated the production of numerous print publications—among them academic brochures, alumni mailings, athletics recruiting pieces, and the Alfred alumni magazine—took photographs, and produced videos for use across campus. He also found time to serve as an adjunct instructor of graphic design.

McLay and Higby, a world-renowned ceramic artist, collaborated over the years on a number of print projects—some showcased Higby’s studio work; others, like the news magazine Ceramophile, promoted the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum.

“He gave my ideas wings,” Higby said when announcing the establishment of the award, which will provide each year’s winner with $1,000. “Rick will always be an enduring example of a gifted, accomplished and genuinely good person.”

Each year, the winner of the Rick McLay Memorial Award is chosen by the University’s leading professor of graphic design. Judy Livingston, associate professor of graphic design, selected Gamble as the inaugural recipient.

Gamble said she enjoys graphic design—she has assisted Caitlin Brown, communications coordinator for the School of Art and Design, in producing publicity for Arts in Alfred—and wants to continue working in design during her time at Alfred. She is not sure what career path she wants to take, but said graphic design is a possibility.

Lauren Lake, dean of Alfred University’s School of Art and Design, said to Gamble, “We are so proud of you. This (award) reflects all of your hard work…the hard work of all of our students during these difficult times.”

“One of the greatest pleasures faculty have is to honor gifted students,” Higby added. “We live for this. I wish you the best of luck. Congratulations.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to the fund supporting the Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design may call the Alfred University Division of University Advancement at 607-871-2144.

Pictured in the photo above at Thursday’s award presentation are (from left): Alfred University President Mark Zupan; Judy Livingston, associate professor of graphic design; Lauren Lake, dean of the School of Art and Design; Ellie Gamble ’23, the 2021 recipient of the Rick McLay Memorial Award in Graphic Design; Wayne Higby, director of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, who established the award; Melody McLay, widow of Rick McLay, who retired as Alfred University’s director of Summer Programs; and Beth Ann Dobie, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.