Alfred University News

Glass engineering team creates winners’ medals for 2023 World University Games

A prototype of the FISU glass medal, designed and created at Alfred University
A prototype of the FISU glass medal, designed and created at Alfred University

When the 2023 FISU World University Games begin in Lake Placid on Jan. 12, 2023, the hard work of Alfred University glass engineering faculty and students will be evidenced every time a medalist climbs the award podium.


ALFRED, NY – When the 2023 FISU World University Games begin in Lake Placid on Jan. 12, 2023, the hard work of Alfred University glass engineering faculty and students will be evidenced every time a medalist climbs the award podium.

FISU (International University Sports Federation) officials reached out to Bill LaCourse, led by Bill LaCourse, Alfred University Professor Emeritus of Glass Science, in the winter of 2022, with a request: Could the world renowned glass engineering program at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University create glass medals for the World University Games?

And could the LaCourse team also use recycled glass? Repurposed glass was considered an essential element of the project, in light of the creation in 2021 of the Center for Glass Innovation at Alfred University.

Since that request, LaCourse together with Alexis Clare, Alfred University Professor of Glass Science, and Charles Bellows, an Alfred University PhD candidate in Glass Engineering Science from Ballston Spa, NY, have been working to design and manufacture hundreds of circular medals, each approximately two inches in diameter and an eighth of an inch thick.

LaCourse this week recalled FISU’s initial conception of a glass medal wasn’t particularly complicated; however, once the creative instincts of Alfred University’s  glass engineering department were brought into the project, the medal evolved into a more complicated glass material with a more complex fabrication process highlighting some of the unique properties of glass.

The result their efforts is a strikingly colored glass disc containing rare earth metals that create color-changing light emissions when exposed to ultra-violet light.  The blue glass turns orange – a color FISU identifies as symbolizing the flame of the World University Games torch, which will carried across New York State later this year, possibly through the Village of Alfred.

Youtube video of Lake Placid Games medals project

In order to slice and polish approximately 800 glass medals, Alfred University entered into a partnership with two New York State Glass recycling companies: Hillcrest Companies Inc., based in Attica, NY, and Potters Industries LLC, in Potsdam, NY. Those companies are supplying the recycled glass LaCourse’s team is using to manufacture the medals.

LaCourse and Clare have worked with Hillcrest in the past. Last year, the two collaborated on a grant-funded project aimed at enhancing Hillcrest’s glass waste recycling efficiency and the development of new products using glass waste material.  The project developed a process by which Hillcrest recycles its glass powder waste into a dense solid glass. The recycled glass is contained in reflective glass beads used by Hillcrest, as well as a wide range of new glass microbead products that may spur development of other business ventures making use of the technology.

LaCourse and Bellows also participated in the artistic design of the medals, which includes an etched, abstract image of a collegiate athlete. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul called the medal design “beautiful” and complimented Alfred University’s contribution to the 2023 FISU World University Games earlier this month at a ceremony near Lake Placid earlier this month.

“We get to design them as the host,” Hochul said of the medals. “We finalized the medal design and they're designed by incredible individuals, the faculty and students at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University.”

LaCourse also notes the project has dovetailed with the United Nations declaration of 2022 as The International Year of Glass. The project exemplifies, he says, the resources of the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, the only educational institution in the U.S. that offers the bachelor’s, master’s and PhD. degrees in Glass Engineering.

Approximately 2,500 collegiate athletes will visit Lake Placid in January 2023 for the 11-day multi-winter sports festival. The athletes will represent more than 600 universities and 50 nations competing in 12 winter sports and 86 events. The winning athletes will take home a unique medal, courtesy of the efforts of LaCourse, Clare, and Alfred University students.

“It’s been a labor of love,” LaCourse says.