Academic achievement prizes, prize scholarships, and other student awards were presented at the annual Class & Charter Day convocation on May 11 in the College Chapel. Among the top prizes, Ryan Smolarsky ’23 was awarded the Milton F. Fillius Jr./Joseph Drown Prize Scholarship, and Joel Adade ’22 received the James Soper Merrill Prize.
Some 150 students were honored, and faculty were recognized for having received teaching awards and dean’s scholarly achievement prizes. Professor of Theater Mark Cryer gave remarks.
View Award Recipients
Fillius/Drown scholarship recipient Ryan Smolarsky is a physics major and pre-med student from Mt. Sinai, NY A Dean’s List honoree and member of the Hamilton football team, he plans to declare a double minor in math and music. In September, Smolarsky earned his EMT certification and volunteers with the Central Oneida County Volunteer Ambulance Corps. A nominator called him “an extremely driven and self-motivated young man who is destined for great success in the future.”
Smolarsky has served as a physics student mentor and, through Stony Brook Hospital, has been a contributing author and researcher on two papers on cardiovascular surgery. He also volunteers as a high school tutor in algebra and biology through EduMate NYC.
Active as vice president of his fraternity, Delta Upsilon, Smolarsky also served as his vice president of academic excellence last year. As a member of the football team, he was named to the NESCAC All-Academic team both his sophomore and junior years, and he acts as a mentor for younger teammates while serving as a great example and leader, said a nominator.
The Milton F. Fillius, Jr./Joseph Drown Prize Scholarship, established by the Joseph Drown Foundation, is awarded to a junior who has been very successful academically, has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities at Hamilton, and who is likely to make a significant contribution to society in the future.
Soper Merrill recipient Joel Adade received the Fillius Drown scholarship last year. A Posse Scholar from Worcester, Mass., and Dean’s List student, he is a residential advisor and co-founder of ROOTS, Hamilton’s society for students of color in STEM. The James Soper Merrill Prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class “who, in character and influence, has typified the highest ideals of the College.” The winner is selected by the faculty and speaks at Commencement.
In a nominating letter, a group of faculty across disciplines wrote, “Through his wide-ranging and sustained leadership, Joel has left a permanent mark on our campus, and we are better for it. Joel not only represents the highest ideals of our College, but he represents all of the values that our College should strive to be. Joel is a student of color, who overcame numerous systemic barriers to rise to the level of mastery in his field of him, while also using his platform of him to bring a larger community, both inside and outside of Hamilton, to the top along with him. Joel gives us hope in the next generation.”
In addition to his success in academic and research endeavors within chemistry and biochemistry, Adade has demonstrated outstanding leadership through broad-based extracurricular involvement, nominators wrote: “As a student ambassador for the Days-Massolo Center, Joel developed programming to promote inclusivity and community -building for the general betterment of students of marginalized identities on campus. … [He] has worked tirelessly, using his unique flair and ability to connect with others, to strengthen relationships between many groups on campus, and notably between students and alumni. He is an empathetic leader who is often a mentor and champion of his peers, and the connections he fostered will benefit so many of our students throughout their careers.”
Associate Professor of Africana Studies Nigel Westmaas noted, “I also worked with Joel in organizations and events outside of the formal classroom, and there was no difference in commitment — his social justice advocacy, his empathy for fellow students and employees on campus, and his leadership qualities shone through. In total, he is an outstanding student.”
Adade wrote a mock grant proposal for the National Institutes of Health with Associate Professor of Chemistry Max Majireck on optimization of reactions related to ketone synthesis and synthesis of phenethylamines for potential use in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. With Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Wesley Kramer, Adade connected his biochemistry skills with physical chemistry, pursuing electrochemical analysis of pyridinium salts that may help inform the research of Majireck’s lab. As a result, he is on the cusp of having his research published in peer-reviewed chemistry journals.
Kramer, Adade’s advisor, wrote: “Joel has been dogged in his efforts to learn and understand the fundamentals of his electrochemistry part of research. … He has shown perseverance and grit in the face of failed experiments and inconclusive results, [and] he has been proactive in his efforts to try and help us define the project and his goals, showing great creativity in the design of future directions to take the project as it moves forward.”
Majireck called Adade “intellectually fearless and, frankly, unstoppable, while making progress on some of the most technically challenging (and tedious) research I have ever been a part of. In short, Joel has optimized a large-scale and efficient synthesis of our laboratories’ most important and frequently used compound (which is not commercially available) — something we have been working on for the past five years, Joel helped to solve in five months. ”
Majireck said Adade’s willingness to seek ways to improve and clarify concepts “bodes well for Joel in his future career as a medical researcher, because even though he is clearly capable of solving complex problems individually, he does not hesitate to ask questions, seek ways to improve, and rely on his resources. I can see him being an exceptional team member who works hard for both his colleagues and patients.”
Dean of Faculty Suzanne Keen also announced the winners of this year’s Teaching Awards. Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures (Japanese) Kyoko Omori received the Samuel and Helen Lang Prize for Excellence in Teaching; Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies Marissa Ambio was honored with the John R. Hatch Excellence in Teaching Award; Assistant Professor of Classics Amy Koenig was awarded the Class of 1963 Excellence in Teaching Award; and Professor of Chemistry Karen Brewer received the Class of 1962 Outstanding Teaching Award.
Keen also recognized 14 faculty members with Dean’s Scholarly Achievement Awards.
Award descriptions and a list of previous recipients can be found on the Dean of Faculty website.
In addition, Assistant Professor of Theater Jeanne Willcoxon received Student Assembly’s Wertimer Award.
In his remarks, Professor of Theater Mark Cryer told the audience about how acting and how living a life, making a choice, prepares you to be an actor/artist. He said he quotes James Baldwin at the start of each semester in all of his classes: “’The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions hidden by the answers.'”
Cryer continued, “Teaching acting is teaching what questions to ask, asking what if? And then answering those questions by making a bold and brave choice, and Know Thisself is at the core of the actor’s craft. That my students find that inspiring means I’ve done my job. Make a choice that could change your life and inspire the lives of those you encounter. Make a choice,” Cryer said.