ALFRED — After a 65-year career as a successful businessman and noted philanthropist, Marlin Miller Jr. sought to confer one simple idea about life to Alfred University graduates on Saturday morning.
“The power of innovation is what I hope you remember from my remarks,” said Miller, member of the Board of Trustees at Alfred University since 1972.
Miller, who earned a bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from Alfred in 1954, is co-founder and director at Norwich Ventures, a specialized venture capital firm focused on early-stage medical technology. He offered the keynote address at his alma mater’s 183rd Commencement in the Galanis Family Arena, advising graduates to embrace new ideas as they chart their future.
Alfred University conferred degrees on students who completed their course work in August and December 2018, as well as this semester. The university awarded three doctoral degrees, 67 master’s degrees and 286 baccalaureate degrees.
Innovation was a recurring theme in Miller’s address, as he provided insight on how Alfred University shaped his life. His senior thesis was a project sponsored by the U.S. Air Force, which involved work with new innovative materials for rocket engines — and as a businessman who co-founded two companies serving the medical industry, Arrow International and Norwich Ventures.
After graduation, Miller attended Harvard Business School, pursuing an MBA. He married his first wife, Alfred University alumna Marcianne Mapel, Class of 1955, and the couple lived in Boston while he finished his graduate studies.
Miller was at Glen Gery Brick from 1959 to 1972, serving as executive vice president. During his 13 years at Glen Gery, the company developed many new products that were attractive to architects and developers. “These innovative products were what kept the plants running and the company growing,” he said.
In 1975, Miller and three partners purchased a small business in Reading and launched it as new company, Arrow International, which grew into a leading manufacturer of medical devices.
Miller served as Arrow’s chief executive officer from 1975 to 2003, and as chairman from 1999-2003. Under his leadership Arrow International became a billion-dollar public company.
Miller urged graduates to serve their communities, as he has done throughout his professional life. One of Alfred University’s most generous donors, Miller’ has given nearly $75 million to the university. His gifts have resulted in several scholarships and three new buildings — the Miller Performing Arts Center, Miller Theater and the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum — as well as contributed to the construction or renovation of others.
He encouraged graduates to pursue new ideas and embrace the advances that are sure to come.
“Innovation is a powerful force. I hope you all become champions for innovation in one way or another,” Miller said.
Miller and Terry Galanis Jr., a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, were awarded honorary degrees Saturday. Miller received a Doctor of Arts degree, honoris causa, for his support of the visual and performing arts at Alfred University. It was Miller’s second honorary degree; he received a Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, in 1989.
Galanis Jr., president and chief executive officer of Sealing Devices in Lancaster, received a Doctor of Commerce degree, honoris causa. His affiliation with Alfred University began when Sealing Devices, Inc. won the Family Business Award from the College of Business, leading to the renaming of the award as the Galanis Family Business Award, and to Galanis, Jr., joining the board.
His father, Terry Galanis Sr., founder of Sealing Devices and a 1940 Alfred University graduate, received the same honorary degree at a ceremony in Lancaster April 22.
Galanis, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Sealing Devices, Inc., in Lancaster, is a 20-year member of the Alfred University Board of Trustees and chairs its University Advancement Committee.
“This is such an honor for my dad and I to get our honorary doctorate degrees together,” said Galanis Jr. “My father has always cherished his time at Alfred University and stressed the importance of giving back to this institution. I’d do anything for my dad. I guess that’s why I’m here today.”
Addressing their classmates were 2019 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award recipients Nurila Kambar, a materials science and engineering major (physics minor) major from Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Dillon Smith, a criminal justice and experimental psychology major (sociology and public law minor) from Pine Bush, NY. The awards are given in honor of Marlin Miller.
“When I left home four years ago to come to Alfred, I wasn’t sure what I’d get in return,” Kambar said. “I was prepared to learn, explore and make friends. I started a journey where I set goals and guided myself. Today, as I stand here, I’m proud to say I made right decision to come to Alfred University. Alfred has been a truly magical place. We’ve emerged more confident and the most engaged and creative that we’ve ever been.”
Smith is a member of numerous academic honor societies at Alfred University: Pi Gamma Mu, Phi Kappa Phi, and Omicron Delta Kappa; and Psi Chi (psychology honor society). He is founder and president of the Criminal Justice Club; has served as a club collaboration liaison through the Center for Student Involvement and Institute of Cultural Unity.
Smith, has been active duty in the U.S. Army National Guard since 2011, spoke of the support the Alfred University community showed him during the challenging times he faced.
“I knew in my journey I’d have the support of my friends and family. What I didn’t expect was the support I received from my AU family,” Smith said, referring to the care packages sent to him when he was serving, and the way he was welcomed back to resume his studies.
He also urged his classmates to cherish the memories their time at Alfred.
“Look back on your memories made at AU and smile. We all want to be remembered in life, to leave a legacy. You’ve all left your legacy by inspiring others. Wherever you go, whatever you do, you will have an impact on someone’s life.”
Alfred University President Mark Zupan closed the ceremony by urging graduates to remain true to the university’s values and mission.
“Crossroads. Juncture. Intersection. Class of 2019, you are at this magical intersection of time and place: the same intersection Marlin Miller stood at 65 years ago,” Zupan said. “Keep in mind the mission and values of this institution, which can be boiled down to nine words: ‘Our intersection transforms students’ lives and betters our world.’ Live these values. Live that mission.”
Recognized as the top students for the Class of 2109 were:
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Julie Mulryan, mathematics major who earned a 4.00 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. The daughter of John and Laurie Mulryan of Hinsdale, she is a graduate of Olean High School.
- School of Art and Design: Alison Piedmonte, who earned a 3.96 grade-point average and graduated with a B.F.A. degree (concentration in sculpture) in December. She is the daughter of Todd and Kristen Piedmonte of Cato, and is a graduate of Cato-Meridian High School.
- Kazuo Inamori School of Engineering: Joshua Benham, a mechanical engineering major from Buffalo, NY, with a 3.97 grade-point average. The son of Gary Benham, Joshua is a graduate of Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo.
- College of Business: Helena Opare, finance major, and Kourtney Keyes, accounting major, both with a GPA of 3.69. Opare, the daughter of Kennedy Opare and Fatima Tawiah of the Bronx, is a graduate of the Bronx Leadership Academy. Keyes graduated from Springville Griffith Institute in Springville, and is the daughter of James and Rhonda Keyes of East Concord.
A separate graduation ceremony will be held June 14 in Brooklyn for the 186 students who completed their master’s degree programs in the university’s New York City program.