Earning special recognition were Ryan Smolarsky ’23, who received the James Soper Merrill Prize, and Eleanor (Ellie) Sangree ’24, who was awarded the Fillius Drown Scholarship. Chaise LaDousa, the Christian A. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Professor of Anthropology, gave remarks. He spoke about education inside and outside of school — why they are different and why they are both important.
Ryan Smolarsky ’23
James Soper Merrill Prize winner
Smolarsky is a physics major and pre-med student who last year received the Fillius Drown Scholarship. A Dean’s List honoree and member of the Hamilton football team, he is a double minor in math and music. 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.
One nominator called Smolarsky “an extremely hard worker and a person of exceptional character who is committed to his studies as well as the campus community as a whole.”
Major: Physics, (Pre-med)
Hometown: Mount Sinai, N.Y.
High school: Mount Sinai High School
Smolarsky earned his EMT certification in 2021 and has since volunteered as an EMT with the Central Oneida County Volunteer Ambulance Corps. He 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. Smolarsky also volunteers as a high school tutor in algebra and biology through EduMate NYC.
Recently, he served as an MCAT Prep panelist with Williams, Middlebury, and Swarthmore colleges, assisting more than 100 students planning to take the medical college admission exam.
Beyond his science background, Smolarsky was selected last fall to perform at a campuswide student recital as piano soloist. He also serves as vice president of his fraternity, Delta Upsilon, for which he previously was vice president of academic excellence. As a member of the football team, he was named to the NESCAC All-Academic team in his sophomore, junior, and senior years.
A nominator wrote, “Ryan is a player that his teammates look up to. His work ethic, accountability for everything that is asked of him, and his commitment level to the program have been a great example for his peers. Throughout his career, his name has been synonymous with integrity, class, self-discipline, respect, loyalty, and pride.”
Eleanor (Ellie) Sangree ’24
Fillius Drown Scholarship recipient
Sangree, a biology and environmental studies major, has been a student Hamilton Sustainability Coordinator for three semesters and a summer sustainability intern. She and three student colleagues worked on the Green Attributes Project, which outlines how the College can use green landscaping as a tool to further Hamilton’s commitment to sustainability.
As a first-year student, Sangree created a self-driven research project with the support of Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Strong — a solar-powered, floating treatment wetland system made from recycled materials that was anchored in Hamilton’s reservoir. In December, she presented her research at the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in Chicago. She showed how a floating treatment system can remove nitrogen pollution from small ponds by taking advantage of microbial activity.
Majors: Biology, Environmental Studies
Hometown: Ashford, Conn.
High school: Pomfret School
A nominator said he expects Sangree to make significant contributions to society in the future as a result of that project. “Ellie is currently making her way through the patent process to move her eutrophication idea from a student research project to a marketable tool that will have real world effect upon impacted freshwater and marine ecosystems,” the nominator said.
In the fall of 2022, Sangree participated in the Semester in Environmental Science at Woods Hole, Mass., through the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory.
“The future is very bright for Eleanor Sangree, and having known and worked with her for two years so far has been my professional privilege,” a nominator wrote. “She is one of the most authentically passionate students I have had the pleasure to work with on sustainability matters, driven by a desire to roll up her sleeves and do the hard work (physically if/when need be).”
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.