The award goes to the senior who “most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal”

Michael Adelman ’10 calls himself a “liberal arts engineer.” During his time at Lafayette, the civil engineering major has performed research, studied abroad, learned a new language, performed service work in Easton, Germany, and Honduras, and worked on numerous initiatives to improve environmental sustainability on-and-off campus.

“My accomplishments really belong to the people around me–the students, professors, administrators, dining hall staff, children, and Honduran villagers,” says Adelman (Clarks Summit, Pa.). “More than anything else, I feel I have lived the Lafayette ideal by becoming part of this community, and working alongside these people in whatever small way I did.”

The campus community agreed that Adelman truly embodies the spirit of education at Lafayette, and named him the winner of the 2010 George Wharton Pepper Prize. One of 11 finalists for the Pepper Prize, Adelman was chosen through a vote of the student body and faculty, and will speak at Lafayette’s 175th Commencement Saturday, May 22.

The prize, which is awarded annually to the senior “who most nearly represents the Lafayette ideal,” was established in 1923 by George Wharton Pepper, a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, attorney, and founding member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. In his gift, Pepper noted that the “ideal” Lafayette student combines a “sound academic record” with “noteworthy participation in College activities and student life.”

Adelman, who plans to continue his work with environmental sustainability in graduate school, is the recipient of a 2008 and 2009 Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Udall Scholars are selected from hundreds of national candidates on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment, leadership potential, and academic achievement.

One of Adelman’s top priorities has been his work on the College’s composting and community gardens projects. Under the guidance of Arthur Kney, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Adelman and other members of Lafayette’s Society of Environmental Engineers and Scientists have been working toward a large-scale, campus-wide sustainable food loop.

His work off campus included designing and implementing a sustainable water and sanitation system in the Honduran villages of Lagunitas, La Fortuna, and El Convento, as part of Lafayette’s Engineers Without Borders team. Through the College’s Economic Empowerment and Global Learning Project, he helped the villagers in Lagunitas create a sustainable economy by building a coffee plantation.

“Leaving the community of Lagunitas, I felt optimistic about their potential for the future,” says Adelman. “Thanks to the combined effort of the villagers and the students of Lafayette, we really had achieved something special.”

Adelman has worked with Kney; John Greenleaf, visiting assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Steven Mylon, assistant professor of chemistry, on a multidisciplinary project to remediate compounds, such as chlorinated solvents, from groundwater. He also is completing an honors thesis on nitrogen’s role in municipal waste composting.

He has presented his research at the Pennsylvania Water Environment Association Conference in 2009, the 2010 National Conference on Undergraduate Research, and will be presenting at the American Society of Civil Engineers World Environmental and Water Resources Congress later this month.

In the spring of 2008, Adelman spent the semester studying engineering and German language and culture in a Lafayette faculty-led program at Jacobs University Bremen.