Holy Cross Professors Awarded for Outstanding Scholarship and Student Advising

July 17th, 2013 by David Cotrone ’13


Image by Matthew Atanian

Two faculty members at the College of the Holy Cross—Kenneth Mills, associate professor and chair of the chemistry department, and Alice Laffey, associate professor of religious studies—are the recipients of the College’s Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Awards. The annual awards are made possible by a generous gift from Richard A. Marfuggi, M.D., ’72, in honor of his mother.

Mills received this year’s Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Outstanding Scholarship, which is given to a faculty member with an exemplary record of scholarship and distinguished achievement in the creation of an original work in the arts and sciences.

In his most recent address at the faculty assembly, Timothy Austin, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, said Mills received the award for his “exceptional contributions to the campus and intellectual community,” adding that “he is an individual of penetrating intellect and a scholar who will continue to have an impact for years to come.”

Reflecting on his reception of the award, Mills said, “It’s an honor to be selected for the Marfuggi award, particularly given all the excellent scholarship that faculty engage in at Holy Cross. I am very proud of the accomplishments of my research students, both during their time here in my lab as well as in their future endeavors, be it medicine, science, or other professions.”

Mills, who has taught at the College since 2001, was recently awarded a $567,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation to study the chemical mechanism of protein slicing. Over the last decade, his research projects, which integrate student research participation, have enjoyed uninterrupted financial support from the National Science Foundation bringing in more than $1 million.

“My role as a scholar is to perform cutting-edge research that directly involves undergraduates,” he explained. “I attempt to give my students the responsibility of graduate students in the supportive environment of an undergraduate college.”

During his 11 years at Holy Cross, Mills has mentored 35 undergraduate students in research, all but five for multiple years. His lab has produced 20 publications since 2001 with 19 undergraduate student coauthors, including 12 peer-reviewed publications, one technical note, and five review articles.

A resident of Holden, Mass., Mills earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Harvard University, as well as a B.S. in chemistry at Loyola University-Maryland.

Laffey received this year’s Mary Louise Marfuggi Faculty Award for Academic Advisement, which honors faculty who have demonstrated effective academic advisement and mentorship of students that was extraordinary in quality and sustained at least three years.

According to Austin, the award recognizes the “compassion, generosity, and outstanding dedication to advising and mentoring of students, and it is one of the College’s greatest honors.”

Laffey said, “I feel that I need to share it with many of my colleagues who also do an outstanding job of advising.” Laffey, who has taught at Holy Cross since 1981, specializes in religious scripture, specifically the Old Testament. “I love the text, so it is a joy to introduce students to it,” she said. Then, in a moment of reflection, she continued, “I have always considered it my responsibility to keep up with the latest currents of Old Testament scholarship and to contribute to them.”

Drawing upon student testimonials, Austin noted Laffey’s dedication not only to her students, but also to the student body as a whole, saying, “[She] is supportive and helpful to students whether they are assigned to her as an advisor, enrolled in one of her classes, or have simply sought her out for support, inspiration, or advice on situations they are confronting inside or outside of the classroom.”

Laffey teaches Introduction to the Old Testament, Readings in Feminist Theology, Women in/and the Bible, and Theology and Ecology. Recently she has been teaching first-year students in the Montserrat program, both in the Stewardship and Sustainability seminar and in a year-long course, Relationships and Connections. Laffey attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, received her B.A. from Carlow College, and her S.S.D. from The Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome. She lives in Sutton, Mass.

Related Information

For additional information, please contact Cristal Steuer at 508-793-2419.

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