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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Remy Oktay ’24 wins Pepper Prize

Photo by Emma Sylvester for The Lafayette
Remy Oktay ’24 has been just about everywhere on campus.

You might know Pepper Prize winner Remy Oktay ’24 as the creator of the campus swings, the guy who flew the electric plane, the mastermind behind the snowball and water balloon fights, the fella who runs the pen-making shop out of the basement of Simon Center for Economics and Business or the pilot that flew to every town named Easton in the United States. All of that has been fun, he says, but all he really wants to do is “add some drops to the bucket of good in the world.”

“In the reality of our current climate, swings are not the highest priority of what needs to happen, but it’s something that I think can do good,” Oktay said.

His hope has been confirmed by hundreds of positive testimonies about the swings from community members who filled out a feedback form about the experience.

“I felt like a child again,” one anonymous participant wrote. “Joy could be found in the small things again.”

Another called the experience “a temporary step back in time to childhood.”

A desire to bring this child-like joy to members of the campus community is a common thread in many of Oktay’s projects.

“Someone said to me the other day that the swings feel like a reset button,” he said. “It’s important that we’re spending our time actively engaged with and combatting the issues that face society globally, but also to recognize that we need to still have fun ourselves and take breaks and enjoy the outdoors and the company of our communities because healthy individuals and healthy communities can do so much more.”

Branch Out Swings, the company Oktay and fellow students formed to bring the swings to other schools across the country, was not in Oktay’s plans when he and Kristen Steudel ’22 put up the first swings in 2022.

The business angle was born when the college started to receive inquiries from other schools about where they could get swings like the ones on Lafayette’s campus.

From there, it became a process of bringing in more and more campus partners — from the Counseling Center to the Office of Public Safety to mechanical engineers — to ensure the product was the best it could be.

“What I always appreciated about Remy’s projects is that he did a really good job of taking something that he cared about and turned it into something that brought out the best in a lot of people,” said Zach Fiske ’23, who worked closely with Oktay on the electric plane flyover.

Oktay never expected to be working on something like the swings as a post-graduation project. Instead, his journey to a career decision has been “impact-oriented.”

“What makes the swings really enticing to me is that no one else is doing it,” Oktay said. “To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t really competition out there that’s doing that.”

“Sometimes the most impact you can have is to fill a niche that hasn’t been filled yet,” he continued.

In addition to his work with the Dyer Center on the swing project, Oktay is a Creative and Performing Arts Scholar and works closely with the Office of Sustainability.

“Remy is a champion of engaging diverse audiences in sustainability solutions, whether it’s a silent electric plane flyover of the Lafayette-Lehigh Game, popping popcorn in his solar-powered bus, or even planning a water balloon fight with reusable balloons,” Samantha Smith, the outreach and engagement director for the Office of Sustainability, wrote in a message to The Lafayette. “He is an innovator with creative solutions to some of the worlds biggest challenges, bringing everyone along for the journey.”

Oktay isn’t sure he believes in the idea of a singular Lafayette ideal — the premise that underlies the Pepper Prize — but to him, the common thread between all of the finalists, along with previous finalists and winners, is a commitment to “taking action.”

“Remy is the embodiment of ‘Cur Non,'” college President Nicole Hurd said. “A lot of people have great ideas, and what makes Remy ‘the Lafayette ideal’ is not only does he have great ideas, but he actually follows through on them. The aspiration, the rhetoric actually matches the execution, and that’s a beautiful thing to watch as an educator.”

As for commencement, Oktay is looking forward to highlighting the accomplishments of every member of the senior class.

“I’m always amazed when I meet new people to learn about all the incredible things that they do — the backgrounds that they have, the experiences that they’ve had and the perspective that they bring to campus — so I don’t feel like I as one person can represent all of the unique experiences,” Oktay said. “I feel that I should be celebrating the unique and intellectually interesting people across the senior class.”

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About the Contributors
Madeline Marriott
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.
Emma Sylvester
Emma Sylvester, Photo Editor

Comments (3)

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  • R

    Rich HowdenMay 14, 2024 at 7:50 am

    Congratulations Remy..
    Always best..
    Your copilot
    Rich Howden

  • T

    Tom SkinnerMay 4, 2024 at 9:33 am

    Fantastic – what a deserving winner. I wish him all the best. I am sure he’ll continue to bring much joy to the world. We need more like Remy.

  • G

    Gilad EvansMay 3, 2024 at 10:46 am

    MY BOY REMY!!!!!!!!!!!