A Passion for History
Alex Prizgintas ’22 celebrates his love for the Hudson Valley by exploring the region’s rich past.
April 1, 2021—The term “history buff” doesn’t quite do justice to Alex Prizgintas’s passion for the past. Since childhood, the Marist junior has been collecting antique milk bottles from Orange County and documenting the history of forgotten railroads. As a young teen, he became public relations chairman and, later, president of the Hudson Valley Bottle Club, an organization dedicated to the collection of antique bottles.
“My time as president of the Hudson Valley Bottle Club was exciting and rewarding, and taught me a great deal about how to spearhead professional meetings and run an organization,” he explained. “Ultimately, it is amazing to see just how adept these antiques are at fueling passions and developing connections with others.”
A native of Central Valley, New York, Prizgintas is (no surprise) a history major minoring in Hudson Valley studies. At Marist, he has made strong connections with History Department faculty and with the Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI), one of the College’s Centers of Excellence. He previously published his work in HRVI’s scholarly journal, The Hudson River Valley Review, and is on course to publish another piece this year.
This semester, Prizgintas is interning with HRVI. HRVI’s Program Director Christopher Pryslopski first met Prizgintas at a conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State. “I was amazed by his presentation. I walked into the room to find Alex, surrounded by a display of historic milk bottles that were packed in crates, presenting to a spellbound audience,” Pryslopski recalled. “He spoke about Orange County's history with warmth and authority as he walked around the bottles wearing a microphone so that his hands were free to point out examples as he mentioned them. It was like stumbling into a TED Talk in the middle of a history conference.”
A very active young historian, Prizgintas is a member of the board of trustees of the Woodbury Historical Society. He has also written a book, Spoiled Milk: Two Centuries of Innovative Triumph and Toxic Corruption in New York State’s Lost Dairy Farming Empire, and recently launched a podcast, “A Walk Through Woodbury.” Each episode “showcases a particular topic of our local history and features guests who bring in their expertise as we uncover hidden treasures, debunk mistaken theories, and just generally have a good time learning and sharing our knowledge about our regional stories,” Prizgintas explained. He’s currently seeking a publisher for the book.
“No Stone Unturned”
Associate Professor of History Nicholas Marshall is one of Prizgintas’s mentors. Marshall has not only been Prizgintas’s teacher he has also offered editorial advice on Prizgintas’s scholarly articles. “Alex is the rare student who always includes a range of especially apt quotations from the material under consideration. He leaves no stone unturned in his quest to fully understand a topic, and unfailingly listens carefully to his classmates' ideas, though this does not prevent him from offering up his own original interpretations in the right moment.” Marshall sees very good things ahead for his student. “Coupled with his ambition to get his own research published, these characteristic talents and skills suggest that Alex has a bright future in the field.”
An accomplished musician, Prizgintas plays cello and piano. He’s a regular at open mic nights at the Town Crier in Beacon and has recorded cello looping renditions of classic rock songs, including Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” In 2019 he performed Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at HRVI’s conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music Festival.
So, what does the future hold for this budding historian? Prizgintas hopes to continue his work as an author/lecturer while still pursuing music. “I’ve been exploring careers in the public history sector and, possibly, teaching. I have begun to look at graduate schools, too,” he explained. But one thing is certain: “I see my work as remaining strongly connected to and celebrating the Hudson Valley.”