Emma Willard School honored academic excellence and exemplary citizenship in the Class of 2019 and extraordinary faculty service at Honors Convocation on Friday, April 26.
“This is the time when we say out loud clearly and distinctly the values we hold dear,” said Head of School Jenny Rao at the opening of the ceremony.
Eura C. ’20 on the flute, accompanied by Barbara Musial on the piano, set a beautiful tone for the event, playing “Habanera Theme and Variations (from Carmen Fantasy)” by Georges Bizet/Françoise Borne.
Ms. Rao then welcomed this year’s alumnae speaker, Parker Hamilton Poling ’95, a former Emma Willard Cum Laude and E.W. Award honoree who now serves as the Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).
For her speech, “Be a Tess: Lessons in Mentorship from an Old Movie,” Ms. Poling drew on her experiences working as an assistant to the director of media affairs in the George W. Bush administration and as chief of staff to chief deputy whip Patrick McHenry from 2007 to 2018, to talk about the importance of female mentorship.
Citing the 1988 movie “Working Girl,” she described working for a powerful woman in Washington early in her career, and the disappointment she felt when she left to become a press secretary and never heard from her former boss again, despite reaching out several times.
When talking with other female Republican chiefs of staff, she shared her “Tess McGill story” and she was given a piece of advice that she has carries with her today, “You don’t have to be older to be a mentor.”
As Executive Director of the NRCC, Ms. Poling takes the opportunity to be the mentor she never had and helps her assistant develop skills to grow in her role so she can become a successful boss and mentor in the future.
“Even though we are 30 years past “Working Girl,” let’s not kid ourselves,” she said. “The working world is still stacked against women and we can help each other. As peers we can be mentors, and as we move up, we can pull other women with us.”
After enthusiastic applause, Françoise Chadabe, chair of the Emma Willard chapter of the Cum Laude society, took the podium for the presentation of this year’s Cum Laude candidates. She commended the honorees on their distinguished scholarly achievements and for being an inspiration to their peers and teachers.
Cum Laude inductees from the Class of 2019: Aira A., Sadie B., Angelina F., Gracelyn G., Isaac H., Yuanting J., Sadye L., Megan P., Khairat R., Kathryn R., Emiko S., and Cindy Y.
Shelley Maher, dean of students and wellbeing, then presented this year’s E.W. Award honorees, students she described as having deep personal integrity and setting high standards of conduct for their peers through their involvement in the life of the school.
E.W. Award honorees from the Class of 2019: Latifa A., Carolina F., Khadija G., Gabrielle G., Brighton G., Yuanting J., Khairat R., Emiko S., and Katherine S.
Academic Dean Dr. Meredith Legg then presented the final award of the day, The Madelyn Levitt and Linda Glazer Toohey Award for Faculty Excellence. This annual award, determined by student and faculty nominations, recognizes a full-time faculty member who has performed extraordinary service to the students of Emma Willard School.
Dr. Legg proudly bestowed this year’s award on John Ball, a teacher about whom a student nominator said “he taught me that good grades come not from luck but from hard work and motivation,” and whom his colleagues described as “an amazing and generous colleague” who “cheerfully gives of his time and is a constant in the life of our school.” Mr. Ball is also the author of the thoughtful citations read by Ms. Rao recognizing each honoree during Honors Convocation.