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Honors Convocation: Can We Save the World in Time?

Emma Willard School honored the academic excellence and exemplary citizenship of students, as well as extraordinary faculty service at Honors Convocation during Spring Family Connections on Friday, April 15. Families were invited to visit the campus, in-person and virtually, to attend classes, Morning Reports and more.
Teaching faculty processed into the Mott Gymnasium with the Cum Laude and EW Award recipients, taking their places at the front of stage, before Head of School Jenny Rao opened the ceremony for Honors Convocation. The entire event was livestreamed and may be viewed here.

Tsz Yan Tiffany M. ’23 provided a musical selection, Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003 “Andante” by Johann Sebastian Bach, before alumna Fae Jencks ’06 — who currently serves as the Director of Communications for The Office of Al Gore — delivered her Honors Convocation address.

In an address titled “Can We Save the World in Time?”, Ms. Jencks issued an urgent appeal to students, staff and families to take seriously the mitigation efforts needed to cut worldwide emissions in half by 2030. It was explained that, to avoid a global temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, universal adoption of renewable energy sources and investment in sustainable technologies is needed. The good news shared with those assembled is that Ms. Jencks believes we have the ability to implement those changes now and the key to achieving a net zero future is immediate action.

“When words don’t result in action, essentially the consequence used to be indifference — now the response is outrage,” asserted Ms. Jencks. “And that (response) has power structures worried. You see that worry in all of the statements from brands weighing in on issues that they wouldn’t have touched with a 10-foot pole in the past. They’re trying to prove themselves to you.”

In closing, Ms. Jencks gave a message of empowerment to the Emma Willard students in the audience, noting it will be their voices and actions that determine whether institutions and companies adopt the policies needed to address climate change. “I encourage all of you to do everything you can to maintain your idealism in the face of adversity.”

Following the address, Esther Dettmar, PhD, chair of the Emma Willard chapter of the Cum Laude Society, introduced the Cum Laude Honor, given on the basis of impressive, consistent, and diverse achievements in academic excellence. Ms. Rao read the citations for this year’s Cum Laude recipients as they stood and received their awards: 

Sabrina A.
Asia F.
Beatrice GC.
Yi-Shiun (Shing) H. 
Karina L.
Mihan (Lillian) L.
Rowan L-M.
Eaint M. 
Grace Noelle P.
Tina Q. 
Martha S.

Dean of Students Shelley Maher then introduced the E.W. Award. This award is given to seniors nominated by faculty, advisors, their peers, and the administrative team for exemplary citizenship through a high standard of conduct and for contributions that have made the school a better place. The recipients for this year’s E.W. Award are:

Nicole B.
Nika F. 
Abigail G.
Sanari I.
Tess J.
Rowan L-M.
Sophia M.
Olivia West M.
Nehir U.
Gabby Z. 

At last, Assistant Head of School Meredith Legg, PhD continued by reading the citation for our most prestigious faculty award: the Madelyn Levitt and Linda Glazer Toohey Award for Faculty Excellence. This year’s citation honored language instructor Sabra Sanwal, and listed all the many ways in which she has served the school for over twenty years, including her clear and heartwarming laugh, often heard throughout the halls in Slocum. 

We congratulate all this year’s awardees for their hard work!


    • Cum Laude and E.W. Award recipients pose with Ms. Rao after the ceremony! (Photo by Liz Lajeunesse Photography '91)

    • Head of School Jenny Rao addresses the community during Honors Convocation.

    • Meli N. '23, mace bearer, leads the awardees and faculty into the ceremony.


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Honoring its founder’s vision, Emma Willard School proudly fosters in each young woman a love of learning, the habits of an intellectual life, and the character, moral strength, and qualities of leadership to serve and shape her world.
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