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Award winners hold up their awards with Head of School in the center under the Dietel arch

Emma Willard School celebrated academic excellence and exemplary citizenship at Honors Convocation on Friday, April 21. Families were invited to join the ceremony, both in person and through a live stream, and Katherine Smith ’14 gave the convocation address.

Cum Laude and EW Award recipients from the Class of 2023 processed into Mott Gymnasium with the full Emma faculty in their regalia, taking their places of honor. Head of School Jenny Rao opened the ceremony, sharing her thoughts on what makes this particular ceremony significant in the life of the school. “We say out loud, clearly and distinctly, all the habits we hold dear; all the values we honor as a school community,” she shared. “Today we have gathered to celebrate excellence. As we applaud the accomplishments of the nominees for Cum Laude and recipients of the EW Award, we also celebrate the contributions of all of those in this community who make excellence possible on a daily basis.”

Following Ms. Rao’s remarks, Hanh N. ’24 shared her impressive cello talents, performing Etude for Solo Cello Op. 73, No. 6 by David Popper.

In an address titled “Finding the ‘Good Enough’ in Doing Good,” Katherine Smith ’14, who works to produce and preserve affordable and environmentally sustainable housing at Standard Communities, shared a vision of how we can all find ways to serve and shape our worlds, regardless of our chosen path in life. “I always knew I wanted to work in corporate spaces, but I had no clue what industry that would be in,” she shared. She found herself in one of the largest profit-driven industries in our country: real estate. “What I did not expect,” Ms. Smith continued, “was how you could find careers that integrate the for-profit sector with social good. In my case, that's affordable housing.”

Ms. Smith shared how her industry is creating ways to both support a profitable company and make living spaces more affordable for lower income families. Through COVID, many families suffered with access to computers and the Internet for their children’s education, especially when jobs were lost and money was tight. She rallied many organizations, including local non-profits and governmental agencies, to help families in her company’s apartment developments meet this critical need. 

“We were able to get 40 families’ children back into their classrooms in just one apartment complex,” Ms. Smith shared. “This was a really great moment, but not all my work is so clean-cut.” With a nod toward the tendency toward perfectionism that many in the Emma community can relate to, she shared the sometimes-frustrating barriers created by bureaucracy. Finding middle ground where work can be done in spite of these barriers is the work of people like her in for-profit companies. “While we could always do better, we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” she concluded. “Nothing will ever be perfect—but if we are at least helping some people, that’s certainly better than helping no one.” Looking out at the hopeful faces of Emma students, she encouraged them each to find ways to take their tenacity, curiosity, and energy—minus a little of the perfectionism—to make a real impact in the world.

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 personalized citations for each Cum Laude recipient. They are: 

Manasa B.
Daphine K.
Bailey L-L.
Jiahui (Stella) L.
Zhouyinuo (Casy) L.
Coco L.
Anita M.
Shuaiding Tina M.
Melisande N.
Angel (Junya) W.
Teresa Z.

Dean of Students Shelley Maher then introduced the Emma Willard “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:

Isabelle B.
Noura C.
Kathryn G.
Prairie G.
Manyi L.
Esme M.
Madie M.
Gabrielle P.

Finally, Assistant Head of School Meredith Legg, PhD closed the program with the presentation of the Madelyn Levitt and Linda Glazer Toohey Award for Faculty Excellence. This annual award, determined by student and faculty nominations, recognizes full-time faculty members who consistently demonstrate a generosity of spirit that is manifest in a commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the care and wellbeing of our students in every forum. For her ever-present impact in the classroom, on the field, and across the entire community, this year’s award was presented to Science Instructor, Head Softball Coach, Assistant Varsity Field Hockey Coach, and Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach Samantha Skott!

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

If you would like to view the live stream archive of the event, it may be viewed here.

Katherine Smith ’14 addresses the Emma Community

Katherine Smith ’14 addresses the Emma Community

Madelyn Levitt and Linda Glazer Toohey Award for Faculty Excellence recipient Sam Skott with 3 colleagues

Madelyn Levitt and Linda Glazer Toohey Award for Faculty Excellence recipient Sam Skott with colleagues Liz Parry, Megan Labbate, Sam Mroczka, and Sam Evans ’13


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