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students stand for the alma mater at the end of convocation

Emma Willard School celebrated academic excellence and exemplary citizenship at Honors Convocation on Friday, April 19. Families were invited to join the ceremony, both in person and through a live stream, and Grace Smith ’14 gave the convocation address.

Cum Laude and EW Award recipients from the Class of 2024 processed into Mott Gymnasium with the full Emma faculty in their regalia. 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 are proud of our honorees and so aware that their successes tell the larger story of a strong, vibrant, and supportive student body and educational community.”

Following Ms. Rao’s remarks, mezzo-soprano Olivia L. ’24 shared a beautiful performance of Mozart’s aria, “Non so più cosa son.”

The special guest speaker for the occasion was Grace Smith ’14, who currently serves as a special advisor in the Office for Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights at the US Environmental Protection Agency. She is originally from Troy and received her BA in gender studies and government from Georgetown University while also serving as a non-degree student at Gallaudet University studying American Sign Language.

Grace’s talk, entitled “Sure Footing,” reflected on the same moment in her Emma journey ten years earlier. What was for Grace an “inflection point” in embracing authenticity can be, for today’s students, an opportunity to define who they are in this moment and who they will become. She asked the honorees and the students gathered, “What is in your collection of yourself?” This collection, Grace asserts, is ever-growing and adapting as they navigate their next steps. “When you look around the room today, take in the sheer brilliance not only of what each of you has done but also of who each of you strives to be. These are not separate, and yet—who you are is not just what you’ve done. What you have done is incredible but who you are—that is the most magnificent. When identity demands space, greatness follows.”

Following Grace’s words to the community, each award recipient was honored in turn. 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: 

Ashlyn B.

Josephine H.

Portia H.

Kate M.

Hanh N.

Jacqueline R.

Mehar S.

Ava W.

Julia W.

Robyn W.


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 EW Award are:

Zaniyah A.

Vernette B.

Cecilia C.

Sol H.

Margarette H.

Sherry H.

Lahari L.

Bhoomika L.

Samantha M.

Annika 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. Determined by student and faculty nominations, this annual recognition honors full-time faculty members who consistently demonstrate a commitment to going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the care and wellbeing of our students in every forum. For “understanding without judgment and inspiring us to want to be or do more,” this year’s award was presented to a faculty member who has “done it all” at Emma—History Instructor Emily Snyder!

We congratulate all this year’s awardees for their hard work and commitment to the Emma community!

If you would like to view the live stream archive of the event, it may be viewed here. (Photos coming to SmugMug soon!)


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