Bedecked in graduation gowns and academic regalia, seniors, faculty and staff filed into Murchison Lane Auditorium Tuesday afternoon, some swaying to the percussive beats and lilting voices of Sweet Briar’s concert choir performing Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run.”
The occasion was the College’s second combined Awards Convocation on May 6, held in celebration of academic honors and achievements by all students.
The ceremony, inaugurated in 2013, unites departmental awards and honors, as well as the presentation of the Presidential Medal and the Student Government Association awards given to a member of the faculty and staff. Previously, some of the awards were announced at events that only included seniors or those being honored.
Opening the proceedings, President Jo Ellen Parker noted that the event isn’t limited to celebrating those whose names would be called.
“Every student on campus, I dare say, has achieved some victory, met some goal, risen to some personal best,” Parker said, citing the mastery of academic hurdles, athletic success or rising to leadership roles as examples.
“I do believe for every student on our campus, some moment of that kind occurred this year,” she said, asking for applause for those “daily moments of inspiration and excellence.”
Dean Amy Jessen-Marshall took the podium next for the presentation of honors and awards, starting with first-year honors and dean’s list students, asking those members of each class to stand and be recognized.
Donna Kerley ’10, a member of the Lynchburg branch of the American Association of University Women, then presented the first award to graduating senior Jocelyn Devona Jones, who received a free one-year membership to the AAUW. Following Jones, students were called individually to the stage to receive their awards and typically a hug from the department’s chair — until the dean reached psychology, which she realized wasn’t represented on stage.
Thinking fast, she stopped theater program director Bill Kershner as he was returning to his seat after handing out the Fine Arts Scholarship.
“Come back here and act like a psychologist,” said Jessen-Marshall, who couldn’t resist cracking up at the serendipity along with the appreciative crowd.
For the extra duty, Kershner earned an extra hug from recipient Chiquita Rahnez Sharp.
The dean also announced a new departmental award, Excellence in Engineering, given to a graduating engineering science major who has demonstrated high achievement in engineering courses, conducted herself in a professional and positive manner, and enthusiastically mentored girls in engineering. Melissa Monterosso is the first recipient.
After announcing juniors and seniors who were included in this year’s Who’s Who Among American Colleges and Universities, Jessen-Marshall named senior members of departmental honors societies, along with those inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and Omicron Delta Kappa.
She turned the podium over to Amanda Wager ’14, standing in for SGA president Brittany Griffith ’14, who had lost her voice, to present the Excellence in Service and Excellence in Teaching awards. First-year director of campus safety Dave Gardner received the service award, having made an impression on students with his “huge heart for everyone and anyone.” The standing ovation was long and loud when retiring math professor Bessie Kirkwood’s name was called for the teaching award.
“Her students speak about her teaching methods and positive classroom culture,” Wager reported, noting she is the kind of professor who takes photos of her classes to document their time together.
“She spent the better part of her free time this year helping the seniors in her department with their graduate school applications, and as one of the math students put it, ‘they simply all love her.’ ”
Finally, the 2014 Presidential Medal was presented to Spencer Beall, who had already been recognized several times. The medal, a replica of one worn by the president on ceremonial occasions, is the highest overall honor a student can achieve at Sweet Briar.
The following departmental awards were handed out during the ceremony:
Anthropology and Archaeology Department Book Prize: Anna Devol Richards ’14
Kathryn Haw Prize in Art History: Kathryn Patricia Zimmerhanzel ’14
Sprague-Belcher Award in Biology: Kaitlin Amanda Schaal ’14
James Lewis Howe Award in Chemistry: Katlyn Ann Fleming ’14
Jean Taylor Meyer Memorial American Poets Prize: Faith Elise Frampton ’14
Jean Besselievre Boley Prize (best short story): Savanna Cora Klein ’16
Economics Department Outstanding Senior Award: Chelsea Catherine Kane ’14
Delta Kappa Gamma Society International Outstanding Scholar Education Award: Madalyn DeLaurrie Mawyer ’14
Excellence in Engineering Award: Melissa Eileen Monterosso ’14
English Essay Award (critical essay): Karen Faith Samples ’14
English Essay Award (creative non-fiction): Lily Morgana Fritsch ’17
Lawrence G. Nelson Award (English): Alexandra Sherrin Yerkes ’14
Shakespeare Prize: Olivia Ariel Muchmore ’15
L’alliance Française de Lynchburg: Spencer Kathryn Beall ’14
Marcia Capron Award (French): Laura Alessandra Albanesi ’14 and Natalie Elizabeth Dubishar ’14
Pauline Roberts Otis Award (Junior Year in France): Spencer Kathryn Beall ’14
German Embassy Book Prize: Emma Marie Merritt-Cuneo ’14 and Lilian Alexandra Tauber ’14
The Goethe-Institut Buchpreis: Kathleen Ann McGregor ’14
Anne Gary Pannell Taylor Award in History: Amanda Nicole Thompson ’14
Anne Gary Pannell Taylor Graduate Fellowship in History: Lilian Alexandra Tauber ’14
Mathematical Sciences Award: Phoebe Jiang ’14
Sweet Briar Fine Arts Scholarship: Kaitlin Ann Marie Dobson ’15
Helen K. Mull Graduate Fellowship in Psychology: Chiquita Rahnez Sharp ’14
W. Edward Overly Award (Spanish): Maria Guadalupe Cuevas ’14 and Anna Kathryn Donko ’14
Leigh Woolverton Prize for Excellence in the Visual Arts: Leslie Raquel Andrade ’14
Jessica Steinbrenner Molloy Award: Sarah Jeme Müth ’14