Cum Laude Induction Speech by Peter Gunn

This should be straightforward, but for me it will not be easy. I am surely not alone in wishing for just a little more time with this tremendous class. Time for one more game, one more play, one more concert, photograph, drawing, dance or song—time for, yes, one more class or at least one more conversation (oh my!)…but that time is past. So I am left with words for you and yet words fail because, to paraphrase Lincoln, what we say here matters little in comparison with what you, the Class of 2014, have done here. So, I will endeavor to try to say some words about a crucial dimension of your Williston experience—but my words may linger because I am not alone in realizing that such greatness as the Class of 2014 comes rarely and should be celebrated fully.

We now honor the finest scholars in the Class of 2014 with their public induction in to the Williston Northampton chapter of the Cum Laude Society. In electing these young women and men as members of the Cum Laude Society, Williston celebrates their academic accomplishment and, in a broader sense, the fundamental mission of our school.  These young people show what can be accomplished by an academic life inspired with purpose, passion and integrity.

The Cum Laude Society is a national honor society modeled on Phi Beta Kappa. Williston Academy joined the society in 1921. The Northampton School for Girls received its charter in 1951.  And in 1971, the society granted the merged Williston Northampton School a new charter. Membership into the Cum Laude Society is the highest academic award that Williston Northampton can bestow.

All of us gathered here can take inspiration from the three words that form the motto of Cum Laude:  Areté, meaning excellence;  Diké, meaning justice; and Timé, meaning honor.   Excellence, justice, and honor can characterize the life each of us chooses to lead. It can and should inspire the academic and intellectual culture we embrace here—not just in the classroom, but across our campus and in the broader world.

Far more of you have grown into accomplished scholars than we can recognize at this moment. Indeed for every award winner named today I know of another half-dozen who made teaching and learning the best job in the world. On behalf of the faculty, I thank all of you for striving to live that life.  We try to nurture your curiosity and persistence in the search for truth, beauty and justice. In turn you teach us—about language and art, about math and science, about history and philosophy and faith—and above all, about a love of learning.

Moreover, we thank your families.  We hope they will enjoy today as a reflection of their influence upon your lives.  Indeed, you should remember the words of John Quincy Adams, “Who you are, is where you have been.” Remember to thank all of the people who have helped you both here and beyond these green gates—to grow your roots and your wings.

Now you have begun to look beyond the mirror to see who you will be in the future. Consider admission into Cum Laude an invitation to assume stewardship of the truth. True scholars strive to discover greater truth, to work collaboratively, and to put their discoveries into the service of humanity. Knowing you as we do, I are more confident than ever about the future prospect.

For we live in uncertain times. Yet you remind us that learning remains a fundamentally progressive, optimistic, and democratic enterprise. Each year the Williston Northampton School community witnesses what can be accomplished by a wonderful mixture of human potential and hard work. And we catch a glimpse of a brighter future. So as we acknowledge your past effort and present accomplishment, you fill us with hope for your future achievement. May you embrace the opportunity to improve an ever-changing world.

Before calling for the induction of new members, we want to acknowledge those of you who by virtue of their outstanding record of achievement earned admission in January. Traditionally, we simply ask you to stand, in a new tradition begun last year, we are asking you to come forward individually to receive our applause and to welcome the new members.

Elizabeth Calderone
Matthew Carney
Matthew Cavanaugh
Chen Zhi Jie (Percy) Chen
Nan Ding
Olivia Foster
Brendan Hellweg
Tory Kolbjornsen
Mei Shiyuan (Matt) Mei
Giovanna Parker
Abigail Rogers-Bernier
Madeleine Stern
Persis Ticknor-Swanson

Now please join with me in welcoming the new members.

As I call your name, please come forward to receive your membership pin and certificate from President Peter Valine and Vice President Greg Tuleja:

A’Kala Chaires
Alyssa Cote
Sabrina Fathi
Maddie Hatch
Gabriel Hohmann
Christian Knapp
Rachel Lloyd
Henry Lombino
Timothy Nowacki
Gillian Peters
Taylor Senecal
Jill Slezek
Ngai Tung (Alysha) Wong


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