Alum’s Paper Wins Top Prize


Around the time Simon Kim ’19 graduated Williston Northampton School in May 2019, and before he started classes at Stanford University, an essay he wrote for Sarah Klumpp’s Williston Scholars History course arrived at the Cum Laude Society offices in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 20-page paper, submitted by a group of teachers at Williston, all members of the Cum Laude Faculty, was as an entry in the Cum Laude Society Paper contest, which recognizes outstanding academic achievement for a paper or other class assignment that gives evidence of superior scholarship and original thought. Kim’s essay (read it here) was one of two nationally that won the top prize, earning Kim $5,000.

The project, on the birth of Romanticism after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, contained “a unique and carefully constructed argument,” drawing on the works of Leibniz, Pope, Voltaire, and Wordsworth, as well as philosophy scholars, according to Klumpp, who chairs the History and Global Studies department at Williston. Kim’s thesis was that the quake shattered the Enlightenment worldview of Optimism and gave birth to a new era, she said.

“Not only is his argument—that Europeans’ views of God and the individual changed as a result of this event—well-supported, but it is an idea that is largely original,” she added. “The depth of research Simon needed to complete in two short months to come up with this idea is impressive.”

Kim has been taking philosophy classes at Stanford but hasn’t declared a major, according to history teacher Tom Johnson.