Twelve seniors inducted to Cum Laude Society


Williston Northampton School’s Cum Laude Society inducted 12 new members to its ranks during Friday’s Assembly in the Phillips Stevens Chapel. The latest members of the Society were addressed by Samantha (Healy) Vardaman ’89.

The 12 inductees are:

• Pippa Berry
• Connor Capshaw
• Daniel Ciejek
• Louisa Coughlin
• Averie Cramer
• Emmanuel Damianakis
• Getchell Gibbons
• Max Graff
• JunSeok Hwang
• Katherine Kang
• Sotaro Wakabayashi
• Lauren Yee

Vardaman, who currently works for The Madeira School in Virginia after a 17-year career running the Institute for Justice & Advocacy of Shared Hope International, applauded the new Cum Laude Society members before recounting how her experience at Williston helped shape her future.

“As I reflect on the key events that led me down some of the more interesting paths over the years,” Vardaman said, “I find one that happened right here in this assembly.”

A senior at the time—much like the Cum Laude inductees Friday—Vardaman listened to a diplomat from the State Department discuss his job. His advice on pursuing your goals? “It takes courage.”

Vardaman echoed that sentiment in her call to action, telling students: “I urge you, get out there! It takes courage, but it’s worth it.”

Head of School Robert W. Hill III began the ceremony with remarks for the crowd before Cum Laude Society Secretary Thomas J. Johnson announced the 12 new members to the gathered assembly at the Chapel, and Cum Laude President Beatrice Cody and Vice President Susan Michalski presented each inductee with a medal and a certificate.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Hill praised the 12 inductees for their commitment in the classroom. Mixed in his speech, though, were words crafted not by the school’s Headmaster, but instead by an artificial intelligence chatbot—ChatGPT—that’s taking the world by storm. Hill noted that AI’s rise is blurring the lines between individual creativity and artificial creation, but pointed out that Williston students are in a unique position to stand out amongst the crowd in navigating this intersection.

“There’s no greater gift than educational opportunities that allow you to develop your knowledge, capacities to access knowledge, and critical skills necessary to discern fact from fiction,” Hill said. “All Williston students are given this gift, and so all have a responsibility to commit to lives of intellectual honesty and personal integrity—and I’m proud that today, these 12 students have paved the way.”

The newest inductees then shared a moment in the Chapel taking pictures with family members and faculty, and after that gathered at Mr. Hill’s house for a reception and further celebration.

Vardaman, who also serves on the Head’s Visiting Council and has lengthy ties to the school, said “it was terrific to come back and speak to the students and the Cum Laude Society. It’s such an honor, but it’s also so much fun, and it’s exciting to see students hearing you and thinking about what they are going to do with their future.”

She went on to add that “everything that Williston does to celebrate the accomplishments of the student and faculty and staff, it’s always done beautifully and it’s genuine and authentic and it’s a pleasure to be part of it.”

See photos from the ceremony on our Flickr page.

To watch the ceremony in full, click here.

About the Cum Laude Society

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. 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 the Williston faculty can bestow.