Dozens of Students, Faculty and Staff Recognized at 2020 Honors Awards Ceremony

July 6, 2020
The annual ceremony, which was held virtually this year in light of the pandemic, announced special awards in a broad range of categories, recognizing the achievements, dedication and generous spirit of many members of the Wells College community.
main tower with view of cayuga lake

Wells College recently awarded its traditional academic and student life awards at this year’s Honors Awards ceremony, held June 24, 2020 via a virtual ceremony. Prizes are given out each year to students, faculty and staff who show exceptional work, commitment and/or leadership in a specific area, or those who demonstrate skill or specialization within their field. A video of the live broadcast is available on our YouTube channel at this link.

This year, Provost and Dean of the College Cindy J. Speaker acted as the host of the ceremony, which also featured guest speakers Jonathan Gibralter, Wells College’s president; Deb Gagnon, professor of psychology and chair of the Social Sciences division; Michael E. Groth, professor of history and chair of the Arts and Humanities division; Niamh O’Leary, professor of environmental science and chair of the Natural & Mathematical Sciences division; and Leah Elliott, assistant professor of biology and president of the Wells College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

The ceremony also honored two Wells faculty members with awards in teaching and academic advising. This year’s Excellence in Teaching Award was given to Ernie Olson, professor of anthropology and religion, in honor of his passion for teaching, his ability to teach dynamic classes on a wide variety of topics, and his mentorship of students. In giving the award, Provost Speaker noted that Professor Olson “has the ability to encourage students to think ‘outside the box’ and really challenge their limits.” Citing his short-term study trips to Hawai’i, Provost Speaker noted that many students said it made them interested in museum-going and interested in the field of anthropology. She continued, saying that “he is kind, caring, passionate, helpful, encouraging, unique and makes all students feel welcomed.”

“I am extraordinarily proud of this year’s honorees, particularly of our students who were deprived of their spring semester on our campus due to the pandemic,” said President Gibralter. “Their accomplishments reflect the extraordinary commitment of our talented students, faculty and staff in fulfilling Wells College’s educational mission and in supporting our community both on and off campus,” he added.

This year’s Excellence in Academic Advising Award — which recognizes the fundamental importance of academic advising to students as they plan their academic pursuits and career goals — was given to Vic Muñoz, professor of psychology and gender studies, whom Provost Speaker noted had been nominated by multiple students ranging from first-years to seniors. One student said of Professor Muñoz that “this advisor cares so deeply about their advisees that they literally made a podcast in order to keep in touch with advisees during the COVID-19 situation.” Another noted that Muñoz “is wonderful, always checking to see if you are OK, always reaching out and always making sure you are on top of everything.” 

The ceremony continued with the induction of ten graduating seniors into the Wells College Chapter XI of Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), the oldest and most prestigious of academic honor societies. Its national organization, which was founded in 1776, champions education in the arts and sciences, fosters freedom of thought and recognizes academic excellence. Membership is PBK is an exclusive honor, as a college may only induct a maximum of 10 percent of their arts and sciences graduates in a given year.

We are also proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Collegiate Cabinet Awards and the 2020 Student Affairs Awards, who were honored in a virtual ceremony on May 13; click here to see a recording of the ceremony.

Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees! You’ve each done so much to make Wells a better place through your time and efforts—our community wouldn’t be what it is without the talent, expertise and cooperation of all.

Honors Awards 2020

Prizes in the Arts and Humanities

Helen Gertrude Dean ’25 Prize for Dramatic Expression — Alexandria “Ally” Collins ’20
Awarded to that member of the senior class who has exhibited the best efforts in dramatics, represented by characterization and expression.

Margaret Schwartz Music Prize — Janlynn McCoy ’21
Awarded to a member of the graduating class for outstanding performance work in music. Established and endowed by Margaret Schwartz.

Carol Stull Prize for Dance Performance — Alexandria “Ally” Collins ’20
Established in 2004 in honor of Carol Stull and awarded to a graduating senior who has excelled in dance performance, both in technical accomplishment and expressive range.

Theatre/Dance Prize for Choreography — Elizabeth “Lizzy” Kliener ’23
Awarded to the student who has distinguished herself/himself in the creative, teaching and performing facets of choreography.

Kate Clugston ’14 Prize in Theatre — Julie Bacorn ’20

Awarded annually to a member of the senior class who, apart from onstage performance, has made an outstanding contribution to Wells theatre, either by one striking achievement or through continuous dedication. Kate Clugston ’14 was a playwright, poet, and English teacher who established the public relations office at Wells, serving as its director from 1944 to 1947.

Kathryn Walker ’64 Prize in Acting — Luke Lauchle ’20
Established in 2018 by G. Alan Clugston, professor emeritus of English, to provide support to a member of the Wells College student body of any class ranking who, in the preceding year, has “done the best job of acting” in a play on campus or in an off-campus play in which a committee member is involved.

JJ Lankes Book Arts Award — Katelynn Commisso ’20
This award is presented to an outstanding graduating student; preference is given to those majoring or minoring in the book arts, but any Wells student who has taken at least one book arts class is eligible. The award is named in honor of Wells faculty member JJ Lankes (1932–1939) who is credited with reviving the art of the woodcut in America in the 1930s. There is no application for this award but is presented based on a consensus of faculty observation of the cumulative work of the student.

Rose Hill ’98 Prize in Creative Nonfiction — Katelynn Commisso ’20
Honorable Mention: Vail Varone ’22

Established in 2009 in memory of Rose Hill ’98. Awarded to the student whose creative nonfiction best reflects Rose Hill’s honesty and artistry. Judged this year by essayist Amy Butcher.

M. Helena Zachos Prize — Gray Bulla ’23
Awarded to the student who has submitted the best English prose written during the year.  

Class of 1905 Prize in Poetry — Katelynn Commisso ’20
Established in 1930. Awarded for the best poem or poems written by an undergraduate during the year.

Catherine B. DePau Prize (Academy of American Poets) — Gray Bulla ’23

Honorable Mention: Macy Salico ’23
Established at Wells in 1983 by the Academy of American Poets in honor of Catherine Boyer DePau ’24. Awarded for the best poem or group of poems submitted by a student. This year’s judge was James D’Agostino.

Julia Taylor Martin Prize in American History — Parker Sheldon ’22
Awarded to the student who, during the academic year, has submitted a superior essay within the field of American history.

History/Political Science Prize — Kylee Peisher ’20
Awarded to that student of high standing in history or political science who has shown the greatest ability to use her/his training in promoting the intellectual and social life of the College, as well as the greatest promise of usefulness in the future. 

Prizes in the Social Sciences

Carter A. Woods Prize in Sociology and Anthropology — Jackie Allen ’20
Established in 1972 by Patricia Woods Reed ’54 and Barbara Woods Hillman ’58 in honor of the retirement of their father, Carter A. Woods, professor of sociology from 1931 to 1972. Awarded to the student graduating with a major in sociology and anthropology whose actions most typify the ideals and scholarship of Professor Woods in his 41 years at Wells.

Dorothy Allison Razor’s Edge Prize in Women’s Studies — Chloe Brosemer ’20, Paetyn Burish ’20 and Jahaira Polanco ’20
Awarded annually to a graduating women’s and gender studies major or minor who has demonstrated a commitment to and understanding of the political, social, intellectual and transformative goals of women’s studies and/or feminism.

Ida B. Wells–Barnett Prize in Criminal Justice — Robyn Jacobs ’20

Awarded to a member of the graduating class who has demonstrated a deep understanding of the criminal justice system and a commitment to the pursuit of justice for all peoples.

Jean Scobie Davis Prize — Josh Undari ’20
Awarded to the member of the graduating class, majoring in either economics or sociology, who has shown both the fine understanding of facts, and the social implication of the subject involved, so characteristic of Miss Davis, professor of economics from 1928 to 1957.

Margaret Schwartz Psychology Prize — Kara Reynolds ’20
Awarded to that member of the graduating class who has demonstrated consistent excellence in their work in psychology. Established and endowed by Margaret Schwartz.

Outstanding Business Major Award — Zach D’Arpino ’20

The business department faculty present this award to a recipient who is both a leader and a mentor to their peers in both the business and athletics programs at Wells College.

Susan W. and Pike Sullivan Entrepreneur Award — Jackie Allen ’20
Established in 2018, this prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who has demonstrated a deep interest and understanding of entrepreneurship and/or social entrepreneurship.

Wall Street Journal Award — Numay Soibi-Harry ’23
Awarded each year for excellence in work in economics and the Corporate Affiliates Investment Fund.

Prizes in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences

Eleanor C. McMullen Biology Prize — Sam Harris ’20
Awarded to a graduating senior for exceptional performance in biology in honor of Eleanor C. McMullen, professor of biology from 1935 to 1961.

The CRC Press Freshman Chemistry Achievement Award — Olivia Maish ’23
Recognition for outstanding achievement by a freshman in the introductory chemistry courses.

Wells Women in Science Prize — Caitlin Lawrence ’20
Awarded to the member of the graduating class who has done outstanding work in at least two of the sciences, and who has demonstrated an interest in and an ability for a career in graduate work and research and/or teaching, together with a commitment to the advancement of women in science.

Cayuga Watershed Prize in Environmental Studies — Steph Minarik ’20 and Mark Yorkey ’20
Awarded to a member of the graduating class with an outstanding academic record in environmental studies, who has engaged in significant professional activities during their undergraduate years, and who shows promise for future professional development in the field.

Distinguished Health Sciences Student Award — Erin Persons ’20
Presented annually to an outstanding senior in health sciences on the basis of scholarship, service and notable experiential learning accomplishments.

Early-Career Health Sciences Student Award — Aaron Connolly ’21
Awarded to a health sciences major who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the health sciences through service to the community, experiential learning and academic excellence. This award is open to all health sciences students, but priority for consideration will be given to a first-, second- or third-year student.

General Prizes

Ariel Lawson ’08 Memorial Prize — Jackie Allen ’20
Awarded to a student in good academic standing who has been an active servant in the governance of Wells College and in student life. First preference will be given to a female student. Their dedication to the College must be expressed with the purpose of maintaining and perpetuating the Wells “Sisterhood.” This must be a student who fights no-holds barred for what they believe is right even in the face of opposition, while maintaining a commitment to building the Wells and Aurora communities. They should also be committed to solving larger issues of economic and social justice. 

William Nicholas Liberi ’05 Memorial Prize for LTGBQ Activism and Scholarship — Jamie Joyce ’20 and Gray Bulla ’23
Awarded annually to a current student in good academic standing who has demonstrated a commitment to transgender and queer issues, especially through their service as an ally to the Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning and Allies community via activism, visibility, literary or artistic endeavors.

Anne J. Russ Prize for Social Responsibility — André Lynch, Coordinator of Student Equity and Inclusion Initiatives
This prize is awarded to the member of the Wells College community who in the course of the year has made the most significant social, political or ethical contribution, especially involving matters of human diversity and inclusiveness.

Faculty Awards

Excellence in Advising Award — Vic Muñoz, Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies
Academic advising is a vitally important responsibility of the faculty at Wells College, and we are pleased to be able to recognize the outstanding contributions of our faculty through the College’s Excellence in Academic Advising Award. The purpose of this award is to recognize the fundamental importance of academic advising to the students of Wells College as they choose their courses and major field and plan activities to support their academic and career goals.

Excellence in Teaching Award — Ernie Olson, Professor of Anthropology and Religion
Excellence in teaching is most highly valued at Wells College, and we are pleased to recognize the outstanding contributions of our faculty through the award of the College’s Excellence in Teaching medal. The intention of this award is to recognize the fundamental importance of the quality of teaching to the mission of Wells College and to support faculty in their pursuit of excellence in teaching. 

Phi Beta Kappa Inductees

Membership in Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most distinguished of academic honorary societies, is by invitation only, in recognition of those seniors whose academic achievements have been distinguished and whose cultural interests are broad. Students are elected to Phi Beta primarily on the basis of academic rank; consideration is given to good moral character, cultural qualities, broad interest in things intellectual, and activity in College affairs. Candidates must have completed at least three semesters of work at Wells and be fully registered for the fourth.

This year’s inductees are:

Jackie Allen ’20

Anna Bozeat ’20

Zach D’Arpino ’20

Robyn Jacobs ’20

Mary Lambdin ’20

Luke Lauchle ’20

Caitlin Lawrence ’20

Colson Martin ’20

Kylee Peisher ’20

Jordan Stoops ’20

Collegiate Cabinet Awards

Community Education and Social Activism Award — Leah Eve Jezer-Nelson ’21
Goes to a student or organization whose spirit advances the Wells College mission to “educate students to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely as they cultivate meaningful lives” and has, through their programs and activities during the academic year, educated the Wells community regarding issues of social justice and activism.

Shelby Harris Outstanding Quiet Influence Award — Chloe Brosemer ’20
Recognizes a student leader who serves as a quiet influence on campus. The nominee need not have served in an executive office, but through continuous commitment and interaction with students and organizations across campus, has made a significant difference. Shelby Harris was a psychology professor at Wells from 1961 to 1991. Professor Harris was a principled man who tried to make a difference in the world while never failing to act with kindness and caring in his personal life. He touched many lives with the generosity of his spirit and the warmth of his heart, but he did so quietly with no expectation of recognition or reward.

Outstanding Multicultural Program — “Woke Wednesday” Series
In recognition of promoting greater multicultural understanding and appreciation at Wells College. 

Most Organized Committee — Community Court
This award honors a Collegiate committee who has most efficiently fulfilled its constitutional obligations and has best facilitated open communication within the campus community.

Best New Club — Multicultural Dance Club
This award honors a club introduced in the current school year that has worked efficiently to bring the student body around a common interest and has most successfully fulfilled its mission.

Program of the Year — Opening ceremony for the Hallway of Cultural Humility
In recognition of a program on the Wells College campus that had outstanding attendance and exceptional student satisfaction.

Student Leader of the Year — Kara Reynolds ’20
This award honors a member of the student body who has demonstrated strong character and an active engagement with his or her peers. This individual has made a profound and positive impact on the community through his or her actions.

Student Life Award — Charles Kenyon, Dean of Students
This award is given to the faculty or staff member who best supports students and goes above and beyond to advocate on their behalf. 

Student Affairs Awards

Dean of Students Legacy Award – Kara Reynolds ’20
Honors a student or students who has/have worked to create policies, processes and programs that will leave an enduring mark on the Wells campus. This award recognizes the importance of developing systems and traditions that will benefit students in the future and the significance of leaving a legacy.

Outstanding Student Organization Advisor – Lindsay Burwell, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
In recognition of contributions to the success and support of a student organization at Wells College. 

Most Improved Student Organization – Women’s Resource Center
In recognition of its efforts in improving the organization through significant advancement towards its goals.

Outstanding Student Organization – HerCampus
In recognition of its success and support of student development, leadership and campus involvement.

Outstanding Volunteer Service – Wells College Food Pantry
In recognition of service to the local, national or global communities.

Express Cup – Nash ’23
In recognition of service to the local, national or global communities.

Our mission is for every student to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely as they cultivate meaningful lives. On our beautiful lakeside campus, students gain the knowledge, skills and experience to create their own unique path.

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