On a frigid February afternoon, members of the Mount Holyoke community gathered in Blanchard's Great Room for the College's annual tribute to student excellence. The Celebration of Student Achievement--held on February 5--brought together faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumnae, and guests. The event was a warm tribute to the winners of Mount Holyoke's leadership and community service awards, its newly elected members of Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipients of the Alumnae Association's Mary Lyon Award for distinguished young alumnae.
In her opening remarks, President Joanne V. Creighton noted that the honorees "give life to our mission of linking excellence in the liberal arts with purposeful engagement in the world. Whatever the nature of the award that you receive today, we know that each of you has challenged herself to high levels of commitment and responsibility. Many have forged links with others within and outside of the College that have enriched your own education, as well as the world around you in intangible and in impressive ways. We know that you will go out from this little corner of the world and accomplish great things."
Honors and awards included Phi Beta Kappa, Recognition of Student Leaders, the Weissman Center Leadership Award for Excellence, the MHC Community Service Award, the Maurice L. Rabbino Award, the Helen Warren Smith Award, the Frances H. Williams Award, the Karen Snyder Sullivan Memorial Travel Award, the Sarah Williston Prize, and the Mary Lyon Award.
During the afternoon, the academic accomplishments of students whose interests range from molecular biology to the novels of Henry James were saluted. Josephine R. Giles '07, a newly inducted member of Phi Beta Kappa, is a former professional dancer whose research at MHC examines the dendritic cells that activate adaptive immunity in response to viral infection. Another inductee, Shuting You '07, is a double major in mathematics and economics whose independent research on primality tests and primality proofs has implications for the technology used to protect credit card numbers during online transactions.
Likewise, students were honored for outstanding contributions to the campus and the larger community. Margaret A. Maggio '07, recipient of the Maurice L. Rabbino Award, was recognized for her stellar work as Student Government Association (SGA) treasurer. Now serving an unprecedented second term, Maggio has tackled the daunting task of overhauling the entire SGA accounting system and creating a new SGA business office. Another honoree, Yedalis Ruiz FP '08, who shared the Mount Holyoke College Community Service Award with Cristina G. Cardone '07, was hailed for her distinctive involvement with Community-Based Learning (CBL). Ruiz has served as a CBL mentor, and her projects have included documenting the process of community outreach for the reconstruction of a park and schoolyard in Springfield and working with a theatre group in Holyoke to stage a play about domestic violence in the Puerto Rican community.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of the Mary Lyon Award by Alumnae Association President Mary Davis Graham '65. This year's recipients were Sara Christine Vecchiotti '95, Hollee A. McGinnis '94, and Sarah Cureton Chinn '97. Upon receiving the award, Vecchiotti, who was honored for her contributions to the fields of child development and child and family policy, acknowledged the inspiring example of Mount Holyoke's founder. "My work has been dedicated to ensuring that children from low-income families receive high-quality early education opportunities, which I believe is reflective of Mary Lyon's commitment to public service and education. As such, this award is exceptionally meaningful to me and I am honored to receive it."
After offering final congratulations, Creighton invited all in attendance to join her at a reception for the honorees.