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Commencement awards celebrate excellence at W&M

  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Isaac Alty '16 receives the Lord Botetourt Medal from President Taylor Reveley.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Ebony Lambert '16 is honored with the Carr Cup during the Commencement ceremony.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Kerrigan Mahoney Ph.D. '16 is awarded the Thatcher Prize.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Julia Canney '16 and Gabriel Morey are recognized as the student recipients of this year's Sullivan Awards.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Wendy Urbano is honored as the non-student recipient of this year's Sullivan Awards.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Commencement 2016:
    Commencement 2016:  Professors John Graves (left) and Philip Daileader are recognized as the recipients of the Graves Awards for excellence in teaching.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
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Several awards are presented annually to graduates, staff and faculty members during the William & Mary Commencement ceremony. Below is a list of the awards that were presented during this year's ceremony on May 14. - Ed.

The Lord Botetourt Medal

The Lord Botetourt Medal was established in 1772 “for the honor and encouragement of literary merit.” In contemporary times, it is given to the graduating senior who has attained the greatest distinction in scholarship.

The 2016 recipient is Isaac Gregory Alty ’16.

Alty is the quintessential student of the liberal arts. A double major in chemistry and ancient Greek, Alty has excelled in both while pursuing the challenging path of premedical studies and achieving a near-perfect GPA of 3.99. He will continue his studies in the fall at Harvard Medical School.

Alty has already been published twice in scholarly publications for his work in chemistry he presented the results of his honors theses at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston last fall and at three W&M colloquia since then.

It would take other students more than a year to accomplish in the lab what Alty did in two months, one nominating professor said, adding that Alty’s the best student the professor has seen in 30 years of teaching.

Alty is also being recognized with the William George Guy award as the most outstanding graduating senior in chemistry, W&M President Taylor Reveley said.

A member of Phi Beta Kappa, Alty has been the recipient of a number of other awards throughout his academic career, including the Blanton Mercer Bruner Award of the Virginia Academy of Science and the Thomas Jefferson Prize in Natural Philosophy. He has undertaken three separate medical missions to Africa and is motivated to improve the quality of African medicines by training native doctors.

The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup

Ebony Allana Lambert ’16 is the 2016 recipient of the Carr Cup, which is awarded to a graduating senior who best combines the qualities of character, scholarship and leadership. The cup is named after James Carr, who came to W&M in 1914, served with distinction in World War I and who lost his life before he could return to the university. Recipients carry within themselves a willingness to give themselves to a cause.

Lambert, a double major in psychology and Africana studies, combined academic prowess with her “commitment to help the campus build a more welcoming and inclusive campus community, especially in the area of race relations,” Reveley said.

Lambert not only served as vice president of the Black Student Organization, she also joined the President’s Task Force on Race and Race Relations and became president of E.S.S.E.N.C.E. Women of Color.

Lambert entered W&M as a dual Monroe and Sharpe scholar and continued to study self-thought in academia and colorism on campus. As a junior, she obtained a competitive post in the Social Identity and Diversity Lab at the University of Cincinnati. She completed an honors thesis on the psychological effects of institutional racism on the lives of college-aged African American students. With all of this, she still maintained a GPA of 3.65.

Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study

Kerrigan Rose Mahoney Ph.D. ’16 received the Thatcher Prize, created in honor of the 21st Chancellor of William & Mary, Margaret, The Lady Thatcher. The award recognizes an outstanding student in graduate or professional study, and is selected on the basis of scholarship, leadership, character and service.

Mahoney’s “passion for learning, teaching and rigorous scholarship has been obvious since she first joined the School of Education’s Curriculum and Educational Technology (CET) Ph.D. program,” President Taylor Reveley said. “Since the very beginning, her colleagues have been impressed with her poise, knowledge of literacy research and resources and her ability to connect with practicing educators.”

One faculty nominator described Kerrigan’s work as “in-depth, carefully structured and rendered, original, thorough and scholarly in every sense.”  

The nominator continued by saying that Mahoney’s dissertation offers important contributions to both the field of literacy studies, as well as the field of educational technology. It offers rich examples of the numerous ways English teachers implement multimedia in their classrooms to provide their students with more engaging and relevant learning opportunities, the nominator said.

Mahoney spearheaded a team of university faculty, school administrators and teachers to develop the William & Mary Educational Review (WMER), an online peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for student writers to share their research and work. She served the School of Education on the strategic planning committee as a student representative, volunteered with Literacy for Life and collaborated to create and organize the Student Writing Retreat.

Kerrigan conducted research at the School University Research Network (SURN) to identify award-winning contemporary young adult book titles that impacted student attitudes and learning. Over four years, she organized SURN book grants that awarded grants to schools that lacked relevant, interesting literature for reluctant and struggling readers.

One nominator said that Mahoney has proved to be one of the most impactful students in terms of leadership and service in the School of Education in the last decade. As such, she has brought the very best of William & Mary to the broader community.

Thomas Graves, Jr. Awards for Sustained Excellence in Teaching

The Graves Award is named for the university’s 23rd president and selected annually by the president of the university from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans. “Sustained excellence” is the perfect way to describe this year’s recipients Philip H. Daileader, associate professor of history, and John E. Graves, chancellor professor of marine science. 

History Professor Philip Daileader’s evaluations have been consistently stellar since his first semester at William & Mary. Because he is a medievalist, Daileader teaches difficult material, yet students from across the campus will beg, borrow and steal to get into his Crusades or Medieval History classes. Although the linguistic challenges of studying medieval history limit opportunities for undergraduate research, he has supervised 10 successfully defended senior honors theses. Some of his honors theses students have gone on to academic careers in which they have achieved notable distinction themselves.

One student, for example, won the Medieval Academy of America’s Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize for the best first article in medieval history, while another is now a professor of law at William & Mary Law School.

By promoting a broader approach to history than the national and regional curriculum that existed before he arrived in 1999, Daileader played a vital part in modernizing the department’s curriculum. He was a key factor in the elevation of the Global History class to new prominence. Daileader’s large format class, coupled with his uncanny ability to keep 200 students engaged and interested, inspired other faculty to get into the Global History rotation. As a result, the class has become a crucial part of the curriculum.

Daileader has achieved this sustained excellence while maintaining a rigorous research agenda and serving as department chair. His research focuses on the history of memory, identity and community in medieval France. Since 2000, Daileader has worked tirelessly to share his profound knowledge of medieval history with the public. His work with The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company) on a series of projects has made medieval history accessible to a wide, non-academic audience. His appearances on National Public Radio’s Planet Money and on the History Channel’s The Dark Ages have also brought his vast knowledge to a broad audience. 

Marine Science Professor John E. Graves is a world-class fisheries scientist and a stellar public servant of William & Mary’s School of Marine Science. Graves is known for the passion, knowledge and real-world experience he brings to the classroom in support of graduate and undergraduate education. 

As an exemplar of faculty excellence, Graves has achieved high impact across the full spectrum of activities including education, research, advisory service, governance and community service that serve the university. 

As a teacher and mentor at William & Mary for more than 25 years, his list of professional accomplishments is long, with over 90 peer-reviewed publications in leading scientific journals, significant financial support from federal funding agencies and private foundations, and national and international leadership through key commissions, panels and boards, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna. 

These organizations draw on Graves’ scientific accomplishments, fisheries management and policy expertise and diplomacy skills to effect better management of tuna and billfish globally. Undergraduates and graduates who take his marine fisheries courses often make note of his knowledge and experience, and use words like “articulate,” “organized,” “fair,” “passionate” and “fantastic” to describe his teaching.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards (students)

Founded in memory of lawyer and activist Algernon Sydney Sullivan, these awards are given annually to two students and one person with close ties to the university for their “characteristics of heart, mind, and helpfulness to others.”

This year, the two student recipients are Julia Suzana Canney ’16 and Gabriel Todd Morey ’16.

A government and history double major, Canney has been a leading force on campus for the prevention of sexual assault. As a freshman, Canney joined Health Outreach Peer Educators (HOPE), where she was instrumental in planning and executing a number of programs, including one that focuses on assault prevention in the Greek community.

In her own sorority, she’s served as an event planner and risk manager, and has established programs that prioritize the safety of her sisters. In her last semester at W&M, she was also a member of the Fraternity and Sorority Sexual Assault Task Force.

In addition to her work in sexual assault prevention, Canney has also been a trusted advisor with The Haven, where she provided mentorship and support to survivors of sexual assault, and served as a member of their advisory board senior year.  Her work has touched the lives of many in need of hope and healing. As one nominator wrote, “It is doubtful that adequate words exist to explain what Julia means to certain men and women in our community.”

As a lead advocate for fuel-free transportation, Morey has made an impact both on the W&M campus and in the Williamsburg community. His support for the use of bicycles prompted the Department of Kinesiology to create a new class titled “Bicycling Basics,” which is offered in the fall and spring semesters due to its popularity.

Morey spearheaded an initiative that aimed to make the use of bicycles more accessible on campus through bike racks, fix-it stations and education programs.

Morey’s efforts extend beyond campus life, too. He participated in a video produced by the Williamsburg Health Foundation that promotes healthy living and safe riding practices throughout the Williamsburg community. He also penned an editorial about transportation that was published by The Washington Post.

A campus administrator said of Morey, “I cannot wait to see what lies ahead for Gabriel in his bright future. No doubt he will be making an impact to make this world a better place for all of us.”

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award (non-student)

This year’s non-student recipient of the award went to Wendy D. Urbano, a veteran of the W&M staff for more than 30 years.

As manager of academic and degree progress for the University Registrar’s Office, Urbano is responsible for assisting faculty, administrators and students with navigating the university’s policies and procedures. She’s been instrumental in ensuring students are on track to graduate, by advising of any gaps or inconsistencies in their academic requirements.

One faculty nominator said that Urbano does her job “with grace, wit and compassion, never forgetting that there is a person on the other end of the transaction. Wendy does not just go the extra mile, but she goes the extra marathon on a regular basis.”

While Urbano’s compassion for each and every student is evident to those who work with her, she also performs the logistical side of her job with aplomb. She prints every diploma with correct signatures, degrees and honors, and manages all the last-minute grading and honors calculations. And, as another nominator notes, she tackles all of these responsibilities at lightning speed.

“Wendy is always available and extraordinarily prompt,” the nominator said. “Her best record is about 90 seconds from email request to resolution.”