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Commencement awards recognize commitment at W&M

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award:
    The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award:  Jaya Uppal and Nathanael Paige were the two student recipients of this year's award, given to those who demonstrate characteristics of heart, mind and helpfulness to others.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The Lord Botetourt Medal:
    The Lord Botetourt Medal:  Sarah Joan Heins was the recipient of this year's award, given to a graduating senior who has attained the greatest distinction in scholarship.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup:
    The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup:  Awarded to a graduating senior on the basis of character, scholarship and leadership, this year's Carr Memorial Cup went to Hannah Rose Gourdie.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study:
    The Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study:  Natalia Rezai was this year's recipient of the Thatcher Prize, awarded on the basis of scholarship, leadership, character and service.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award:
    The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award:  The non-student recipient of this year's award was Michael Fox, assistant to the president, and chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Visitors.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching:
    The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching:  One of two recipients of this year's award, Randolph A. Coleman, is a professor of chemistry.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching:
    The Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching:  Paul Marcus, Haynes Professor of Law, was one of two recipients of this year's award.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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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 12. - Ed.

Lord Botetourt Medal

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

The 2018 recipient was Sarah Joan Heins ’18.

After transferring to William & Mary from Vassar College, Heins established herself as a conscientious and intellectually engaged student with a perfect 4.0 GPA. An English major, Heins juggled biology and chemistry courses alongside her English courses and met the substantial and challenging requirements of a pre-med student.

A faculty nominator described Heins as being “unique in her combination of modest demeanor and brilliant performance, and is disciplined in her studies and in her personal life.”

Heins, her professors acknowledge, is a brilliant and original thinker. They said she was always eager to talk over her ideas and see if she could increase their originality, subtlety or relevance. In the classroom, she was focused, sensitive and thoughtful, always engaging in class discussion and contributing to the knowledge of everyone in the course. A published author, her professors described her writing as groundbreaking, perceptive and beautiful.

In 2017, Heins completed her honors thesis in just one semester. The project focused on famed physician and influential writer William Carlos Williams, whose career united the worlds of science and language. It engaged both the practice of medicine and the pleasure and analysis of literature. Heins dedicated the project to her grandfather, a physician-writer who has been her lifelong inspiration.

An avid distance runner, Heins went the extra mile both inside and outside of the classroom. She spent roughly 14 hours per week training to compete in a variety of races, from 10ks to half marathons.

Since graduating from William & Mary summa cum laude in the fall, she has worked as a research assistant for a doctor’s office and has been shadowing a physician in preparation to apply to medical school next year. While she has received offers from a number of medical schools, she plans to take a service year before starting the next phase in her quest to become a physician.

James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup

The Carr Cup is awarded to a graduating senior on the basis of character, scholarship and leadership. The recipient should be a well-rounded student, have good standing in all three of these respects and carry within the spirit of willingness to sacrifice and give oneself to a cause.

This year’s recipient was Hannah Rose Gourdie ’18.

The award citation pointed out that Gourdie was what many would view as the perfect student. Her 3.99 GPA was no small accomplishment, it said, but what was most impressive was that she performed at this high level while maintaining an incredibly robust series of activities that expanded her scholarly and intellectual horizons.

A double major in French and government, Gourdie represented the very best of William & Mary, said those who know her and were part of the nomination process. She routinely spoke up in her classes, they wrote, tackled the most difficult questions and always made comments that were thoughtful and well composed. She excelled in her coursework regardless of the topic.

Her honors project explored an important issue relevant to contemporary government and politics. She examined the factors that determine why states enact various laws that restrict access to clinics that provide abortion services for women. Given that researchers have studied abortion politics in great detail but have not yet developed literature on clinic access, her work is poised to be an important contribution to academic research, with further implications for public policy.

She was instrumental in helping other students and faculty push their own research projects to a higher level. As the student director of the Social Science Research Methods center, She ran the day-to-day operations of the center almost single handedly. She devised and implemented many of the center’s operational protocols, and took the lead on drafting grant proposals to secure additional funding to support the center’s efforts.

Gourdie also had a high commitment to community service. She was involved with the W&M Student Conduct Council as well as The Haven, a peer-based, confidential resource center for those impacted by sexual violence and harassment, relationship abuse and intimate-partner violence, stalking and other gender-based discrimination.

Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study

The award recognizes an outstanding student in graduate or professional study, and is selected on the basis of scholarship, leadership, character and service.

The recipient of the 2018 Thatcher Prize was Natalia Rezai J.D. ’18.

Rezai excelled academically, led student organizations and overcame personal challenges in her pursuit of higher education. A native of Honduras, Rezai left her hometown with the goal of obtaining the quality of education that was unavailable to her, there and use it to benefit the people of her country and of Latin America more generally.

After graduating with a degree in economics and a secondary degree in international relations from Stanford, Rezai joined the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C. There, she worked as a consultant on topics related to institutional capacity building and public financial management in Latin America and the Caribbean.

She came to realize that she wanted to effect change as a lawyer, not as an economist. That ultimately led her to William & Mary Law School. Once she joined the Tribe, Rezai excelled academically, became a member of the W&M Law Review and was selected to be a legal practice fellow. She served as president of the Human Security Law Center’s student chapter and the Latino Law Students Association.

She was instrumental in promoting Latino culture on campus, and brought awareness to issues facing Latinos in our community. Despite her incredible workload, Rezai found time to explore and even climbed Kilimanjaro.

Rezai will join the New York-based law firm of Cleary Gottlieb Stein & Hamilton as an associate. 

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.

The 2018 recipients honored for teaching excellence were Randolph A. Coleman, professor of chemistry, and Paul Marcus, Haynes Professor of Law.

Randolph A. Coleman

Coleman has been an outstanding teacher and mentor to thousands of students during his 47-year career at W&M, according to the award citation. Known for making required courses like Organic Chemistry II compelling and relevant, Coleman has been an innovator throughout his career.

He created courses on neurochemistry and his freshman COLL 150, The Chemistry of Emotion and Behavior, to meet surging student demands for neuroscience courses. Coleman has been a leader in the implementation of new classroom technology and was the first in Arts & Sciences to offer a fully online summer course in biochemistry.

Coleman’s student course evaluations are filled with praise for both his teaching and thoughtful mentoring outside of the classroom, according to the award citation. Faculty colleagues and students applaud his ability to convey complex concepts simply, but with rigor and infectious energy.

One student described his teaching style as “enthusiastic and passionate” on a course evaluation, and those words appeared again and again in the student comments. A biochemistry student wrote: “Professor Coleman is hard and expects a lot out of you, but he really does believe in all of his students. That combination is very rare and has motivated me to do well in his class. I hope that he never retires because he is truly a gem at this university.”

Students praise his ability to create a positive learning environment. One student wrote: “In a class saturated with challenging material, Dr. Coleman found a way to create a relaxed and professional atmosphere that promoted learning and educated discussions between students.”

Coleman has also served as a devoted mentor and advisor to a number of students. A faculty colleague reported that alumni fondly remember “his generosity, willingness to listen and sincere interest in their plans for life after William & Mary.” Coleman created the premedical advising program at the university and was, as a faculty colleague described, “the heart and soul of the program.”

Paul Marcus

Marcus teaches and writes in diverse areas, from criminal procedure to copyright law. Over the years, he has taught nearly a dozen different courses and is constantly innovating teaching techniques, according to the award citation. Students rave about his knowledge and passion for each subject and consistently remark on how inspiring it is to learn from him.

As one student wrote: “It was an absolute honor to be taught by Professor Marcus. He has so much knowledge on the subject and always made sure we were critical of outcomes.” Another student noted: “He teaches with so much passion and encourages us to think deeply about the material and its larger impact on society.”

Marcus has long been an unofficial teaching mentor to faculty at W&M and across the country. He exchanges class visits with every single junior faculty member at the Law School where he is recognized as a leader in teaching.

According to one faculty member: “Watching him teach is like watching a maestro. He seems to almost anticipate student questions and confusions, and he is masterful at using questions to help teach the material.” Because of his exceptional classroom skill and his role as a mentor for junior faculty, Marcus was named the inaugural Kelly Professor for Excellence in Teaching, a rotating Law School position in which an exceptional teacher leads workshops on improving classroom performance.

Marcus is also a three-time winner of the Walter Williams, Jr. Memorial Teaching Award, which is selected by the graduating students. He has received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and was selected by students, faculty members and administrators for the McGlothlin Faculty Teaching Award in 2017.

Marcus’s passion for teaching extends outside the classroom. He is a Big Brother and has been named Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Williamsburg mentor of the year. He also created and taught an innovative law and literature course for inmates at the local jail.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards (students)

Named in honor of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, a lawyer and activist, the Sullivan Awards are distributed each year to two graduating students and one non-student in recognition of their influence for good, taking into consideration such characteristics as heart, mind and helpfulness to others. This year’s student recipients were Jaya Uppal ’18 and Nathanael Paige ’18.

According to the award citation, Uppal “is known among her peers for her vibrant personality and for spending the majority of her time serving others. She is constantly caring, listening, working, learning and advocating.”

As a public policy major, she strategically enrolled in classes that would teach her how she can make an impact on the world, the citation continued. She acts as an inspiring mentor for many others in Alpha Phi Omega (APO), a co-ed organization dedicated to service, leadership and community, as well as on her Ultimate Frisbee team and in her personal life.

Uppal serves on the executive board and oversees all of the interns for Alma Mater Productions, spending a copious amount of time getting to know each intern on an individual level and uses her institutional knowledge and experience to help them make their ideas come to life, according to the citation.  She also serves as a tour guide and orientation aide, as well as a senior interviewer.

One nominator described Uppal simply as “a wonderful human”, while another described her as “one of the most kind and generous spirits I have ever had the honor to know.”

Paige’s service to the W&M community “is without a doubt generous and selfless,” according to the award citation.

A marketing major with a concentration in entrepreneurship, he fosters meaningful connections with students and the wider campus community. Paige is known across campus for his authentic nature, caring spirit and genuine love of making other people feel like their stories are heard.

He used those skills in his roles as a resident assistant acting as a mentor for other RAs and residents, serving as a voice for the underrepresented and the silent during his time as research fellow with the William & Mary Scholars Undergraduate Research Experience program, as a president’s aide communicating the student voice to administrators and representing the student body at important events, as a programming assistant for the Sharpe Community Scholars program coordinating conversations between scholars and the program’s directors, as well as while serving as a founding member of Agency 1693 marketing group.

Paige completed an independent research study focused on the differences in benevolence perception within the context of prejudicial confrontation. With the goal of becoming a certified business consultant and marketing strategist, he completed an internship at Deloitte Consulting.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award (non-student)

Michael Fox was this year’s non-student recipient of the Sullivan Award.

Fox has "selflessly served William & Mary for more than two decades and has dedicated his life and work to furthering the goals of the university,” according to the award citation.  As the assistant to the president, and chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Visitors, Fox has made a real difference for the better in the university’s affairs as well as those of the community, the citation continued. Fox’s tireless efforts to help ensure the health and welfare of W&M are felt in two vital spheres — the complex workings of the Board of Visitors and the intricacies of the university’s most important annual celebrations — Opening Convocation, Charter Day and Commencement.

He is also a key player in the university’s relations with four important entities: The commonwealth, the City of Williamsburg, Colonial Williamsburg and the university’s student government. Fox works closely with students, serving as an advisor to several individuals and groups, including the president’s aides.

As the secretary to the Board of Visitors, Fox quietly guides many key initiatives through fraught political and interpersonal waters, bringing disparate factions together for the greater good. He has respectfully and faithfully served as chief of staff to three very different presidents, deftly handling transitions between each administration. Most recently, he worked closely with the Presidential Search Committee and was instrumental in helping to bring the search to a successful conclusion.

He contributed greatly to the success of a major initiative to secure support for the statewide bond referendum that provided funds for capital projects in the state’s system of higher education, and helped build legislative support for a restructuring agreement and the William & Mary Promise.

“What truly distinguishes Michael is his character and dedication,” according to the citation. “His attention to detail is well known, as well as his unfailing good humor in the face of daunting logistics. His record of service and helpfulness to others, drawing on his good sense and heart, is nothing short of extraordinary.”