Several awards are presented annually to graduates, staff and faculty members during the William & Mary Commencement ceremony. Below is a list of this year’s award winners, who will be recognized during the virtual conferral ceremony on May 16. - Ed.
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 2020 recipient is Kristen Popham ’20.
The substance of Popham’s work and the connections it has helped her forge beyond the university truly set her apart from her peers, not only in this year’s graduating class, but among all they have worked with in their time at William & Mary, faculty members wrote in a recommendation letter.
A double major in government and French, Popham was recognized for not just being smart in an academic sense, but for being genuinely engaged with ideas. Nominators described how she “approaches her work with the humility and wonder of a genuine scholar, and produces thoughtful, nuanced and frequently astonishing outcomes.”
Simon Stow, John Marshall Professor of Government and American Studies, described research he pursued with Popham on an essay on political culture and Cold War politics: “She is diligent, insightful and unafraid of offering criticism. It has been a genuine partnership, and she will well deserve to be listed first when the piece is published.”
Claire McKinney, assistant professor of government, served as advisor to Popham on two independent research endeavors and said both times Popham identified issues that have received scant academic attention. “Kristen’s foremost strengths as a student scholar lie in her ability to identify puzzles in the operation of the social and political world and to begin to develop approaches to solving those puzzles.”
Making the most of a year studying abroad in France while receiving arthritis treatments, Popham’s intellectual pursuits combined with her empathy for others is one reason why she has been such an effective youth ambassador to the Arthritis Foundation and an advocate for students with chronic illnesses, according to nominators. Her work mentoring young people at a local juvenile detention center was cited as another example of her creative way of making an impact both on and off campus.
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 is Ellie Thomas ’20.
Quietly, persistently, diligently and with uncomplaining personal sacrifice, Thomas gave herself to the cause of improving W&M for others and making it a better place, according to nominators. In both her words and deeds, she is a person of character who creates a place for others to flourish and find their way at W&M.
Nominators described Thomas as a person of integrity and character who is caring, compassionate and can be trusted with both responsibilities and relationships. Speaking to the Senate of the Student Assembly, Thomas encouraged future senators to focus on “the importance of civil discourse and to create space to hear and respect the opinions of minority voices.”
Academically, Thomas was described as possessing “an outstanding work ethic, superior critical thinking skills and a deep commitment to her chosen career path in public service.” She impressed nominators with the range of practical experiences she obtained through internships, fellowships and study abroad.
Thomas has been accepted to graduate school to study international affairs and is pursuing U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School so that her work in that field can be through the lens of a public servant. She combined her academic and co-curricular interests to start W&M’s chapter of The Alexander Hamilton Society, which is a student-led organization dedicated to promoting constructive debate on issues within foreign affairs.
As a leader, Thomas was described as having a style that is quiet, persistent and diligent. Not the loudest voice in the room, but the one most paying attention to people, impact and most importantly the follow-through is how nominators characterized her. “In her leadership roles at William & Mary, she is admired, respected and appreciated by peers, faculty and staff. She is poised and professional, but in a down-to-earth way that fully engages those around her,” they wrote.
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 2020 Thatcher Prize was Hillary Kody J.D. ’20.
As a student at the William & Mary Law School, Kody impressed with her scholarly achievements, as well as her character and leadership, according to her nomination materials.
Kody displayed strong research and analytical skills, as well as excellent written and oral communication abilities. Her wit, warm demeanor and care for her fellow students was evident in the classroom, wrote Anna Perez Chason, professor of the practice of law and assistant director of the Legal Practice Program.
Kody served as a teaching assistant in Chancellor Professor of Law Lynda Butler’s first-year property course, and she led as associate chair on the Honor Council. She made the William & Mary Law Review and ultimately was voted editor-in-chief by her peers.
Moreover, her note, “Standing to Challenge Familial Searches of Commercial DNA Databases,” was published in the W&M Law Review in 2019. Her work tackled the legal subject of standing in the context of Fourth Amendment searches of DNA databases.
Kody is currently working as a law clerk for the Hon. Charles F. Lettow in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. She most recently served as a clinic member of the William & Mary Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic, where she wrote an amicus brief for a case before the Supreme Court of the United States.
She also worked in 2019 as a legal intern within the Department of Defense and was a judicial intern in 2018 for the Hon. David J. Novak in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The Graves Award is named for the university’s 23rd president, and recipients are selected annually by the president of the university from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans.
The 2020 recipients honored for sustained excellence in teaching were Lizabeth Allison, chancellor professor of biology, and Christopher R. Gareis, professor of educational planning, policy & leadership in the School of Education.
Allison is an outstanding researcher, master teacher at all levels and a champion of diversity and inclusion, according to her nomination materials. She has taught a range of courses, from introductory cell and molecular biology to her upper-level molecular genetics course, which has grown substantially because of her skills as a lecturer.
From her meticulous grading to the individualized support she provides as an instructor and advisor, Allison is revered for her dedication to her students.
“The tenets of my own career goals are still principally shaped by those exemplified by Dr. Allison,” wrote one former student who is currently in medical school.
“Replicating her humanistic approach to teaching and advising has been instrumental in my mentoring undergraduates, teaching high school courses and caring for patients. Providing individualized support and careful attention to everyone with whom I work was first flawlessly demonstrated by her as an advisor.”
Allison has been widely recognized for her teaching merits. William & Mary awarded her with the Grace J. Blank Teaching Award in 2000, the Alumni Fellowship Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2002, the Advisor of the Year award in 2009, the Arts & Sciences Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011 and the Plumeri Award for Faculty Excellence in 2012. She also received the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award and was an honorary marshal for the 316th Commencement exercises, both in 2009.
This year, she will receive the Ruth Kirschstein Diversity in Science Award, a national honor given to an “outstanding scientist who has shown a strong commitment to the encouragement of under-represented minorities to enter the scientific enterprise and/or to the effective mentorship of those within it.”
“As an African American male matriculating as a science major, connecting with a good mentor was crucial for my success as a scientist,” wrote another former student who is currently in medical school. “I am fortunate to have Dr. Allison as such a great mentor. Her six years of excellence and tireless mentoring of me has resulted in my acceptance as a doctoral candidate.
“Every single student is important to her. It does not matter what race, ethnicity, or religious group they belong to — she is caring, understanding, and sensitive towards everyone.”
Christopher R. Gareis
Gareis has worn almost every hat in more than 30 years as an educator: professor, associate dean, high school and middle school teacher, principal and coach, to name a few. While experienced in many areas, his particular fields of expertise are curriculum, instruction and assessment, a trio of constructs that lies at the heart of instructional leadership.
In 20 years at William & Mary, Gareis has been a professor and associate dean. He currently teaches master’s and doctoral students in the university’s educational leadership programs. He also serves as dissertation chair and committee member in both the Ph.D. and executive Ed.D. programs.
He regularly works with and provides professional development for teachers, principals, district leaders and policymakers in the U.S. and abroad. His work in the field is typically focused on curriculum development, teacher mentoring and educational assessment.
During his tenure at William & Mary, Gareis has received several awards for his scholarly and professional work, including the 2007 School Technology Leadership Research Award by the University Council for Educational Administration, the 2009 Charles Clear Research Award by the Virginia Educational Research Association and the 2017 VASCD Leadership Award from the Virginia Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
He has published four books, including one, “Teacher-Made Assessments: How to Connect Curriculum, Instruction and Student Learning,” that is in its second edition, as well as many chapters and refereed journal articles on leadership and learning.
This past year, he co-authored a book titled “Assessing Deeper Learning.”
Gareis blends his research, service and practice experience into his teaching, thereby providing students with important information they can use to transform the students with whom they will eventually work, wrote Dean and Professor of Education Spencer Niles.
“In my estimation, he is an example of a faculty member who effectively integrates his research and service into teaching and advising,” Niles said. “He has high standards but students also know he is a caring and compassionate educator.”
Gareis supports students with a genuine curiosity of their specific circumstances, and he intertwines humor and interesting anecdotes into his teaching.
“In each of his classes, he makes an effort to get to know his students, to ensure his teaching is relevant to their contexts and sensitive to their circumstances, and to mentor and challenge each adult as an individual with much potential to contribute to the field,” wrote a former student. “He is present for students, physically in his office more than perhaps any other professor in the building and open to meeting students as he genuinely desires to support their growth.”
In memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, the New York Southern Society recognizes two students in the graduating class, and one other person with close ties to William & Mary, for heart, mind and helpfulness to others.
This year’s student recipients are Milka Mered ’20 and Cameron How ’20.
Cameron How ’20
One of How’s nominators described him as “one of the most thoughtful, caring, empathetic people I'd ever met.” Others echoed that sentiment, citing his compassion, kindness and empathy. “I have rarely encountered a student who has such an innate curiosity about humankind and the world around him as Cameron How,” said Dawn Edmiston, clinical professor of marketing.
As a major in philosophy and a minor in organizational leadership, How “always seeks a deeper understanding of the why and how,” wrote one nominator. “He in intellectually curious and thoughtful, civic minded and very much about the ‘we’ at William & Mary," said Earl T. Granger III, associate vice president for development, noting that How helped allocate a grant from the Mellon Foundation as part of the Civic Agency Project.
Through such involvement on campus – including additional roles as a resident assistant, orientation aide, vice president of the Mortar Board and President’s Aide — How put those skills to use, creating and maintaining personal connections with multiple students, faculty and staff.
“He is incapable of speaking ill of anyone, always finds their true value and celebrates it,” wrote George Greenia, professor emeritus of modern languages.
Several of the people who nominated him spoke of instances in which How reached out to and supported them during times of difficulty. Others highlighted his leadership, academic curiosity and campus involvement.
“I have had the pleasure of teaching thousands of students at various colleges and universities across the U.S., and would place Cameron in the top 1% of all undergraduate students that I have encountered,” wrote Edminston. “Cameron is the quintessential role model for William & Mary and is certainly deserving of being recognized with the Sullivan Award.”
Milka Mered ’20
Mered is passionate about equity in education institutions, her nominators wrote, and she employed that passion during her time at W&M to the current and future benefit of the university.
“She is one of the most effective student leaders I have worked with during my nearly 18 years at W&M,” wrote Christine Nemacheck, director of the Center for Liberal Arts; Chon Glover, chief diversity officer; and Shene Owens, associate director of the Center for Student Diversity, in a joint nomination letter.
“The change she has effected on campus is remarkable, perhaps partly due to the way her work cuts across the typical boundaries between students, staff, faculty and administration,” they said.
During her time at W&M, Mered served as a resident assistant, resident counselor for the Preparing for Life as a University Student (PLUS) Program, and was one of the first Center for Liberal Arts Student Pedagogical Fellows, a president’s aide, research intern and program assistant for the Center for Student Diversity.
“Her research on the contemporary experiences of students of color at W&M has been essential reading for faculty, staff and students,” her nominators wrote, adding that it has helped renew and strengthen efforts to make campus better for all students.
Mered worked with a group of CLA Fellows to bring a student perspective to the COLL 350 Difference, Equity and Justice requirement.
“As a student fellow, Milka helps faculty think about equity and inclusivity in our teaching,” the nominators wrote. “She has translated her coursework on educational policy and making classrooms more inclusive and equitable, along with her experiences on campus, into clear and specific strategies faculty can use in improving their own classroom climates.”
Mered has made W&M a better place than it was when she arrived, the nominators wrote.
“She leaves behind a legacy of student, staff and faculty cooperation in making W&M a more welcoming and inclusive campus that better represents our tradition that ‘[all] those who come here, belong here,’” they wrote.
Linda Knight, director of campus recreation and executive director of health and wellness, is the recipient of this year’s non-student Sullivan Award.
Nominators said that Knight cares deeply for students and staff and regularly engages them one-on-one to ensure they have the support they need for both personal and professional development.
“She encourages students to be well in all aspects of their life,” wrote Goody Tyler, a W&M honorary alumnus and longtime supporter of W&M. “Not just today but for their future.”
Knight has long championed wellness on campus, constantly looking for ways to improve the Student Recreation Center and make it more accessible to all, her nominators wrote.
“As the long-time head of the Rec, she has not only made physical fitness a priority for the College community but well-being more broadly — and selflessly so,” wrote Peter Atwater, adjunct lecturer of economics. “Linda is all about the student and making sure that the Rec supports their needs, not the reverse.”
One nominator recalled finding a second home at the Campus Recreation Center, thanks to Knight’s efforts.
“It felt like everything run by Campus Recreation was designed to create a sense of community and to carve out time for fun — two critical pieces of any college experience,” wrote Molly Atwater ’17.
In addition to supporting the university’s club sports, recreation and outdoor programs, Knight’s work has led to a free, annual 5k on campus and free fitness classes for students. Her influence also helped make the new McLeod Tyler Wellness Center a reality.
“Linda would suggest that what she does is nothing out of the ordinary, but she sets a high bar for all of us,” said Tyler.
An endowment from Charles and Ann Duke supports an annual award to an outstanding staff member in memory of Mr. Duke’s parents, Charles and Virginia Duke. This year’s recipient is Kathleen Morgan, associate director for faculty personnel services.
Morgan helps Arts & Sciences faculty from the time they receive a letter of intent through the tenure process and beyond, her nominators wrote. She goes to great lengths to understand policies and procedures, including their near- and long-term impacts. She is also able to communicate those sometimes complicated matters to all those with whom she works.
“She knows her stuff,” wrote Frederick Corney, professor and chair of history. “This is not by chance, but through the steady accumulation of expertise and experience garnered by a seriously committed employee with a professional ethos.”
She is exceptionally organized, her nominators wrote, helping to keep processes on track with gentle reminders to those involved. Because of her expertise and attention to detail, she is the go-to person in Arts & Sciences for many critical matters, wrote one nominator.
“Kathy is an outstanding citizen of the William & Mary community and plays a key role in facilitating the success of Arts & Sciences,” wrote Josh Burk, professor and chair of psychological sciences. “Her professionalism and ability to explain complex processes makes the lives of numerous faculty much easier. Her compassion and good nature further contribute to make her an invaluable resource at W&M.”
Morgan has also been a key facilitator of Arts & Sciences’ diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
Because of her work in faculty recruitment, A&S has made great strides in creating equitable recruitment practices, in line with best practices within the field, according to Sharron Gatling, assistant director of diversity and inclusion, adding that Morgan “has proven to be an invaluable asset to A&S and William & Mary at large.”
“Faculty recruitment is not just a job to Kathy,” wrote Gatling. “It has become her service to others.”