On May 12, 2023, sixteen Agnes Irwin seniors were inducted into the Cum Laude Society at a special assembly led by Rita Davis, President of the AIS Chapter. Head of School Sally Keidel announced the inductees who have achieved excellence in the most rigorous course of study. The society permits school chapters to select up to 20 percent of the graduating class on the basis of superior scholarship.
“Scholarly engagement and academic excellence are at the core of The Agnes Irwin School,” said Davis, continuing, “Today, we are honoring a group of seniors whose work has been exemplary and whose success reflects much curiosity, concentration, sustained effort, and focus in a world full of distractions. I want to encourage all of you to think about the importance of your own intellectual pursuits and interests. As your life progresses, remember to put yourself on the path of improving society, achieving greater good, and advocating for positive change in our world.”
Congratulations to the following Cum Laude Society inductees:
Kathryn Chang, Madeline Chong, Leslie Forman, Ella Graupner, Rosa Huffman, Maya Johnson, Laura Morris, Reagan Pagano, Tiffany Paris, Khushi Patel, Lillian Press, Natalya Russin, Phoebe Smith, Annalee Stuardi-Drumm, Eliza Vander, Michelle Yu
The keynote speaker was Frances Chen ’09, a Cum Laude Society member herself. Dr. Chen is a board certified attending pediatric anesthesiologist at Children's Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She received a Bachelor of Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2013. She then went to Stanford University School of Medicine, where she received a Doctor of Medicine. She completed her residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology. Dr. Chen credits Agnes Irwin with providing her with “many opportunities for leadership where I learned to ask difficult questions, to have confidence in my reasoning, and to speak up for what I was passionate about.”
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Chen's speech:
This is a significant achievement. I hope that you're as proud of yourself as we are of you for all that you've accomplished. The Cum Laude Society recognizes academic achievement, character, and integrity. Today is a celebration of your potential to achieve greatness and whatever path you choose to pursue. Behind every achievement, there is a network of support from family, friends and mentors. So I want you to take a moment to thank the people that are cheering you on, picking you up when you are down, and pushing to accomplish your goals. Their unwavering support will be your foundation moving forward. I'm forever grateful to the teachers that recognized my strengths, and encouraged me to both explore new things and dive deeper into certain paths. I owe so much to [the] educators here at Agnes Irwin and beyond who helped guide me to where I am today.
I want you to walk away from this assembly with a few guiding principles that I learned over time. First, find your passion, something that you believe in that will make you feel fulfilled even when the dignity tasks are difficult. I didn't decide until relatively late in college that I wanted to go into medicine. I had been heavily involved in cancer genetic research At MIT, and was torn between pursuing a purely research career versus somebody more clinical. For shadowing musicians and volunteering in a free clinic in Boston, I realized that what I enjoyed most was direct patient care.
Second, strive to excel not for external glory and recognition but in service of others. When I was younger, I worked hard to make my parents proud. This transition grew into working hard to the best that I could for myself. At some point, once I started on this career path, this switched again. And in retrospect, without me even realizing it, to working hard in service of my patients. I knew that one day, the time would cause someone else's life would depend on my training and knowledge. This is a really good motivator, and has driven me to get to where I am today. We can all make a positive impact in the world. Remember that the greatest measure of success is the impact we have on the lives of those around us.
Last, lay your foundation and foster the relationships that will help you grow. You are a product of your environment. Surround yourself with people you admire that support you and will push you to be the best version of herself. Agnes Irwin's rigorous academic community, curriculum, supportive community of peers and teachers, an emphasis on leadership and service all contributed to my growth and development as it does for you. Everything that you do lays the foundation, some achievements you'll be recognized for and others you will not. But every one of them formed a base for who you are as a person who will serve you well as you move forward. I can't wait to see all the great things that you do.
Upper School Director Joy Prince closed the ceremony, remarking, “We honor you all for this significant academic achievement. It is a reflection of your dedication and diligence and commitment to your academic pursuits. Be proud.”