Fourteen Agnes Irwin seniors were inducted into the school’s Cum Laude Society at a ceremony on Monday, April 18, representing students who have pursued the most rigorous coursework during their high school years.
The names of the new inductees were announced by Head of School Wendy L. Hill at an assembly for Upper School students and faculty Monday morning. Alumna Clare Putnam Pozos '00, a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, addressed students at the assembly, congratulating the new inductees and the entire senior class on their achievements.
“Yours is a true accomplishment,” said Pozos. “You wouldn’t be honored here today without years of determination and excellence in your academic pursuits.”
Pozos herself was inducted into the Cum Laude Society chapter at Agnes Irwin, and currently serves as Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
In her speech, she encouraged students to not let their disappointments define them, or to avoid new experiences for fear of failing.
“It’s easy to celebrate success here today … but on every path to success there are countless hurdles, obstacles, and for lack of a better word, failures,” she said. “I do not doubt that each of you has encountered disappointment on your personal road to success. You may not have gotten the best grade in the class or the lead in the school play or made the Varsity team or been elected class president. Maybe you didn’t get into the college that was your first choice — or into the Cum Laude Society when you thought you might.
“The truth is, you’re going to try your best at so many things in life ... but some of the time, you’re simply going to miss.”
Pozos shared the stories of “famous failures” such as Abraham Lincoln — who “lost many more times than he won,” including runs for Congress and the vice presidency — as well as Oprah, Dr. Seuss, JK Rowling, Michael Jordan, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Steven Spielberg. These "failures" bounced back from major setbacks: being cut from the high school basketball team, failing the bar exam, being rejected by a publisher a dozen times over.
“Some of you may have heard some of these tidbits before, but you likely hadn’t heard all of them, and that’s what I want to leave you with today,” Pozos said.
She shared some of her own disappointments at Agnes Irwin, such as losing the election for student body president, and only making Varsity teams as an upperclasswoman. “I could share similar stories from college and law school. At the time, each setback felt defeating and huge. But I just kept going, and you should too.”
She encouraged students to strive to emulate those “famous failures,” because none of them let disappointments stop them. “They did not let other people’s views of who they were or what they should be define them. They continued on and became the great intellectuals, athletes, artists and visionaries you know them as. … and if I know anything about the women that Agnes Irwin produces, it is that you are all destined for great things.”
The Agnes Irwin School’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society, an association with 382 chapters in the United States, Canada, England, France, Spain, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, honors students 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. The selection is done by computing the level of performance and rigor of program and is determined by those computations without awareness of the students’ identities. The names of those selected are kept anonymous until the induction ceremony.
Agnes Irwin’s 2016 inductees are: Arden Berlinger, Annalise Bowen, Grace Fan, Sophie Fisher, Sophie Gaddes, Nicolette Hevizi, Anika Jagasia, Anna Kramer, Yanling Liu, Anisha Mittal, Hunter Sessa, Morgan Smith, Camille Smukler and Virginia Ulichney.
“Creating this moment, this separate and singular moment, indicates the importance we attach to the achievements of the students we recognized today,” said Head of School Wendy L. Hill, following Pozos’ speech. “But just like Clare mentioned, we celebrate not only the accomplishments of each awardee but also the passion, commitment and vitality of the academic community in general at The Agnes Irwin School. … I’d like to recognize everyone here today for your academic achievements.”
Top: Fourteen seniors were inducted into the Cum Laude Society on April 18, 2016. (Not pictured: Sophie Gaddes)
Middle: Clare Putnam Pozos '00 speaks at the Cum Laude Assembly
Bottom: From left, Cum Laude Committee Chair Wigs Frank, Clare Putnam Pozos '00, Head of School Wendy L. Hill