Zoe Bohn ’14 will speak at graduation June 6 as this year’s valedictorian, President Rick Commons announced at the annual Cum Laude Induction Ceremony Monday.
Bohn was one of 59 seniors inducted in what Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts called “the highest-GPA gathering ever in Rugby” in her opening remarks.
The valedictorian is elected by a faculty vote every year based on academic ability, Commons said near the end of the ceremony, shortly before he made the announcement.
To begin the assembly, Huybrechts read Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s “Ithaca,” as she does every year. She thought it would fit the journeys the inductees will take once they graduate, she said.
This year was history teacher Ken Neisser’s first as Cum Laude chapter president.
“No calculation of a decimal to another fourth or fifth place can replace you,” he said to cheers from the inductees and their parents as he began his speech. “You’re in.”
In a setup to emphasize this point, Ben Weissenbach ’15 ran into the auditorium with a rolled-up sheet of paper and the claim that it was the final list of inductees from the registrar’s office, to which Neisser replied, no; “Our books are closed.”
Neisser congratulated the inductees on getting through a “virtual Himalayan range of difficult courses” before explaining the Cum Laude Society’s motto, “Areté, Diké, Timé” (Excellence, Justice, Honor) using history teacher and former Cum Laude Chapter President Eric Zwemer’s words.
Neisser dedicated his speech to Zwemer, quoting him throughout and telling attendees about the history teacher’s academic career since his time at St. Albans School, a boys’ college preparatory school in Washington D.C., where Zwemer was inducted into the Cum Laude Society.
Neisser noted an instance when Zwemer learned the part of Petruchio for a school production William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” in 24 hours when the regular actor fell ill. Next, Neisser described Zwemer’s adult career up to his time working in Harvard-Westlake’s history department, where he said Zwemer is “the definitive voice on any point in European or American history.”
After saying that Zwemer’s were “impossible shoes to fill,” Neisser pulled a shoebox out of a bag that he had set backstage and presented it to Zwemer.
Neisser thanked the inductees on behalf of their teachers for reminding them “why we love our jobs,” then quoted Zwemer’s traditional ending to the speeches he had given at induction ceremonies before this year: “Enjoy it. You’ve earned it.”
The last thing Neisser added before naming the inductees was a quote from Homer Simpson, whom he called one of Zwemer’s favorite philosophers: “Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet, they’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”
After all the students had been inducted, including honorary inductee Julia Kim ’14, who was new to the school her junior year, Commons closed the ceremony.
“We’ll look forward to more of the students and less of Mr. Zwemer next year,” Commons said.
After announcing that Bohn would speak as valedictorian, Commons exhorted students to focus on the pursuit of excellence rather than the measure of it and to find joy in their work.
Once the ceremony had ended, inductees met their parents and picked up the shopping bags of extra clothes many of them had brought before climbing the stairs to a reception in Feldman Horn Gallery.