The new senior Cum Laude members are Paul Alexander, Laney Bagwell, Janie Bradford, Emilia Carson, Oliver Cristobal, Abigail McGehee, Alexa Merrit and Gabrielle Pettit. New junior class members are Kevin Bien, Joaquin Castro-Balbi, Isabella Gutierrez, Elizabeth Hillman, Gage Fowlkes, Kendall Lehman, Reshma Niraula, Jackson Robinson and Joshua Yoon.
This year’s speaker was alumnus and artist John Holt Smith ’87. After Director of Strategic Projects and Upper School History Teacher Bill Arnold ’86 introduced him, he shared, “Mr. Arnold had it mostly right. I’m known more these days as Mrs. [Sarah Akhtar] Smith’s [’91] husband. I’m also known, especially to some of you, as the father of Holt [’23] and Wyeth [’26]. I can assure you that both of these titles are upgrades.”
Holt Smith shared his Limerock Sequence
image, 8-foot by 30-foot painting seen in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after travelers clear customs.
“I started becoming an artist here at Country Day. I started to take my work, my thoughts and ideas a little more seriously here. That painting started as an idea that I had at Country Day when I was your age,” Smith said. “When I was 16 years old sitting in a classroom being taught by Dr. Cordell, not your Dr. Cordell, but my Dr. Cordell. We were being taught about spectroscopy.
“The idea for that body of work came to me that day,” he continued. “It would be 15 years to develop the technology to generate those images that I used to paint those paintings. Change, real change, and innovation come when young men and women value their ideas and dreams and cultivate them, and put them out in the world. You are ready.”
Before the new inductees received their pins and certificates, last year’s inductees were asked to stand and be recognized. Those students are seniors Paloma Casanova, Jack Ethridge, Kale Graves, Christopher Hoppe, Ella Li, Henry Lynn, Katherine Morton, Reese Nelson and Andrew Nober.
English Department Chair and Teacher Catherine Collins-Vecino made some passionate remarks to the students to end the ceremony. “If this year of social and political strife and of enduring a pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need our artists — our painters, photographers, poets, musicians, actors, and dancers to inspire us, to sustain us, and to galvanize us into action during challenging times,” she said. “Thank you to all artists who, in the last year, have provided us comfort and peace but also prompted us to never settle.
“We desperately need scholar leaders who are bold and courageous in their pursuits just as you have been thus far in your academic careers,” Collins-Vecino continued. “Your work will be hard, and it will test your strength and virtue, but by using your gifts wisely and continuing to embody this [Cum Laude] society’s motto of excellence, justice, and honor and our school’s core values, you can and will have a profound and positive impact. We celebrate you today and charge you with continuing to be the paragons of achievement in all aspects of your lives.”
About The Cum Laude Society
The Cum Laude Society is an honorary organization that stresses excellence, justice and honor. Selection is limited to 10 percent of the junior class and 20 percent of the senior class, elected over two years, based on students’ high academic standing and rigorous course loads. Selected students also demonstrate good character, honor and integrity in all aspects of school life.
Founded in 1906, Cum Laude Society is dedicated to honoring scholastic achievement in secondary schools. The founders of the society modeled Cum Laude after Phi Beta Kappa. In the years since its founding, Cum Laude has grown to 382 chapters, approximately two dozen of which are located in public schools and the rest in independent schools. Membership is predominately in the U.S., but chapters are also located in Canada, England, France, Spain, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.