Milton Students Join Cum Laude Society
by Ariela Buxbaum-Grice on Friday, June 7th, 2013
The wall on the bottom floor of Cox Library proudly displays the plaques honoring the recipients of the Cum Laude award. The plaques do not simply recognize Milton’s high-achieving students; the inscribed names also represent the admittance of a student into the Milton Academy chapter of the Cum Laude Society. The Cum Laude Society is made up of high-academically achieving students and was modeled after Phi Beta Kappa in order to recognize students with high grades.
Dr. Abram Harris, director of the Tome School in Maryland, created the Cum Laude Society in 1906. Since its inception, the Cum Laude Society has granted membership to 382 schools. The great majority of them are private or independent, but roughly two-dozen public schools also offer Cum Laude awards. Although most of the schools affiliated with Cum Laude are in the United States, there are member schools in England, Spain, Canada, France, and Puerto Rico.
For such a coveted award, little discussion about Cum Laude is heard in the hallways of Milton. At this time of year, the gossip of the Upper School usually revolves around the social aspect of Milton life. In contrast to the full-banner public invitations to prom and boat dance, Cum Laude recipients are not recognized until the end-of-year award ceremony.
Every year, roughly thirty members of the senior class and one or two juniors convene in Straus library to honor their academic achievements. Seniors receiving Cum Laude have earned an average grade of A- through their sophomore, junior, and senior years, while the juniors who receive the Cum Laude have the highest grades in their class. At Milton this year, the Cum Laude ceremony honored thirty-three seniors and one junior. This year’s junior recipient, Anna Lachenauer, says, “I was really surprised to get Cum Laude, but I was also really excited and honored. I wasn’t expecting it, so it was a nice surprise. I had seen juniors get Cum Laude in my previous years here, but I wasn’t expecting that it would be me.”
Abigail Higgins, a senior who achieved Cum Laude this year, describes a similar feeling of “excitement and honor” when she heard about her admission to the Cum Laude society. She says, “I had known about [Cum Laude] and thought about it throughout the four years at Milton. I knew it was something that was an honor and I wanted to work towards that… I didn’t think about it a lot, but it was always something I could potentially strive toward.”
When senior Jonathan Esty heard of his Cum Laude achievement, he was “pleased and pleasantly surprised.” He describes Cum Laude as “the byproduct of hard work. You probably get good grades for their own sake and the rest of it is trimmings.” When asked what this year’s Cum Laude achievers had in common, the ever-witty Esty replied “female” as, only eight male students received Cum Laude.
At the ceremony every year, a faculty member speaks to the Cum Laude recipients. This year, Mr. Chase addressed the students. As an art teacher, Mr. Chase considers creativity a very important part of lifelong development. Mr. Chase introduced his speech with the relatable image of having an imaginary friend, encouraging his audience to embrace the more creative, seemingly childish side of things.
Often lost in the pressure to excel in academics is the more recreational, exploratory side of Milton. Mr. Chase reminded students not to get too caught up in things, quoting Buckminster Fuller, one of Milton Academy’s most well-known graduates. Mr. Fuller and Mr. Chase, riffing on our motto, “Dare to be True,” remind us to “dare to be naïve.”
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