2023 fall awards

2023 Fall Awards

Watch the recording of the full ceremony here:

Lucile Thieriot Walker Teaching Chair

The Lucile Thieriot Walker Teaching Chair was established during The Farmington 80’s Fund by the Weezie Foundation in her honor at the request of her daughters, Lucile Walker Hays ’56 and Elaine Walker Fiske ’64, mother of Kirke Hoffman Hall ’89.  The Lucile Thieriot Walker Teaching Chair is awarded to a member of any department based on distinguished teaching, demonstrated excellence over time in the classroom, and leadership within an academic discipline. 

The recipient of this Chair is a teacher who started their time at Porter’s during the pandemic.  This was not an easy time to begin a new job, but immediately this person impressed everyone with their dedication to doing everything possible to provide an optimal learning experience for students despite the constraints.  This teacher cares deeply about all of her students, and they all report feeling supported by the way in which this teacher extends herself to meet their needs. This teacher finds a way to support individual students regardless of how much extra time and work that will take.  She is extremely intentional in the way that she communicates to students about their progress, and in this teacher’s class all students know they are capable of succeeding.  

This teacher also supports other teachers as a department chair, and her leadership helps assure that the languages and cultures of the world are alive and present on our campus.  She also contributes to the Institute for Global Education and wrote the curriculum for one of our first AIS Global Intensive courses. This teacher’s overall commitment to helping young women grow not just into fluent speakers of French, but into bold changemakers is a wonder to behold. 

So félicitations, bravo, and chapeau to the recipient of the Lucile Thieriot Walker Teaching Chair, Kelly McCray.

The Class of 1959 Fund for a Career in the Classroom

The Class of 1959 Fund for a Career in the Classroom was established in 2009 to recognize excellence in teaching by a faculty member in the first years of their teaching career. “The aim of this fund is to encourage professionals with talent to remain within the teaching profession and to retain their talents at Miss Porter’s School.”

This is a particularly important award not just for Miss Porter’s, but for the education industry as well.  I am not sure if you all are aware but our country is facing a tremendous teacher shortage, and as an institution, Miss Porter’s wants to do our part to find promising teachers, support them, and then keep them in the teaching profession.  Our participation in the University of Pennsylvania’s Independent School Residency Program, which brings us our Penn Fellows is one way in which we do this, and the Class of ‘59 Award is another.

This person, starting his second year of teaching at Miss Porter’s, is a product of independent schools, and before coming to Miss Porter’s did an internship at a much larger boarding school where they were involved in a myriad of activities.  Thus, when he came to Miss Porter’s he was prepared to jump in with both feet and is already contributing in many, many different ways.  

Last year he taught 5 different classes, coached two different sports, and supported student organizations such as Moonbeams, and even ran a book club for seniors in the spring.  In addition to all of that, this year he has stepped up to take the role of Director of the Institute for Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship. This teacher has also been described as a one-man faculty Sunshine Club and builds community as leader of the faculty trivia team.    His career at Miss Porter’s is off to a great start, and we hope he will be here for a long time to come. 

This year’s Class of 1959 Fund for a Career in the Classroom recipient is Ryan Bliss.


Good evening. I’m Jessica Watkin, a member of the Math Department and it’s my pleasure to present the first award of the evening, the Mary Parker Foss New Girl Award.

The Mary Parker Foss New Girl Award is given in memory of an Ancient from the Class of 1913 and Miss Porter’s School housemother, who for 15 years shared the joys and sorrows of each group of New Girls. This award is given to a New Girl for her dedication, dependability, and unfailing spirit of cheerfulness and helpfulness to others outside the immediate community.

This New Girl immediately made her mark on our community with her enthusiasm. She threw one hundred percent of herself into every new class, every new sport, every new friendship, and every new opportunity. During the year, her teachers commented on her “curiosity and intellectual risk-taking, encouraging the same behavior in her peers,” and her “contagious energy and passion for learning,” highlighting her ability to bring out the best in her classmates just by being herself.

Her teachers also described her work as “generous and thoughtful,” “fun, edgy, and engaging,” and “super-impressive” and deemed her an “enthusiastic contributor,” a “joyful collaborator,” and “very much a rock star.”

“I am having so much fun working with her,” one teacher wrote, and another said, “I’m so glad she took this class.” I second both of those sentiments — I had so much fun being her advisor and am so glad she was in my group. It is my pleasure to present the Mary Parker Foss New Girl Award to Addy McNear.


I’m Alexandra London-Thompson, Director of Drama, and I will be presenting the Vassar Book Award.

The Vassar Book Award for ‘Excellence in Theatrical Performance or Technical Theater is presented by the Vassar Club of Hartford. The selection recognizes a rising senior who exhibits an enduring admiration for the art of Theater through her service to the extra-curricular theater program in performance or with technical expertise in the wings. 

This student is an astounding delight and is beloved within our program. She is kind, conscientious, and collaborative. This student is a superlative artist and is remarkably humble despite her immense talent. She engages with each aspect of the rehearsal and creative processes with intellect and curiosity. She also deeply invests in the success and growth of everyone within the program. We are fortunate to have this wonderful student and artist serve as a leader within our program, and it is my honor to award the Vassar Book Award for Excellence in Theatrical Performance or Technical Theater to Alex Knaggs.


Good evening. I’m Alysa Auriemma, a member of the Humanities Department and tonight I will be presenting the Brown University Alumni Award and the Miss Porter’s School Excellence in Humanities Prize.

The Brown University Alumni Award is presented to a senior who best combines a high degree of ability in English expression, both written and spoken and outstanding personal qualities which, in the words of the Brown University Charter of 1764, give promise that she will become one of “the succession of men and women duly qualified for discharging the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.”  

“Vital.” “Resonant.” “Thoughtful.” These are just some of the words faculty have used to describe this student’s qualities both in and out of the Humanities classroom. She brings a joyful, enthusiastic perspective to the study and analysis of English literature, an energy that was infectious even through Zoom in the first trimester of her freshman year. Her work is always grounded in a strong base of knowledge and supportive evidence, but her work never comes off as rote or stiff. To quote one of her teachers, “from reading a text to writing an essay, this student’s analysis and synthesis are advanced because she knows how to think like a writer.” She is kind, understanding, and compassionate, with a keen ability to write and lead with empathy and connection. The Brown University Alumni Award goes to Ivana Rodal Fernandez.

The Miss Porter’s School Excellence in Humanities Prize

This award is given in recognition of service to our community and significant academic achievement in the humanities and social sciences.

This student has made an impact throughout their time at Miss Porter’s with their work ethic, generous spirit, and empathy. They exemplify the idea of learning for the sake of learning and sharing that knowledge with others. In AIS US History and Literature, they asked if they could write a paper on one of our unit texts. Note that there was no summative for that text yet. “I just want to write something about this,” they said, with such enthusiasm and curiosity, and proceeded to write an excellent essay. They also strive to be their best in every assessment, every discussion, and every interaction. I have had the absolute pleasure of teaching this student not once, not twice, but three times, and although I’m sad we won’t go for the fourpeat this year, I know other teachers will have the privilege of seeing this student in action. The Excellence in Humanities Prize goes to Finn De Vries.


Good evening, I’m Melissa Schomers, Chair of the Humanities Department and I will be presenting the Harvard/Radcliffe Club Book Award.

The Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Northern Connecticut presents a history prize to the student who has exhibited a high level of interest and maintained a record of excellence in the study of history. 

Curiosity and an endless sense of wonder capture the essence of what makes this particular scholar so fitting for the Harvard/Radcliffe Club Book Award. An inquisitive individual whose scholarship has been exemplary from the start. She is a student who puts forward the requisite effort necessary to craft well-researched and well-argued pieces in class, and she does so with a clear sense of passion for the content in her courses. Her sense of wonder, coupled with her impeccable ability to research, has allowed her to dive deeply into a variety of topics and subjects throughout her time here at Miss Porter’s School. I was especially impressed with her considerations of the “other,” be it conceptions of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion in Early Modern England during our study of Shakespeare this past fall. Her proclivity for seeking answers to History’s questions is why the Humanities Department is pleased to award the Harvard/Radcliffe Book Award to Madeleine Port.


Hello. My name is Katrina Council and I’m a member of the Humanities Department. I have the pleasure of presenting the Kay Smedley Prize for History.

The Kay Smedley Prize for History is named in honor of a woman who taught history at Miss Porter’s School for many years, retiring in 1975. Ms. Smedley had a particular interest in international affairs and instilled in her students a sense of global awareness long before it became an integral part of the curriculum. The prize is awarded to a student starting her senior year who has an interest in international affairs as well as a sense of global awareness and who has shown a “sense of the relation of historical events to the present.” 

This year’s winner is an exceptional student of history; she has a passion for social change and a willingness to seek answers to social issues. This was evident in everything she had done in class. This student always brought a unique voice to classroom discussions. She is wise beyond her years and always seeks the deeper meaning behind historical concepts; she seeks to know as much as possible about the world around her and use that to inform her actions. This student is not only an excellent historian in the making, but she is also a great orator and an excellent teacher. She works hard in the classroom and on the Mock Trial team, where she trains her fellow students with patience and care. She is a change-maker, always seeking to learn more about injustice on a global scale. This student approaches learning with enthusiasm and a unique insight into how the world works. Her interest in international affairs is vast, and I know she will continue to approach her studies always with an eye on how everything in the world connects. It’s my pleasure to present this award to Leah Glaspey.


Good evening. I’m Miao Hwang, a member of the Languages department and I will be presenting the Professor Alex Cheng Prizes. These prizes are given by a friend of Miss Porter’s School, H. Lin Domizio, in memory of her inspiration and mentor Alex Cheng, a scholar and diplomat whose intellectual life and public example brought hundreds of young Chinese to achievements in psychology, linguistics, international relations, and government service. The prize is awarded in two areas: academic achievement and character.

This student is motivated to achieve academically in Chinese and has an extremely admirable work ethic. She came to Chinese 2, passionate about the content and the challenges. She always wanted to do more to improve, taking on all feedback and advice with enthusiasm. She always produces detailed research papers. She always puts her words into action and follows through on everything she puts her mind to. She interacts with her peers and teachers positively. Outside of the classroom, she cooks Chinese dishes, not the ones that you see in the average Chinese restaurants, but very authentic Chinese cuisine, such as braised pork and steam buns. My mouth is watering already. I

know this student will continue to achieve at Miss Porter’s during her senior year and I look forward to continuing to facilitate her learning in Chinese. 

It is my greatest honor to present the 2023 Professor Alex Cheng academic achievement award to 李美云Nyla Liburd.

This student is dedicated to Chinese language and cultural learning. Based on the content that she learned and her artistic nature, she grew creative throughout the years. She demonstrates leadership by helping others in the class, bringing out the best of everyone, coming to the class with a positive attitude and being motivated in various ways. I extremely admire her interaction with peers. Outside of the classroom, she stepped up to be one of the co-heads of the cooking club. Best of all, this student will continue working on her confidence in speaking Chinese in front of a larger crowd. 

For these reasons, I am very proud to present 2023 The Professor Alex Cheng character award to 具娜妍 Colette Koo.


Hello, I’m Kelly Woodbury, also a member of the Language Department. It is my pleasure to present the Doris M. Prout Latin Achievement Award.

This award was created through a bequest from Flora H. Lutz, who taught classics at Miss Porter’s School for 29 years and is presented in memory of Doris M. Prout, a Latin teacher here from 1946 to 1968. It is awarded to the student who has, in her first year of Latin study, in the opinion of her teacher, achieved the highest degree of scholarship. 

The recipient of this award is a stellar student who is an outstanding and passionate linguist through and through. This person makes great efforts to actively immerse herself in the rigor of acquiring and appreciating a new language like Latin. This student worked so hard in class each day by challenging herself with difficult Latin texts and myths and understanding all the details of Latin syntax and vocabulary that are key to deep understanding. Due to this hard work, she could consistently read challenging Latin, and she was even able to compose her own original story in Latin to describe a day in Rome celebrating the war god Mars and horse racing.  She strives to understand the complex language, culture, practices, and history of the Ancient Romans so that she can apply her knowledge and skills to current global issues and pressing problems. She consistently contributes to our classroom culture positively and productively as a friend to all. She even showed off her skills on a global stage by receiving a medal on the 2023 National Latin Exam. I know that she will continue to work hard this year in her Latin courses and I could not be happier to give this award to Melissa Ma.


Good evening, I’m Hur-shiu Webb, Chair of the Math Department and I will be presenting The Rensselaer Award.

This award is given by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to recognize exceptional achievement in the study of mathematics and science.  

This year’s recipient of the Rensselaer Award has demonstrated mastery of many of the skills that most would expect of a high-achieving math and science student. She is hard-working– throughout her classes and throughout her time at Porter’s, her teachers have all marveled at the dedication and hard work she puts into every one of her commitments, both academic and extracurricular. She is resilient. She views challenges and difficulties not as barriers but as an invitation and an opportunity to investigate further and dig deeper. And she is adept at recalling and applying skills she has previously learned to novel problems. But wait! There’s more– Beyond these more conventional aspects of a successful math and science student, this recipient also demonstrates several more qualities that take her achievements from successful to exceptional. She is curious– always wanting to understand the “why” and “how” behind every new concept she encounters. She is creative– connecting seemingly disparate concepts to create both a new and deeper understanding of challenging concepts. She is courageous, one teacher even describes her as “fearless”– boldly diving into each new challenge no matter how daunting. Finally, she is passionate– Across the board, faculty members describe this student as engaged in every class and excited by each new discovery. She even describes her experience in Calculus 1 as feeling like “flying”! This student has both found and brought joy to every one of her endeavors, and it is now my joy to present this award to Anna Parker.


Hello, I’m MJ Moulton, a member of the Science Department and I will be presenting the Miss Porter’s School Excellence in Mathematics & Science Prize. The award is given to honor excellent achievements in math and science.

As the world continues to face enormous challenges, such as climate change increasing the prevalence of global diseases, natural disasters, and the threat of further socioeconomic disparities, our future scientists and researchers require more than an understanding of math and science–they require empathy and humility. This student has it all. She works incredibly hard to master the concepts and has a big-picture understanding of how the research might impact the world. In her AIS Biology class, she proposed research to tackle postpartum depression that could be easily applied to all women, no matter their socioeconomic status. Without a doubt, she will use her abilities to engineer new tools to combat these global problems. The Miss Porter’s School Excellence in Mathematics & Science Prize goes to Shreya Sudarshan.


Good evening. I’m Elizabeth Simison, Academic Dean, and I will be announcing students named to the Cum Laude Society.

The Cum Laude Society was founded in 1906 to encourage and recognize the scholastic achievement of secondary school students for the purpose of promoting excellence, justice, and honor.  Miss Porter’s School became a member of the Cum Laude Society in 1975. Members of the senior class being inducted tonight are Finn De Vries, Karen Fang, Leeah Han, Yvonne Huang, Jaimie Ng, Anna Parker, Helen Sharp, and Coco Zhu.


Good evening. I’m Oscar Rollan, a member of the Language Department. It’s a pleasure to be here with you tonight. I will be presenting the Bryn Mawr College President’s Book Award. 

In keeping with Bryn Mawr’s tradition of rigorous academic training, a recipient of this award must be a  senior who exhibits a true love of learning and intellectual curiosity about the world around her. 

Since day one this student has demonstrated a curiosity for everything. Her mind is always making connections, both in and out of the classroom.  Eager for new knowledge and to understand how everything is connected, this recipient relishes in knowing how to apply what she learned in the classroom to her daily life. This recipient’s curiosity for the world around her makes her continuously and consistently observant. She is always willing to try new things, talk to anybody and everybody, and listen to everyone’s opinions.  This year’s recipient is an avid reader and satiates all of the information she reads to again connect and grow. 

This year’s recipient’s love of learning was on full display during her stay in Costa Rica and all of us on the trip were witnesses to her love of learning and using the world as a textbook.  

I am pleased to present the Bryn Mawr College President’s Book Award to Kathryn Ausere.


Hello, I’m Elizabeth Simison and I’m back to present the Princeton Book Award. The Princeton Book Award is presented to a student who completed her junior year with Honor Roll standing, has made an outstanding contribution to an extracurricular activity, and has demonstrated good character and a desire to learn above and beyond the School’s academic requirements.

This phenomenal student is passionate about everything she does and gives one hundred percent of her time and effort to whatever awaits her. Diligent, curious, and highly motivated, this student brings excellent questions to each class and elevates the tone of the conversation with outstanding and well-elaborated remarks. As an accomplished artist, this student integrated her beautifully crafted paintings, drawings, and sculptures in multiple demonstrations of learning, reflecting a great understanding of what it means to be an interdisciplinary learner. As a JA, this student devoted hours to assisting her peers and ensuring they were in good hands. Her calm personality, extraordinary sense of humor, and strong listening skills made her a reliable partner and a trustworthy leader. Similarly, this student spent innumerable hours in the art studio, guiding students and adults patiently to create pieces for a consistently successful Bowl-a-thon project. It is a joy to be in the company of this kind and courageous student because she is a genuinely good human being.  It is an absolute pleasure to present the Princeton Book Award to Yvonne Huang.


Good Evening. I’m Patrick Reardon, a member of the Music Department and I will be presenting the Smith College Book Award.

The Smith College Book Award is presented by the Smith College Club of Hartford to an outstanding rising senior who exemplifies the qualities of academic achievement, leadership, and concern for others that characterize the thousands of women who have graduated from Smith College. 

This student has received quite glowing reviews from teachers – all indicative of a worthy recipient of such an award. She is described by teachers as creative and courageous; as possessing poise and spark. She is deeply curious and generous in sharing her learning, doing so with sophistication and grace. The student self-identifies as one who acts with integrity and is dedicated to this institution and all of us here. I concur and am pleased to present the Smith College Book Award to a former JA, my advisee, and your Student Head of School EthiopiAset Garvey.


Hi, my name is John Bryk, I’m a member of the Math and TIE Departments,  and I’m here to present the Trinity College Book Award.

The Trinity College Book Award is presented by the Trinity Club of Hartford on behalf of Trinity alumni who work at Miss Porter’s School. It is presented to a rising senior in high scholastic standing who has rendered service to her school and, most notably, exceptional community service in the Hartford area.

When it comes to Porter’s students, it’s difficult to single one out for their contributions to community service–we have so many service-oriented organizations that any number of students could qualify for this award. However, when you take a look at this individual’s track record, it becomes clear that she is uniquely qualified–you could say that community service is a way of life for her. Her outreach to the community includes work in combating food insecurity through the Farming Food Pantry and Healing Meals. On campus, she gives her time as a leader both as a JA and as Co-Head of Relay for Life. And what does someone with this resume do when she wants to take a break and go on vacation? She travels with family on medical mission trips volunteering with Hands Across the World. Even when she is not engaged in service, this student, with an endlessly sunny demeanor, can’t help but spread her positivity to everyone she meets. She is a humble individual, and I could not be more proud to give this award to Ella Babigian.


Hello, my name is Cate Rigoulot, I’m a member of the Science Department. Tonight I have the privilege to present the Williams College Book Award.

The Williams College Book Award is awarded to a rising senior in the top of her class who has demonstrated intellectual leadership and has made a significant contribution to the extra-curricular life of the school. 

Compassionate and curious, this student embodies what this award is all about. In the classroom, she doesn’t shy away from grappling with complex topics and engages deeply in discussions. As a JA and a head of Spectrum, this student strives to create an inclusive community where every member is seen and heard. In addition, this student is always looking for ways to push and better herself – not just as a student, but as a human being. I am honored to present the Williams College Book Award to Suhaani Rao.


Hello again. I’m Oscar Rollan and I’m back to present the Yale Book Award. 

The Yale Club and Scholarship Foundation of Hartford presents The Yale Book Award to a senior in a rigorous course of study who is among the top students in the class academically and demonstrates effective teamwork and organizational skills. 

This year’s recipient has a way of making learning look effortless. Even through the hard work and challenges, her smile reminds us that grit and persistence are worthwhile. Every challenge is met with the same dedication and determination to make sure the final product is up to her (very high) standards. This year’s recipient loves putting her learning to work by helping other students, arriving to class early in the morning to have a conversation with students from Spain, and being a great team member in any project she is involved with. 

She not only spends her time doing work required for her classes, but she also spends time having fun and enjoying the Porter’s community. As important as schoolwork is, this student makes sure there is time to enjoy life.  I’m honored to present this award to Yaya Familusi.


Hello, I’m Grier Torrence, I will be presenting the St. Lawrence University Book Award this evening. 

The St. Lawrence University Book Award honors the achievements of a high school senior who has displayed a significant commitment to community service.

Through her leadership with the Art Club, this student has initiated several wonderful projects that benefit the community beyond Miss Porter’s School. The exhibitions of artwork that she organized at Hands on Hartford and at the Farmington Senior Center helped reach out to homeless, hungry, and elderly people. She also made many personal holiday cards shared in the Hands on Hartford cafe, warming the hearts of lonely people.  Through the Memory Project, she helped organize the creation of portraits for children in orphanages. Via the Earth Club, she has helped raise funds to improve our environment. Here on campus, she is often making announcements about food conservation, and she organizes plein air painting sessions as she helps us to see and appreciate the beauty of nature. Her heart and mind are always alight with ideas to reach out to improve the lives of others, to share creativity and to care for the environment. This year’s St. Lawrence book award goes to Angel Shi.


Good evening. I’m John Bryk and back again to present the final award this evening, the Miss Porter’s School Computing & Scholarship Award. 

This award honors a student who has distinguished themselves academically, is an active and involved member of their school and community, and demonstrates interest and ability in computing.

Computer science is a highly interdisciplinary endeavor, but it’s only a slight fabrication to suggest that it began in earnest as an offshoot of mathematics. In many ways, computer code looks and feels a lot like mathematical proof. In both cases, an author uses precise language to define and manipulate structures, make logical inferences, and, ultimately and hopefully, carry the reader along to a desired result, whether the reader be human or machine. It is, therefore, fitting that the winner of this award is a student who is a serious student of both disciplines. At Porter’s, she has taken a variety of computer science classes, including AI and Machine Learning and Game Design and App Development. In the latter case, she impressed with her work representing manipulations of a Rubik’s cube via data structures. A passionate learner, she continues her studies outside of Porter’s, honing her skills at the Russian School of Mathematics. And her passion extends to sharing her knowledge with others; for example, she volunteered her time mentoring younger students at a recent hackathon here at Miss Porter’s. It is my pleasure to give this award to Sophia Pidvysotski.


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