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Cum Laude Society welcomes new members


Students, faculty, and parents gathered in the Campbell Center this week to honor the newest 17 members of the Greenhills chapter of the Cum Laude Society.

Greenhills has supported a chapter of the society, which is dedicated to honoring scholastic achievement in secondary schools, since 1981. The organization was founded in 1906 and has nearly 400 chapters in public and independent schools around the world.

Check out a Flickr album of photos here

Poet and essayist Adam Plunkett ’05, who among other noteworthy achievements includes on his resume a stint as poetry editor at The New Republic, was the guest speaker.

Academic honors, Plunkett said, are “a worthy achievement. No reasonable person can doubt how hard it is, how much effort it takes, how stressful it can be, to do so well so consistently at a school as rigorous as Greenhills. … If history is any guide, you’ll do great things.”

Then Plunkett shared a small piece of his own experience at Greenhills.

“I was 14 or 15, a sophomore in Mr. Randolph’s class on British literature, and … I could not have been less distinguished,” Plunkett said. “I wasn’t a musician or an athlete or an actor or an artist of even a very good student.”

Sometimes, he admitted, he felt pretty useless. Even worthless.

But then, as seems to happen frequently at Greenhills, something at school helped change the course of Plunkett’s life.

“I fell in love that semester with (John) Milton’s Sonnet XVI,  a poem in which he seems to tell us that we can be worthy even if we aren’t clearly useful.”

The poem ends with one of the best-known lines in English literature: “They also serve who only stand and waite.”

Plunkett explained that the poem shows the blind poet worrying about not having accomplished much in his life—and indeed wondering whether it’s even worth it to keep trying. But by mid-poem Milton tells himself he must simply be patient. The poet’s commandment to himself is almost a kind of mantra, Plunkett said.

Following the poem’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, Plunkett said, leaves readers two conclusions. On the bright side, “you don’t need to do something useful to be worthwhile.” On the other hand, he added, “if you care at all about being useful, you’re bound to spend a lot of time feeling both useless and worthless.”

That’s where a supportive community like Greenhills can be so helpful to its members, he said.

“We derive a lot of our sense of worth from each other,” Plunkett said. “And not just from other people in general, but from the very people in this room, whom you spend so many years with and know so much about. … You have the power to let each other know that you matter to each other for reasons that have nothing to do with your achievements.”

Be kind to each other, Plunkett urged students, and “go out of your way and honor each other for things that there aren’t any honors for. You have no good reason not to, and you never know what people will remember.”

Newly inducted Cum Laude members of the Class of 2015 are:

  • Karen GuanDSC_1659
  • Dom Johnson
  • Katie Lastoskie
  • Pallavi Prabhu
  • Caroline Randolph
  • Justin Sahota
  • Nick Sandhu
  • Ross Scheinberg
  • Alex Wegrzyn



The first inductees from the class of 2016 include:DSC_1669

  • Andy Barber
  • Monica Choi
  • Charlotte Coster
  • Brigid Cummings
  • Brandon Johnson
  • Shea Sanvordenker
  • Vishal Tien
  • Sabrina Wu
Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.