On the morning of Wednesday, June 3, 2020, the St. Mark's chapter of the Cum Laude Society held a virtual induction ceremony. Fifteen VI Formers were installed as St. Mark's newest Cum Laude honorees.
Membership in the Cum Laude Society is granted to students who have consistently shown outstanding academic excellence and promise by vote of the faculty who are members of the St. Mark's Cum Laude Society. The St. Mark's Cum Laude Society is made up of faculty members who were Cum Laude at their high school, Phi Beta Kappa at their college, or elected by the Cum Laude Committee.
As a prelude for Wednesday's event, Xuantong Taylor Zhou '23 performed "Innocent"—a piano piece by Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi. Classics Department Chair Jeanna Cook, in her role as secretary of the St. Mark's chapter, presented the history of the Cum Laude organization.
Founded in 1906 at the Tome School in Maryland, there are currently 382 Chapters of the Cum Laude Society. The St. Mark's Chapter was established in 1943 and its first members were inducted in 1944. While St. Mark's has been a part of the national Cum Laude Society for 76 years, for more than half that time Rick Umiker has been part of St. Mark's. Currently the School's Senior Teacher, for 44 years Mr. Umiker has exemplified the academic excellence central to the mission of Cum Laude. As president of St. Mark's Cum Laude chapter, Mr. Umiker followed Ms. Cook's presentation with his own remarks. As it is his last ceremony as President, his remarks were expanded, taking the role of the traditional featured speaker.
Mr. Umiker opened with a passage from St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. He then used the metaphor of teaching a child to ride a bicycle to talk about letting the young take off in their lives. Describing his growing up in a time of racial discord and even pandemic in the late 60s and early 70s—in the words of musician Gil Scott Heron: "Winter in America"—he compared then to now. He urged students to hold on to moral and ethical measures of greatness. "Housing, food, health, education, and justice," he said, "these are the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, loving, and commendable." This gives us "hope over fear and unity over division." He concluded by saying "We can and must do better by caring for each other" and he recognized the unique opportunity inherent in an "intentionally small" St. Mark's community. He also reminded his listeners that humor and laughter also have an important place in our lives, no matter the challenges.
The certificates were then awarded to the following VI Formers: Yuxuan Chen, Yevheniia (Jane) Dubrova, John (Jack) Francis Griffin, Helen Zhou Huang, Junyoung (Chris) Lee, Samantha Williams Leslie, Aditya Narasimha Mynampaty, Joonsuk (Jason) Park, Luis Angel Perez Galan, Laura Elvira Sabino, Sophie Elizabeth Student, Yujing (Jenny) Tang, Lanruo (Lora) Xie, Julian Yang, and Anishka Aruna Yerabothu. As a student's names were read out, a photograph of each with their Cum Laude certificate appeared on the screen.
Ms. Cook then thanks Mr. Umiker for his four decades and more of service to St. Mark's and the Cum Laude Society. Mr. Umiker thanked Ms. Cook for organizing the virtual event, Mrs. Sandra Levandowski of the communications department for preparing the program and the slides, and Mr. Ron Boston and the St. Mark's tech department for all of the work that went into not only the Cum Laude presentation but more than two months of remote learning. He then announced that veteran faculty member Dr. Peter Glomset of the English department will be the new President of the Cum Laude Society at St. Mark's. The Rev. Barbara Talcott, School chaplain, concluded the proceedings with a blessing.
Congratulations to these 15 St. Markers, whose academic excellence has been recognized by their election to the Cum Laude Society.