GPS Seniors Inducted into Cum Laude

Nine receive the school's highest honor
As the Class of 2020 completes its senior year, we recognize and install our newest members into Cum Laude Society. Nine seniors join the company of their high-achieving sisters before them as their chosen faculty members pay tribute to their time at GPS. Gathered virtually on Zoom to witness this event were friends, family, classmates, and teachers who share in the celebration of this honor.

Upper School science teacher and Cum Laude President, Bryant Haynes, welcomed those in attendance. “The Cum Laude Society is dedicated to honoring outstanding scholastic achievement in secondary schools,” Haynes said. He quoted French biologist and chemist Louis Pasteur, saying, “Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.” 

In honor of the inductees, Haynes said, “We honor nine young women who exhibit tenacity. Each chose her own path toward academic excellence, displaying the resolve to push on when things got hard.”

While the girls represent an array of outside interests and pursuits, all are members of either National Honor Society or Beta Club or both. The induction included a speech for each girl from a faculty member, who was selected by the student to speak at her behest.

Astra Silver Burke | Rice University | Ms. Katelyn Dix

Co-president of the Computer Science Club, Astra was awarded a grant from the National Center for Women in Technology and also developed monthly lessons for the Chattanooga Creative Discovery Museum’s Family Fun nights. This National Merit Commended Scholar plans to attend Rice University in the fall.

Astra’s AP English Literature teacher, Kate Dix, began by quoting David Lynch, their favorite director, who has written about the “treasury” inside each person of “consciousness, intelligence, creativity, love, happiness, energy, and peace … unbounded, eternal totality.”

Dix described Astra as a profoundly creative person whose tools are writing, coding, painting, building, and drawing, “each of which she rarely uses in isolation,” she said. “Astra is the type of student who will develop and simulate the conditions of an imagined planet in which to grow tardigrades for a science project; every task, assignment, or interaction is an opportunity for her to push boundaries, make discoveries, and build something new.”

Dix said Astra’s kindness and generosity has her friends often on the receiving end of her focused, attentive affection. She even made her friend group a special video as a Christmas gift. “It is a wonderful thing to encounter a young person with access to the treasury of values and talents that Astra has, and even more of a blessing to see one person take such unique advantage of every one of her gifts.”

Claire Barge Lindeman | Clemson University | Mrs. Diane Walker

As president of Partnerships in the Community, Claire made it her mission to get GPS girls involved in service to our greater community. She also served as an essential member of the GPS/McCallie honors orchestra, the GPS orchestra, and the Tango string quartet. She is also passionate about sailing and will attend Clemson University next fall.

Her AP Calculus AB teacher, Diane Walker, said that “Claire’s brilliance is hidden behind her serene and unassuming nature and her self-confidence is hidden behind her humbleness” and described her student as a servant leader. 

Claire declared in her Chapel Talk, “You’ve got to be your own person because, otherwise, you’ll just hurt yourself” and surprised her friends by singing for her Chapel Talk.

“By putting other people first, Claire helps people develop and perform as highly as possible,” Walker said. “She doesn’t count accomplishments or achievements and has a sincere interest in fostering emotional and spiritual well-being for those around her. Her friends can attest that she gets more excited for you than you do when you share good news or reveal your latest triumph, and she does so with pure joy.”

Walker went on to describe Claire as a servant leader and praised her emotional intelligence, internal confidence, and character and called her a gift to the GPS community.  “Keep up your spirit, keep up your faith; the world is counting on people like you.”

Allison Marie Lockhart | Tulane University | Mrs. Mary Baxter

Allison is the principal cellist of the GPS orchestra, the GPS/McCallie Honors Orchestra, and the Tango string quartet. She competes in cross country and track and is co-president of the science club. She will attend Tulane University. 

Her orchestra teacher, Mary Baxter, proclaimed in her introduction of Allison: The girl is on fire! “I’ve never had a musician with such natural technique and tone quality,” she said. “Her practice philosophy is ‘Do it because you love it’ and she has put in loving hours on the cello, cross country, and in the classroom!”

Allison’s teachers describe her as hardworking, enthusiastic, inquisitive, eager, focused, thoughtful, and self-motivated. Ms. Dix writes that she balances her intellectual seriousness with levity and lightheartedness. “Dr. Harrison tells me she created a life-size guillotine for his AP European History class and that she placed her face on the Mona Lisa when studying Renaissance Art,” Baxter said. “Musically, she has put rock ‘n’ roll next to Baroque, playing solo Bach to introduce Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir.’” 

Baxter described Allison as a “slow-burning ember” when she arrived as an eighth-grader and said she listens deeply and she feels deeply. ”She listens to coaches and classmates to gather information and make decisions. Allie listens to understand, not just to reply. Patient and trustworthy, Allie’s warm embers allow others to have airspace, and offer, like a warm hearth,
what is needed when it is time.”

Jadyn BriShell Matthews | Harvard University | Ms. Jenise Gordon

Student Council class representative for five years and president for the 2019-20 school year, Jadyn can also add co-president of the Health Club, a GPS Ambassador, Terpsichord member, National Merit Commended Scholar, and the first recipient of the Fletcher Bright Arts Fellowship to her list of accolades. This May Court representative is Harvard-bound this fall and asked our Head of Upper School to introduce her.

Jenise Gordon described Jadyn as the “consummate optimist” with a broad smile that is an “outward manifestation of her inner light.”

Her AP Biology teacher, Tracie Marlin Durham ’80, remarked on Jadyn’s maturity and diligence, “knowing that her efforts are not in vain but always aimed at accomplishing her goal.”

One of her best friends, Katie Millican, said, “Love is her favorite word! She puts this word into action for her friends, family, and school” and that Jadyn loves “in an agape way—unconditional and selfless.” 

Gordon called Jadyn a skilled advocate with a “keen sense of justice and fairness” as well as a “student with a sharp intellect, a dancer, a fashionista, a student leader, but, above all, she is an optimist. She sees a glass half-full and wants to fill it to overflowing. If there is a cause she has embraced, a goal she has set, a problem that she sees—Jadyn sets out to tackle it. And I dare you to tell her it can’t be done.” 

Katherine Grace Millican | Baylor University | Ms. Cathie Ault Kasch '72

A member of Terpsichord and Tucker River Fellows, Katie also helps lead River Girls, the middle school conservation club she co-founded, and works with Wyldlife and as a NHS tutor. Her original choreography earned her a third-place award at the Tennessee Association for Dance competition. Katie will attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

By way of introduction, Cathie Ault Kasch ’72, Director of Terpsichord, was able to shine the spotlight on “a girl who never seeks it.”

Kasch described Katie as a combination of intellectual curiosity and scholarly discipline. “[She] is compassionate, dependable, and unfailingly kind. She is the girl who notices when someone is quietly struggling and moves alongside her. She is the friend who can carry your secrets and love you through difficult times. She is deeply anchored by the love of her family, and I know she anchors them as well.”

Her ‘sweetness and light’ are juxtaposed when she takes the stage to dance. “She explosively expresses a full gamut of emotion: the passion for life, the despair of loss, the fury at injustice,” Kasch said. “When Katie dances, she holds back nothing.” 

In closing, Kasch recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs,” saying the passage describes the very essence of Katie Millican. 

Sana Nisar | Augusta University | Mr. Keith Sanders

As an Amnesty International leader, Sana worked to educate her classmates about worldwide human rights and, as the science club co-president, she planned experiments for guests at the Creative Discovery Museum. She led Model UN as its president this year and was elected as a Supreme Court Justice at Volunteer Girls State. Sana will begin the BS/MD program at Augusta University/Medical College of Georgia this fall.

Her AP Chemistry teacher, Keith Sanders, said those who describe Sana as taciturn, stoic, data-oriented, restrained, know only part of the story. “While she speaks sparingly, it is in part because of her restraint and in part because of her tremendous intellectual horsepower coupled with a depth and maturity of character. When she speaks, people listen, and learn.”

Her college counselor, Amelia Mann, described Sana’s superpower as “using her intelligence to teach and lead others, to instigate change, to serve, and to keep learning.” Her friends appreciate Sana’s honesty, and she is known for being one they can rely on for good, straightforward advice or a listening ear.

Sanders closed with Winston Churchill’s description of Russia: a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. “Sana Nisar isn't that difficult to know,” he said. “Perhaps, at times, she does play her cards a little close to the vest. But, an enigma? Only if you aren't paying attention to how she moves in the world.”

Margaret Ann Priest | University of Tennessee Knoxville | Mr. Chris Zeller

A soccer standout, Meg was twice the defensive MVP, named to the all-state and all-region teams, and part of the 2018 state championship team. Selected to be a Volunteer Girls State delegate, she can include senior representative on the Honor Council, National Merit Commended Scholar, and May Court representative to her list of accomplishments as she heads to UT Knoxville this fall.

Her AP Calculus BC teacher, Chris Zeller, welcomed her to Cum Laude. “I am fortunate to work with a lot of successful students,” he said, “but every so often, we are blessed, as educators, to encounter someone who raises the bar a bit higher.”

Zeller described Meg as a person of utmost character. “A few years back, and in the midst of a state playoff game, this tenacious player put the goal of winning a state championship aside in order to take care of an injured opponent. While many would consider the competitive edge of an opponent being down, for Meg, it is always paramount to do what is right and just.”

In order to achieve Meg’s level of success requires discipline, dedication, grit, and perseverance. “We thank Meg for representing herself, her family, her friends, and especially her school with habitual excellence,” Zeller said.

Zeller closed with a summation of Meg’s attributes. “She approaches each act with sincere and intense conviction, doing her best and to make those around her better as well.”

Leightta Emily Sherrill | Boston University | Ms. Laura Vedas

A National Merit Commended Scholar, actor, and director, Leightta is also president of the TedEd club, a member of Amnesty International, and served as an Honor Council representative. In December, she was elected to the GPS May Court and will attend Boston University this fall.

Upper School Dean of Students Laura Vedas said, “Although your intellect, work ethic, and dedication as a student are impressive, they are not what impresses me most about you. Instead, it is your character, compassion, and courage I find most impressive and worthy of emulation.”

Through Honor Council, Vedas witnessed Leightta’s maturity and wisdom, sensitivity and compassion, discretion and trustworthiness. “You have modeled empathetic listening, the ability to ask questions rather than make assumptions, the tendency to extend the benefit of the doubt, and the inclination to always believe the best in someone,” Vedas said.

She went on to praise Leightta for her acting and directing prowess, her confidence, her professionalism, and her maturity. “Of all of the Chapel Talks that I have heard this year, yours is one that stands out in my mind for its earnestness, honesty, wholeheartedness. Similarly, your impactful Ted-Ed talk this year was delivered from a place of trusting vulnerability and unmatched courage.”

As Leightta leaves GPS, Vedas implored her to never lose her “uncompromising sense of conviction, your deep compassion for others, and your courageous spirit that will always, without fail or exception, choose the right thing over the easy thing.” 

Isabelle Starr Torrence | Baylor University | Mrs. Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90

A member of Tucker River Fellows and Terpsichord, Isabelle’s choreography piece “Barriers” received a first-place recognition at the Tennessee Association of Dance festival in 2019. Isabelle will attend Baylor University in Waco, Texas, this fall.

As Isabelle’s dance teacher, Zahrobsky introduced her with a description of Isabelle’s creative process that takes place mostly … in her car. “Isabelle and I share a commonality that I’m not sure even she knows about,” Zahrobsky said. “We both choreograph in our cars! Isabelle began as a therapeutic way back to driving. She needed to sit in solitude, surrounded by music, and let the idea of movement bring her to a fearless place where she could feel in control, a place where she could safely reflect on a scary event.”

That process led to Isabelle’s winning piece at the TAD Festival. “It wouldn’t be the last time she used a personal experience to produce a brilliant piece of choreography,” Zahrobsky said.

She went on to describe Isabelle as a motivated scholar, deliberate planner, skilled collaborator, and strong communicator. “She is a deep thinker and diplomatic leader. She is a listener. She thrives in group settings but acknowledges when she needs alone time to recharge.”

Zahrobsky then echoed Isabelle’s own words back to her: “Every now and then, stop in your pursuit of happiness and let yourself be happy in that moment.” 

In Closing
Haynes challenged the newly initiated members: “continue pushing for answers, continue stretching your limits, and continue in your tenacity.”

He concluded by asking everyone in attendance to join in the singing of “The Alma Mater,” the GPS school song, led by Sarah Kalla ’22.

Welcome to Cum Laude, girls. Well done!

The Cum Laude Committee
Mr. Haynes, president
Ms. Berotti · Ms. Gordon
Mrs. Hamilton · Mrs. Walker

The Cum Laude Motto
Areté - Excellence
Diké - Justice
Timé - Honor

To view the video of the virtual ceremony, visit our YouTube channel.