GPS Seniors Inducted into Cum Laude

Ten receive the school's highest honor
As the Class of 2021 completes its senior year, we first recognize and install our newest members into Cum Laude Society. Ten seniors join the company of their high-achieving sisters before them as their chosen faculty members pay tribute to their time at GPS. Graduating classmates and family members joined the inductees in the Frierson Theatre while underclassmen, teachers, and friends joined virtually via livestream.

English Department Chair Katy Berotti welcomed those in attendance and explained the importance of the day. “The national Cum Laude Society was organized over a century ago to recognize extraordinary scholastic achievement in secondary schools. Each girl we induct today earned this honor by excelling in rigorous GPS courses,” she said. 

In honor of the inductees, Berotti said, “Their stories share common themes of intelligence, curiosity, and diligence, but these are diverse characters—some flashy, some quiet, some edgy, and some well-rounded—who all work hard and contribute collectively to the value of a GPS education.”

While the girls represent an array of outside interests and pursuits, all are members of either National Honor Society, 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.

Morgan Amelia Brown | Ohio State University | Dr. Ralph Covino

Determined to make an impact, Morgan has been a three year member of the Partnerships in the Community, she was selected for Volunteer Girls' State, and she attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference. She is also a GPS Admission Ambassador and a member of the climbing team.

“To strive to be the best is not an accident of birth or coincidence; it requires a conscious choice, a deliberate decision to become the one who achieves the superlative,” said Dr. Ralph Covino. “Morgan Brown is one of the girls who made that difficult choice.” 

Morgan’s choice to strive for greatness started, according to Covino, with her decision to take Latin. “Brown's choice to take the more difficult path all but demanded that her growth process qua student be accelerated,” he said. He stated that one of the GPS founders, Ms. Tommie Payne Duffy, said in an interview that colleges prefer Latin students, because learning Latin teaches them to think.

Covino said Morgan told him recently that the most important things she’s learned at GPS are to study and learn. He says those have served her well in all of her courses, and that it’s easy to forget the work behind the success. “We often forget the toil and the labor that go into making a success of something and fixate on the result,” but Morgan has always put in the effort to grow.

Covino closed his speech quoting another GPS founder, Ms. Eula Lea Jarnigan, who when asked why students study Latin replied, “Discipline!” Covino thought it apropos that the motto of Ohio State University, where Morgan plans to study industrial design, is Disciplina in Civitatem.

Katherine Frances Day | University of Alabama Huntsville | Mr. Keith Sanders

A National Merit Commended Scholar, Katie is a member of GPS Honors Orchestra, the McCallie Wind Ensemble, and Pep Band. She has also been a member of Tucker River Fellows, Mock Trial, and SWENext: the Society of Women Engineers Next Generation. She serves as president of the Video Club.

Her AP Chemistry teacher, Keith Sanders, described Katie as “complex in so many ways, but transparent regarding many of her passions and, more importantly, her compassion.” He also joked that she would be forced to face the “curse of the multi-talented,” meaning she will eventually have to choose between her many passions, which range from music to science, world languages (she is learning Russian for fun!), Mock Trial, and more. She even turned a volunteer opportunity at an autoshop into a paying gig.

Sanders continued his speech noting that many of Katie’s passions relate back to her compassion: She helps people in need whenever she can, from volunteering around town to investigating the development of affordable prostheses and even winning the highest award Blood Assurance offers high school students.

Quotes from teacher Amelia Mann, friend Annie Thrash, and Katie’s mom rounded out the sentiments offered about Katie, and Sanders closed with this: “Complex? Absolutely. But less so if you pay attention to how she lives her life. GPS graduates are so often a gift to wherever they go. I doubt this has never been truer than for wherever Katie Day lands.”

Lily Elaine DuPlooy | Cornell University  | Mrs. Tracie Marlin Durham ’80

Lily is a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and plays first violin in the GPS honors orchestra. She was also chosen by her peers to be a member of the 2021 May Court. A scientist at heart, she has been a research assistant for a chemistry professor at UTC and is a member of SWENext: the Society of Women Engineers Next Generation.

AP Biology teacher, Mrs. Tracie Marlin Durham ’80, welcomed Lily into Cum Laude, joking that her advisor, Dr. Montero, had said it was time to graduate “because she had run out of advanced classes to take.” 

Durham also admitted her first impression of Lily was all wrong—she isn’t a loner. “I saw her patiently working with her classmates in lab and on group assignments, explaining complex concepts without showing any signs of frustration,” she said. “And instead of having one person introduce her for her Chapel Talk, she had four. (OK, she had one person read her introduction, but it was for four of her friends.) They all shared how she is unselfish, willing to be there for them, and talented outside of academics.”

Beyond her academic success, Durham said Lily is an incredible artist, a talented cook, a musician, and a scientist. In fact, Lily chose to spend a couple of hours every Tuesday afternoon at UTC working in the inorganic chemistry lab. “She investigated emissive platinum compounds containing either a halogen bonding donor or acceptor with the goal of incorporating these compounds into organic light emitting diodes,” she said and then quipped, “While I’m sure most of you didn’t understand what I just said, Lily does.”

Durham ended her speech saying how lucky Cornell is to be gaining Lily—“a true Renaissance woman.”

Molly Ann Hathorne | Loyola University Chicago | Mrs. Erin Davis Sizemore ’98

Molly is co-editor-in-chief of Kaleidoscope, the GPS yearbook, editor of Spectrum, and a three-year member of Terpsichord. She is also a member of Beta Club, National Honor Society, and Candlelight Choir, and serves the Admission Office as a GPS Ambassador.

Science teacher and Dean of the Senior Class, Erin Davis Sizemore ’98 spoke on behalf of Molly, comparing her to the wind—propelled forward by various important tailwinds like her parents, brother, and friends, but also propelling others forward during collaborative classroom activities, Terpsichord rehearsals, and mission work through her church.

Sizemore said, like the wind, Molly is not loud, boastful, or obtrusive. “But when she talks, everyone absolutely quietens and listens, as they know whatever Molly has to say is kind, thoughtful, insightful, intuitive, and relevant. They feel the breeze.”

Following quotes from Molly’s Terpsichord Director Laurel Moore Zahrobsky ’90 and a story from Molly’s mom about the moment they decided she would attend GPS, Sizemore continued her sentiments, noting that Molly has embraced all of the opportunities available to her at GPS. 

Sizemore joked that while Molly has handled her coursework and extracurriculars with relative ease, her favorite way to decompress is “bellowing Taylor Swift, her favorite artist, during her 30-minute commute home to McDonald, Tennessee.”

To close, Sizemore shared a Jeff Bezos quote and encouraged Molly to “lean into the change, feel the power, and soar to your maximum altitude.”

Mia Gibbs Iannios | George Washington University | Mrs. Diane Walker

Mia is president of the GPS Girl Scouts and a multi-year Student Council representative. She is also a GPS Ambassador, a student leader in the Environmental Club, and a member of GyPsieS, our school spirit organization. Mia serves on the Chattanooga Mayor's Youth Council and frequently practices yoga in her spare time. She recently completed her yoga teacher certification.

Diane Walker, math teacher, welcomed Mia to Cum Laude, telling the crowd she is “soulful.” Walker said that “soul” has to do with genuineness and depth, which require special crafting. “Because of Mia’s sensitivity to the way things are done, soul did not pour into her life automatically; it required her skill and attention. She crafted her soul-filled journey,” she said.

Walker also said that Mia lives up to the GPS mission statement by living a life of integrity and purpose and cultivating her self-confidence. “For one of many examples, she chose to take an AP art class this year instead of a science course in order to explore her creative side. She walked away from cheer and instead pursued certification as a yoga instructor,” she said. “This pursuit further deepened her journey of soulfulness and expounded her love for nature, solidified her own well-being, and intensified her concern for others.”

Mia, Walker said, stays true to herself, nurtures her soul and intellectual curiosity, and has a fearless attitude. 

To end her speech, Walker stated, “Behind every good woman is another good woman,” highlighting the close relationship between Mia and her mother, who knew she would be challenged, pushed, nurtured at GPS. “Where the best in Mia would be cultivated.”

Talley Elizabeth Lyons | LeHigh University | Ms. Jenise Gordon

Talley is director of organization and management for Amnesty International, a stage manager for daily assemblies, and head art editor for Calliope. She was selected for Girls' State her junior year, and she is also an actress in GPS theater productions.

“You’ve been duped,” began Jenise Gordon, Head of Upper School, in her speech about Talley. “You think Talley Lyons is the quintessential GPS girl. Well … that’s what she WANTED you to think. From the outside, she appears to be an intelligent and talented high school student. But Talley is a girl who knows how to keep mum; she is a master of disguises, she’s known as mature, and she’s a math wiz. Together it can add up to only one thing—the TRUTH—Talley Lyons is a CIA operative who has been posted here at GPS for almost seven years.”

Gordon’s suggestion that Talley is actually a CIA operative is obvious through her discretion (read: good listener), ability to blend in (read: so fashionable she purposely chose a school where she’d be forced to wear a uniform and amassed a long and impressive rap sheet acting in theater productions), and her maturity (read: is she actually just 17 years old?!).

Gordon concluded that, while there’s a very real chance Talley has bugged the Frierson Theatre while serving as head of the tech crew, her mission has been accomplished here, and the next step is to LeHigh University this fall.

Hunter Elizabeth McVay | University of Georgia | Mr. Chris Zeller

The starting center back on the GPS soccer team, Hunter was elected co-captain of the squad this year. She's also played for a club team during her high school career. A National Merit Scholarship Finalist, Hunter is a member of the National Spanish Honors Society and GyPsieS.

Relentless and persistent were two words Hunter’s math teacher Chris Zeller used to describe her in his speech. He also called her “a model student-athlete” who fought through injury and adversity to captain a #1-ranked varsity soccer team last fall, resulting in being named to the All-State team.

Her work on the pitch was not her only accomplishment. “Hunter’s well-rounded excellence makes her a versatile and essential member of our community,” Zeller said. He also quoted another teacher who said, “Impressive without pretension, Hunter could indeed roll with intention from clique to clique, from team to classroom to volunteer experience, and fit in each space with helpful, humble gratitude. In truth, each space should be grateful to have her.”

As he continued his speech, he noted that Hunter’s “press on” attitude will help her navigate obstacles and successes in her future, and how her personality and confidence make her a joy in the classroom. He said, “As a learner, Hunter is curious and determined, regardless of the topic. Many of her teachers note how discussions benefit from Hunter’s candor. Her confidence and straightforward honesty are not abrasive, and her persistent excellence brings others up.”

Zeller’s speech ended by noting that, while Hunter plans to pursue computer science in the future, he wouldn’t be surprised to see her sharing that knowledge as a teacher one day.

Margaret Jane Parsley | University of Southern California | Ms. Callie Hamilton

Maggie is the editor-in-chief of Calliope, the GPS creative writing publication, and a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. She is the president of National Honor Society, an editor of GPS school newspaper Spectrum, and also attended Governor's School.

Her AP U.S. History teacher, Callie Hamilton, began her speech by proposing that “the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of Maggie Parsley are quite similar.” She detailed how, just like the legislative branch of the U.S. government has two chambers, so too does Maggie—head and heart. Her intellect, Hamilton noted, allows Maggie to tackle a multitude of topics simultaneously while racking up academic accolades, while her heart shines through in her friendships, family ties, and unshakeable loyalty.

Hamilton’s metaphor touched on Maggie’s executive branch next, which, while designed to carry out her own goals, is guided by her understanding of the world around her. “... she grasps that her actions have an impact beyond herself. Thus, she intentionally shapes that impact, which is why she uses her skills to teach English to new immigrants; why she has not only managed her own college application process but also assisted an Iraqi friend in hers; why she has helped broaden citizenship—or sisterhood—here at GPS,” she said.

Finally, Hamilton touched on the judicial branch, saying Maggie is too humble, wise, and curious to settle for simple answers. She then pondered her future before closing, “Maggie was born a scholar. Hard work undergirds mastery. Creativity, integrity, and compassion lift her outside of herself. Her constitution is sound.”

Astha Sinha | Undecided | Mr. Bryant Haynes

Astha is chairwoman of Class Leadership Council and founder of the Entrepreneurship Club. She is also a member of Terpsichord, Model UN, and Computer Science Club. A GPS Ambassador, Astha was chosen by the student body to be on the 2021 GPS May Court.

AP Physics teacher Bryant Haynes welcomed Astha into Cum Laude, explaining her name, when translated from Hindi to English means “faith.” “That’s a word with many synonyms—trust, confidence, conviction, reliance, belief, hope, and expectation. That’s a word Astha Sinha embodies,” he said.

To illustrate his point, Haynes mentioned Astha’s turn as the only sixth-grader working the orchestra pit during the performance of Legally Blonde as an example of her faithfulness to her studies and commitments.

He noted she has always been faithful in her correspondence, as well. “Besides doing excellent work in the classroom, she sent me photos and videos of the many physics experiments and demonstrations: from the bowling ball pendulum, to the jumping rings, to the Coolidge Park carousel,” he said. She even sent photos of giant windmills generating electricity while on a college tour.

He continued his description of Astha saying she is “a savvy entrepreneur, faithful to her classmates, faithful to her school, and faithful to her community,” serving others in a multitude of ways from launching the Classy Closet to leading the Class Leadership Council, writing grants to create summer opportunities for others, and more.

Haynes closed saying, “I cannot see the particulars of your life ahead, but I believe in the Astha that I have come to know.”

AnnMarie Louise Thrash  | University of Central Florida | Ms. Jordan McCarter ’96

Annie is a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist and a member of Mock Trial and Model UN. She is a leader in and founding member of the Gender and Sexuality Forum and is also a member of Amnesty International. She serves the theater department both behind the scenes and on stage as a member of the tech crew and an actress.

Jordan McCarter ’96 introduced Annie stating, “Once, in the seventh grade, Annie got the answer to a question wrong. I think it was just the one time.” She said that when she told Annie she was wrong, Annie was incredulous. “She wasn’t embarrassed; Annie is never afraid to not know something. Not knowing something is just an opportunity to learn. See, Annie loves information. She loves to know things. At the same time, her insatiable curiosity prompts her to ask deep questions … to not know things, as well.”

McCarter said Annie’s ability to learn and to ask meaningful questions led to a debate about healthcare in Middle School. I remember at some point thinking to myself, “Am I really arguing with a 12-year-old about federal policy?” she said. The answer was, yes.

While Annie has challenged herself with a rigorous academic schedule, she hasn’t only been successful in the classroom. “Her learning isn’t just reflected in her grades and test scores, though; it is reflected in her character. It’s who she is,” McCarter said. She has served on the Honor Council for four years and has a passion for equity and justice. “Knowledge is the tool she uses to lift others up,” said McCarter.

McCarter ended her speech, admitting she can already see how Annie’s college professors will be in awe of her next year.


Ms. Berotti concluded the program by congratulating the new members on their accomplishments and thanking the audience for joining this special celebration of academic excellence. The singing of “The Alma Mater,” the GPS school song, followed. 

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.