Outstanding undergraduate students were selected for the Ward Melville and H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian awards. The recipients were awarded these recognitions based on extracurricular activities and leadership positions alongside exceptional academic results.
Here is the list of recipients:
Ward Melville Valedictorian Award
This is the University’s most distinguished undergraduate honor named for the first chairperson of the Council of Stony Brook University. The Ward Melville Valedictorian Award goes to the graduating senior or seniors who have attained the most outstanding academic record during four years at Stony Brook. This year, 14 seniors were recognized with this distinction.
Jeanette Blanchette was a member of the Honors College, Pi Sigma Alpha and Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA. Her work on political polarization was published on the political science website. One of her most important accomplishments was acquiring an internship in Washington, D.C. on national security and foreign policy.
John Boccio graduated with a BE in computer engineering and a minor in computer science. He has worked as a research assistant for Stony Brook’s COMPAS Lab where he completed his thesis on deep neural network accelerators. He has also held various internship positions at CA Technologies, Intelligent Product Solutions, Zebra and Apple. Following graduation, he will be returning to Apple as a software engineer on the multitouch team.
Alexander Chirokikh served as a general/organic chemistry teaching assistant for a year and as vice president/president of the Stony Brook Tennis Club for two years. He also engaged in undergraduate research in orthopedics, during which he participated in the University of Rochester Summer Scholars program and presented two abstracts at the URECA celebration symposium. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society as a junior and will begin medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry this fall.
Olivia Comer graduated with a bachelor of science in chemistry. At Stony Brook, she was part of the University Scholars program and worked as a mentor in their Peer Assistant Leaders program for three years. She did undergraduate research in the Department of Chemistry and was a member of the Philippine United Student Organization’s ballroom dance team. In the fall she will be attending Queens College to earn her master of arts in teaching chemistry.
Lillian Ehrlich graduated in three years with a double major in applied mathematics & statistics and economics. She served on the Executive Board of the SBU Investment Club and SBU Economics, and became president of both. She received the Robert S. Roth Scholarship for Economics in Fall 2019. Upon graduation, she received the Provost’s Award for Academic Excellence, the Award of Honor in Applied Mathematics & Statistics, and Honors in Economics.
Dana Keiser graduated with a major in linguistics and a minor in classics. She was a teaching assistant within the Department of Linguistics and participated in a research internship analyzing the phonetics of second language learners of English. She also completed a study abroad internship at the library of Florence University of the Arts in Italy. She will be attending Queens College in the fall to pursue her master’s degree in library science with a school library media specialization.
Michelle Melfi graduated from Stony Brook University with a bachelor of arts in biology and sociology and a minor in health, medicine, and society. In her time at Stony Brook, she was a biology teaching assistant, two-term president of the Stony Brook Volunteer Ambulance Corps, University Scholars peer assistant leader, Admissions Department tour guide, and Global Medical Brigades volunteer. She is now pursuing graduate studies in nutrition at Stony Brook and applying to medical school.
Angelina Pagano is a graduate of Stony Brook University’s Honors College. In three years, she completed her political science degree with a concentration in American government, law, and public policy. Outside of the classroom, she worked as a research assistant for Professor Nam as part of The Nam Lab: a research collective dedicated to political psychology and social justice. In her final year, she joined the Political Science Honors Program, allowing her to complete a year-long independent thesis. She was also an active member of the University’s Pre-Law Society and an intern at the Suffolk County DA’s Office.
Kunal Shah experienced mentorship and diversity as a biology major and part of the Honors College. He conducted research in Miriam Rafailovich’s lab since high school, interned at and wrote the patent for a non-profit organization, Mosquitoes Be Gone, and tutored high school and college students in standardized and academic areas. As a part of the eight-year BS/MD program, he became an aspiring physician who will be attending the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook in the fall.
A University Scholar, Peony Tse graduated with a BS in social work, a BA in sociology and a minor in international studies. She received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the Senior Scholar of the Year award. She was the New York District Governor for Circle K International, a student ambassador, a Gilman Scholar, and a JFEW SUNY Global Affairs Scholar. Passionate about education, she will be a Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia next year.
Robert C. Wenner graduated summa cum laude from Stony Brook University with majors in philosophy and political science and minors in English and creative writing. For his work in the Department of Philosophy, including an independent study and a senior honors thesis project on the various definitions of consciousness, he was awarded the Socratic Legacy Commendation. In the fall, he will be attending the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
Rachel Witt graduated from the combined BS/MAT program at Stony Brook for secondary science education in biology and chemistry. Her goal is to combine her love of science with her passion for making a difference by educating and inspiring young minds. She will be starting her full-time teaching position this fall.
William Xiang is a computer science student with interdisciplinary interests, including music and philosophy, and he is currently pursuing a BS degree. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA and developed good relationships with many professors throughout his experience at Stony Brook University.
Other students recognized with this prestigious award were Caroline Cubells (biology major) and John Boccio (computer engineering major).
Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award
Three students were awarded the H. Lee Dennison Valedictorian Award, named in honor of Suffolk County’s first chief executive. This recognition is presented to the graduating senior or seniors who entered Stony Brook as a transfer student, completed at least 60 credits of letter grade work at Stony Brook and attained the most outstanding academic record at Stony Brook in that work.
During her time at Stony Brook University, Gabrielle Cadwallader majored in linguistics. She was an undergraduate TA for Syntax and participated in an internship with Professor Huffman that involved research with vowels in people learning a second language. She studied abroad in Russia and Europe, and graduated summa cum laude a semester early. She plans on attending graduate school in Fall 2021.
Alana Wong had the opportunity to explore several topics and concepts within her academic major and minors at Stony Brook University. She transferred to Stony Brook in 2017 with a major in Asian and Asian American studies and a double minor in Japanese studies and religious studies.
Another student recognized with this prestigious award was Hunter Ford (biology major).