11 Students Inducted into Oak Knoll Chapter of Cum Laude Society

Oak Knoll seniors inducted into the society this year, from left: Aleena Ahmed ’24, Claire Lezynski ’24, Lucia Sylva ’24, Margaret Minter ’24, and Katherine Failla ’24.

Five seniors and six juniors were recognized for their academic excellence and inducted into Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society on Friday, April 5, 2024, in the Mother Mary Campion Center for the Performing Arts. Inductees and their families gathered for a small reception in the Aileen Maury Dining Hall following the ceremony.

Students were inducted into Cum Laude — a society that recognizes academic achievement in secondary schools for the purpose of promoting excellence, justice, and honor — during a ceremony for grades 7-12 with family, faculty, and staff.

The Oak Knoll seniors inducted into the society this year, in combination with the seniors who were inducted last year as juniors, represent the top 20 percent of the Class of 2024.

Seniors inducted this year include Aleena Ahmed ’24, of New Vernon; Katherine Failla ’24, of Chatham, Claire Lezynski ’24, of Westfield; Margaret Minter ’24, of Chatham; and Lucia Sylva ’24, of Morristown.

The seniors were joined by their classmates inducted last year as juniors including Eve Carbeau ’24, of Summit; Danielle Delano ’24, of Summit; Lucy Duttenhofer ’24, of Summit; Abigail Flood ’24, of Glen Ridge; Kylie Reape ’24, of Morristown; Rory Weldon ’24, of Summit.

Juniors inducted this year include Beatrice Burton ’25, of Chatham; Avery Drone ’25, of Summit; Zoe Harmaty ’25, of Basking Ridge; Cora Laborde ’25, of West Orange; Amelia Pace ’25, of Morristown; and Lauren White ’25, of Summit.

Juniors inducted this year from left: Zoe Harmaty ’25, Beatrice Burton ’25, Lauren White ’25, Amelia Pace ’25, Avery Drone ’25 and Cora Laborde ’25.

Oak Knoll alumna Katherine Scott-Herbout ’14 was the Cum Laude keynote speaker and addressed the new inductees during the ceremony. While at Oak Knoll, she was valedictorian of her class at Oak Knoll and served as president of our French newsletter, and was a member of the Soccer team, the Untucked newspaper staff, and the Varsity Math League.

“Today, we celebrate not just your achievement but the resilience, dedication, and sacrifices that have shaped your journey here,” said Katherine, who graduated from Harvard University in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Mathematics and from Columbia University in 2023 with a Master of Arts in Statistics. “Your perseverance through uncertain times is commendable and serves as a testament to your strength and character.”

Katherine is a quantitative trader at the Royal Bank of Canada with six years of experience working with different asset classes. Over the last two years Katherine has taken on a leadership role at the Royal Bank of Canada’s Women’s Advisory Board, where she mentors women in college, giving them exposure to careers in finance.

Her speech not only celebrated the inductees but also served as a poignant reminder of the enduring values Oak Knoll instills in its students. She offered advice to the newly inducted members, emphasizing continuous learning, the importance of stepping out of one’s comfort zone, and the essence of enjoying the learning process.

“The years spent here at Oak Knoll were some of the most transformative of my life,” she reflected.

Jennifer Peterson, Upper School Dean of Teaching and Learning, is president of Oak Knoll’s Cum Laude chapter. Additional Oak Knoll faculty members serving as permanent members include English Teacher Dr. Sylvia McTague, Upper School Division Head Kate McGroarty, and Head of School Jennifer G. Landis. Serving three-year terms include Librarian Elinor Takenaga and English Teacher Ben Oxford.

“Your dedication, perseverance, and commitment to academic excellence is inspiring and to be commended,” said Head of School Jennifer G. Landis. “Thank you for being an example to all of us. Cum Laude is different. It is not about a single assessment, or a single semester, or even a single year. It represents three or four years of dedication, and that’s why it is considered excellence.”

Landis quoted Aristotle when she said, “Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.

“This is so true,” Landis continued. “The choices you have all made to recognize and embrace your God-given intellect and then apply commitment and effort is why we are here.”

Oak Knoll formally became part of the Cum Laude Society 38 years ago. The Cum Laude Society originated in Maryland in 1906 to ensure that scholastic achievement be accorded as much recognition as that given to other accomplishments.