13 Students Inducted Into Oak Knoll Chapter of Cum Laude Society

Seniors inducted into the Cum Laude Society this year include Alysa Ali ’22, Sarah McManus ’22, Sophia Pharaon ’22, Siobhan Stack ’22, Eliana Sylva ’22 and Kate Urbinato ’22.

Six seniors and seven 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, March 11, 2022, 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 an in-person ceremony for grades 11 and 12, family, faculty, and staff and over a live Zoom to grades 7-10 Upper School classrooms. 

The OKS 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 2022. 

Seniors inducted this year include Alysa Ali ’22 of Watchung, Sarah McManus ’22 of Chatham, Sophia Pharaon ’22 of Short Hills, Siobhan Stack ’22 of Bloomfield, Eliana Sylva ’22 of Summit and Kate Urbinato ’22 of Westfield.

The seniors were joined in person by their classmates inducted last year as juniors including Gabrielle Delano ’22 of Summit, Teagan Kocaj ’22 of Summit, Caroline Nestor ’22 of Madison, Janet Pearce ’22 of Morristown, Samantha Petrucco ’22 of Short Hills and Sophie Wilkinson ’22 of Randolph.

Juniors inducted into the Society include Iman Ali ’23 of Watchung, Katherine Gupta ’23 of Berkeley Heights, Catherine Huegel ’23 of Essex Fells, Katie Nguyen ’23 of Watchung, Clara O’Mara ’23 of Basking Ridge, Laura Ryan ’23 of Madison and Katherine Siedem ’23 of Madison.

Oak Knoll alumna Amanda Fritz ’12 was the Cum Laude keynote speaker and addressed the new inductees during the ceremony.

“What I wish I could tell my 18-year-old self as I prepared to go to college, is to have an open mind and seize the moment and take advantage of everything that is presented to you,” said Fritz, who graduated from Dartmouth College and is currently studying for her MBA at Columbia Business School in New York City. 

“At each crux you are presented with two doors — each leading down a different path to another set of doors and so on. Some paths will be easier than others, and some will have serious impacts on your future. How you respond to these choices is very important,” said Fritz, who was Oak Knoll’s 2012 class Valedictorian.  

“Given the next chapter of your lives, I encourage you to keep an open mind as new opportunities lead to new perspectives, follow your passion and don’t simply follow the crowd – going outside your comfort zones is the best way to discover where your true passions lie,” she said. 

Juniors inducted into the Cum Laude Society include Iman Ali ’23, Katherine Gupta ’23, Catherine Huegel ’23, Katie Nguyen ’23, Clara O’Mara ’23, Laura Ryan ’23 and Katherine Siedem ’23.

Jennifer Peterson, Upper School Dean of Teaching and Learning, is president of Oak Knoll’s Cum Laude chapter. Additional Oak Knoll faculty members now serving three-year terms include Kathleen Skiff, Director of College Counseling; Margaret Widder, Upper School math teacher; and Dr. Sylvia McTague, Upper School English teacher, who will serve as secretary.

Head of School Jennifer G. Landis also addressed the inductees during the ceremony. 

“Today’s ceremony is an example of our efforts to seek out and appreciate excellence.” Landis said. “Being inducted into Cum Laude is the culmination of multiple years of hard work, perseverance, curiosity, and integrity. It’s also the combination of a gift and a response to that gift – in this case the gift is broad academic aptitude. In every case, in order to achieve excellence, we must first recognize the gifts we are given, then recognize that we are accountable for how we respond to those gifts. With aptitude, dedication, and hard work, then you have the chance at achieving excellence.” 

Oak Knoll formally became part of the Cum Laude Society 36 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.