Celebrating Excellence: Cum Laude Society

“I believe this is one of the most important meetings we do,” said Headmaster Willy MacMullen’78 in opening the 2018 Cum Laude Society induction ceremony. “This meeting where we honor the ranking scholars and celebrate the inductees into Cum Laude really is at the heart of what the school is: We’re about academic excellence and the life of the intellect.”

MacMullen recalled last month’s all-school Convocation, where he spoke of the very high standards that drive the Taft community together and forward. It is our collective belief in them, and our collective work to uphold them, MacMullen said, that create a culture of belonging to something very rare and extraordinary.

“The students we honor today have met those standards in an extraordinary way,” noted MacMullen. “It is as if these students looked at the bar of expectations and saw it not as something to get over, but as something to leap from. I marvel at them. I wonder where their flight will take them in life. As I will with each of you, I will follow their lives with interest.”

Students honored during the 2018 Celebration of Academic Excellence are listed below. Watch the full ceremony here.

Founded in 1908, the Cum Laude Society is the national scholarship society in secondary schools, corresponding to Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi in colleges and scientific schools. A maximum of 20% of the Senior Class may be elected into membership in the Cum Laude Society. Cum Laude Inductees, representing the top 8.8% of the senior class are:

Eva Baurmeister 

Malcolm Bellairs 

Chih‐Yao (Jerry) Chan 

Julia Dawson

Anne Gilland 

Marshall Henshaw 

Dylan Kim

Yiqiao (Rachel) Lau

Yijie (Bill) Lu 

Quincy Morgan 

Mihir Nayar 

Joseph Reiser 

Marcus Valenta 

Nicholas Winicki 

Olivia Wivestad


These students were the Ranking Scholars at Taft for the 2017-2018 academic year, with the highest unweighted averages in their classes.

Class of 2021 (Last year’s lower mids):    97.33, Chinh (Benjamin) Le

Class of 2020 (Last year’s mids):96.42, Tetiana Tsunik

Class of 2019 (Last year’s upper mids):    96.2, Marcus Valenta


The following students received Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship Program for their outstanding performance last year on the PSAT. 

Elizabeth Barré 

Anne Gilland 

Braden Grustas 

Hayley Jubitz

Yijie Lu 

Julia Ordway 

Eleanor Streit 

Olivia Wivestad