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Three-way tie for Valedictorian a first in Dartmouth history

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/07/08 • Media Contact: Genevieve Haas • (603) 646-3661

Three perfect GPAs for three extraordinary students

For the first time in Dartmouth's recorded history, three graduating seniors will share the title of valedictorian, having each earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average over the course of their college careers. The three honorees are Nicholas Christman of Falmouth, Mass., Jean Ellen Cowgill of Lexington, Ky., and Margaret Fitchet of Etna, N.H. Daniel J. K. Mahoney of Madison, N.J. is the salutatorian with a 3.99 grade point average.

Photo of students
From left to right are Nicholas Christman, Jean Ellen Cowgill, Margaret Fichet and Daniel Mahoney. (photo by Tilman Dette '10)

All three valedictorians will receive the Mina Warren Prize, which is awarded each year to the graduating senior or seniors with the highest grade point average. Christman and Cowgill accepted invitation to speak at the Commencement ceremony, while Fitchet chose not to do so.

"This is truly an extraordinary achievement," said Dean of the Faculty Carol Folt. "Not only did each of these students maintain perfect academic records during their time at Dartmouth, each of them also contributed tremendously to the community through their scholarship and extracurricular passions. I congratulate them all."

Nicholas Christman
Nicholas Christman (photo by Tilman Dette '10)

Nicholas Christman, a computer science major and math minor was also a starting mid-fielder for Dartmouth's men's soccer team. He has received numerous awards, including a 2006 class citation, the NCAA post-graduate scholarship, and Class of 1948 award for best male scholar-athlete in 2006-2007. He is a Rufus Choate Scholar and in 2007, he was named to ESPN the Magazine's 1st Team Academic All-American in soccer.

Away from the classroom, Christman served a business analyst internship with McKinsey & Company in Washington, DC in 2007 and a software development internship with in Seattle, also in 2007. A member of Alpha Delta fraternity, he served as his chapter's vice president for service activities and as co-organizer of the Alpha Delta Wiffle Ball Tournament.

Following graduation, Christman will return to McKinsey & Company as a business analyst in the Boston office.

Prasad Jayanti, a professor and chair of the computer science department who worked closely with Christman, said, "Nick took two courses from me, one of which consisted mostly of graduate students. Nick was one of only two undergraduates, but was still the strongest in the class both intellectually and in grades, so I was elated when Nick approached me to do an honors thesis under my supervision.  Nick got interested in 'failure detectors,' which is a research topic  in the broader area of distributed algorithms.  Over the last two terms we worked together to identify a certain failure detector that provides necessary and sufficient information to solve a fundamental problem in distributed computing known as 'mutual exclusion.'  Nick gave an excellent presentation of this research to a faculty committee, and the Computer Science department awarded High Honors to Nick for his thesis research.  I am very impressed by Nick's initiative, perseverance, ability, and passion for research.  I am fortunate to have had him as my student."

Jean Ellen Cowgill
Jean Ellen Cowgill (photo by Tilman Dette '10)

Jean Ellen Cowgill, a history major and theater minor, focused her academic work on twentieth century history. She completed an honors thesis, "Lost and Found: The Creation and Critical Reception of Civilization in the United States," a pivotal 1922 symposium.

She was the recipient of the 2006 Phi Beta Kappa Award for highest GPA in the junior class, a Rufus Choate Scholar, and a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. She is a Phi Beta Kappa Scholar and was awarded the Charles Downer Hazen Fellowship for academic excellence in history. She has received five class citations and a Kathryn Wasserman Davis "100 Projects For Peace" Grant in support of the Gulf Coast Summer Theater Program she created. Cowgill was also chosen as a Presidential Scholar in 2006.

Outside of the classroom, Cowgill has taught playwriting to teens in the Boys & Girls Club and helped build houses and parks with the Hands On Network.  From 2006-2008, she helped organize the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and wrote for the student newspaper, The Dartmouth, throughout her college career. A member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority, she served as the academic chair and represented Tri-Delt as the programming chair for the Panhellenic Council. She was a 2007-2008 Rockefeller Leadership Fellow and studied abroad in 2005 at Queen Mary, University of London.

She has worked as an admissions office tour guide and as a business analyst intern for McKinsey & Company in Washington, DC. She will join McKinsey full-time after graduation.

Leslie Butler, professor of English and Cowgill's thesis advisor, praised her student, saying, "Jean Ellen is obviously highly intelligent, but she is much more than that. She brings a kind of curiosity, imaginativeness, and even exuberance to every project that made working with her—both in the classroom and on her year-long Honors thesis—a wonderful experience."

P. David Lagomarsino, the chair and Charles Hansen Professor of History, added, "Jean Ellen overflows with intellectual energy and curiosity. I've always been impressed by how lightly she carries her many talents. The Renaissance referred to this quality as sprezzatura. Jean Ellen enjoys it in abundance."

Margaret Fitchet
Margaret Fitchet (photo by Tilman Dette '10)

Margaret Fitchet,  an English major who is also pre-med, will be the fourth generation in her family to graduate from Dartmouth. Her interests range widely from Victorian literature to Japanese religions and literature, to psychoanalytic theory and abnormal psychology. She served an internship at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, and two observerships at Mass General Hospital in the plastics service and acute psychiatric service in the emergency room.

As a first-year student she played for the Dartmouth women's tennis team where she set a college record for most singles wins. She received seven class citations and is a Rufus Choate Scholar as well as a member of  Phi Beta Kappa.

Brenda Silver, the Mary Brinsmead Wheelock Professor of English, has worked with Fitchet and said of her, "GPA numbers do not begin to suggest the formidable intelligence, the originality, and the depth of intellectual curiosity and independence that inform Margaret's work. The longer papers she wrote for me were potentially publishable; every short response to the novels was a mini-work of art. All of her work fused sophisticated theoretical exploration with extraordinary attention to textual detail, showing an agility of mind and a depth of perception that continue to amaze me. She is about the most serious and engaged student I have ever taught, and I do not say that lightly."

Following graduation, Fitchet plans to spend a year in Japan teaching English through the JET program after which she hopes to attend medical school.

Daniel J.K. Mahoney (photo by Tilman Dette '10)

Daniel J.K. Mahoney, a government and geography double major, has received five class citations. He was also awarded the National Council of Geographic Education Award for Excellence in Scholarship by the geography department and the Colby Government Prize from the government department.

Mahoney is a Dartmouth Habitat for Humanity volunteer and a runner who competed in a marathon while at Dartmouth. He has served as a transportation intern at Vital Communities and as a research assistant in the government department. He studied abroad through the Dartmouth-Keble Exchange at Oxford University and at Charles University in Prague. He has interned at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, conducting recidivism policy research, and at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, where he researched health policy.

"Dan is one of the most conscientious students with whom we've worked, always willing to engage in an intellectual discussion and--perhaps more importantly--always prepared to extend and expand on themes and ideas presented in the course," said Chris Sneddon, associate professor of geography and environmental studies. "He is an original and fearless thinker, one who never slavishly reiterates what is expressed in lectures and readings, but who instead carefully considers the material and forms his own reasoned opinion."

Following graduation, Mahoney plans to work as a real estate research analyst with Jones Lang LaSalle in Chicago and pursue a Master's degree in urban and regional planning.

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