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Dartmouth to honor two valedictorians, three salutatorians at 2009 Commencement

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 06/13/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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In what has turned out to be one of the most academically competitive classes in recent history, Dartmouth is recognizing a total of five students with valedictorian and salutatorian honors at the 2009 Commencement on Sunday, June 14. Awarding multiple students for both valedictorian and salutatorian honors in one commencement is believed to be a first for the college.

Geoffrey R. Kirsch of Concord, N.H., and Yangyang Liu of Changsha, China, both earned 4.0 grade point averages and will be recognized jointly as valedictorian. Both students have been 4.0 students during their entire time at Dartmouth. Kirsch was a 4.0 student at Tufts University until he transferred to Dartmouth in the fall of 2006.

Geoffrey R. Kirsch
Geoffrey R. Kirsch (photo by Joesph Mehling '69)

Geoffrey R. Kirsch: A native of Concord, N.H., Kirsch is an English major with a focus on American literature. His English honors program thesis is titled '''Et in America Ego': Nature, Culture and the Dismantling of the Frontier in Thoreau, Faulkner and Cormac McCarthy."

"My senior honors thesis examined how all three of these authors, over a time span ranging some 150 years, either critique or altogether move beyond the myth of the American frontier as a paradigm for the interaction of man and nature," Kirsch said. "While none of this may be directly applicable to my studies at Harvard Law School beginning this fall, I have no doubt that the critical and analytical thinking skills I have honed as an English major will serve me well. And as I am considering a career in land-use and conservation law, my familiarity with Thoreau's proto-environmentalist ideas may be of specific relevance."

Kirsch has received five citations for meritorious performance in English and one citation in geography; is a recipient of the Hochman Prize awarded annually for academic excellence in the field of American literature; is a recipient of the Feinstein Prize awarded to a student in the English Honors Program whose honors thesis and overall work demonstrate the most effective exploration of feelings through language; is a Dartmouth Rufus Choate Scholar (honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class) in 2007 and 2008; and is a recipient of the Alfred K. Priest Fellowship for study at Harvard Law School.

A research intern at the Concord Historical Society, Kirsch assisted in researching and editing a comprehensive 20th century history of Concord in which he conducted oral history interviews with various city residents as well as wrote several chapters on land conservation, the Merrimack River and the built environment. Kirsch's work is expected to be published in 2010. After graduation, Kirsch is attending Harvard Law School.

Jean Ellen Cowgill
Yangyang Liu (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Yangyang Liu: Liu is a double major in history and mathematics with an interest in the influence of science and technology on 20th century international relations.

She has written a math thesis in combinatorics; is a Dean of the Faculty research grant recipient in which she did her research at Harvard and MIT on the scientists' movement in American nuclear strategy thoughts in the 1940s and '50s; is a 2007-2008 Dartmouth Presidential Scholar who researched the Buddhist crisis in South Vietnam; is a 2008-09 recipient of the Charles Downer Hazen Fellowship for the highest GPA among history majors; has published two papers, one titled "Madame Nhu's Feminist Ideology and its Intellectual Origins" and the other titled "Daniel Ellsberg, Theorist" in Dartmouth's Undergraduate Journal of International Affairs, World Outlook; and is the 2007 winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize for the highest grade point average at the end of five terms.

Liu is also president of the Dartmouth Math Society, senior editor of World Outlook and a peer mentor in the Women in Science Program.

After graduation, Liu is attending Yale Law School.

"The ability to critically examine both primary and secondary sources is a valuable skill when doing research in any discipline," said Liu. "I believe my background in math and history lends itself well to the study of law. But the most important thing is probably that research projects allow me to focus and direct my curiosity, explore the unknown and discover new areas of interest."

Liu will receive the Mina H. Warren Scholarship Prize for her high academic excellence at Dartmouth. The prize is given to the class valedictorian who has attended the college all four years.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth's three salutatorians were close behind Kirsch and Liu in academic excellence, each receiving 3.99 GPAs during their time at the college. The 2009 salutatorians are: Alexander W. Nomitch, Devin M. O'Connor and Laura C. Romain.

Alexander W. Nomitch
Alexander W. Nomitch (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Alexander W. Nomitch of Bannockburn, Ill., is a double major in economics and mathematics and has an academic interest in finance and statistics. He is a Dartmouth Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class); an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee; a recipient of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Prize in Economics for best major performance; and a recipient of nine academic citations: five in economics, two in mathematics and one each in computer science and chemistry.

Nomitch will work for Goldman Sachs in New York in the investment banking division after graduation.

Devin M. O'Connor (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Devin M. O'Connor of Demarest, N.J., is a history major and public policy minor. She has an academic interest in modern European history, environmental law and public policy.

She is a Dartmouth Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top five percent of their class); has received four academic citations; is a member of Phi Beta Kappa; and has received the Alfred K. Priest Fellowship and the Alpha Xi Delta Scholarship, both for study at Harvard Law School where she is attending after graduation.

Laura C. Romain (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Laura C. Romain of Convent Station, N.J., is an English major with an academic interest in poetry and American literature.

Romain was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in the fall; has been a Dartmouth Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class) all four years at the colleges; has received nine academic citations; is a recipient of the Grimes Prize for English in 2009; and has received honorable mentions for both the Stanley Prize in English and the Academy of American Poets Prize.

Commencement exercises will take place on the Dartmouth Green on Sunday, June 14, 2009, at 9:30 a.m. No tickets are required. The ceremony will be held outdoors, rain or shine.

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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