April 19, 2023
Kingswood Oxford Cum Laude Society Inducts 17 Members from the Class of 2023
On April 17, 17 members of the Class of 2023 were inducted into KO’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society. A rainy day turned into a picture-perfect one as the ceremony began. The group celebrated in Alumni Hall, with beautiful sunlight spilling through the large windows on each side.
The inductees were Abigail Baier ‘23, Elias Brandt ‘23, Sophia Brunalli ‘23, Mckenzie Campbell ‘23, Tess Chapman ‘23, Kyra Dunnirvine ‘23, Maggie Dwyer ‘23, Anyao He ‘23, Annabelle Jacobs ‘23, Aman Kumar ‘23, Chin Ho Kung ‘23, Aidan Ladewig ‘23, Benjamin Margolis ‘23, Lucia Martinez-Castro ‘23, Rajan Patel ‘23, Keira Sullivan ‘23, and Bella Theodorou ‘23.
Head of School Tom Dillow warmly welcomed the inductees, their families, and a host of KO teachers and staff present to share in the celebration. He opened the evening by impressing upon the recipients what an immense accomplishment it was to be named to this elite group. “Cum laude means with praise and honor, and one of the reasons this recognition is so special is that it is a cumulation of the hard work and efforts of these students not just in one particular year but over four years,” said Dillow. He shared that the secret sauce of their success was their consistency, constant effort, and application. “What is probably most impressive about Cum Laude is that it represents what is most essential to schools, which is excellence in learning and scholarship. It is the very reason we exist,” Dillow shared.
Faculty member Ryan Brodeur ’01 emceed the evening. An alum, teacher, coach, advisor, and a Cum Laude Society inductee during his senior year, Brodeur brought a warm and friendly atmosphere to the evening. In his remarks to the group, he was insightful about what made this particular Cum Laude Society member title special.
“From the outside, it could be said that people are selected for societies simply because they are smart. And why it is true that you are all bring, intelligent, passionate people, to say that you are here simply because you are smart is too simple, it is too reductive.” Brodeur acknowledged the enormity of what went into a title, including the countless hours studying, the clubs and activities, the sports, the friends and classmates, and packing so many experiences into four short years. As a French language teacher, Brodeur encapsulated the students’ time and effort into a beautiful French saying, “Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid,” which translates to “little by little the bird makes its nest.”
The group moved into Mead Dining Hall, where they enjoyed a tasty dinner and dessert prepared by Sage Dining. Alia Ornstein ’98 was the guest speaker for the evening. In a lovely full-circle connection, Brodeur told the crowd how Ornstein was his senior prefect when he was a freshman and profoundly impacted him, specifically in his decisions to get fully involved during his high school career.
Ornstein embraced her KO experience by getting involved in countless ways, including participating in student government as a prefect, a three-sport athlete, and a student representative on the school’s citizenship committee. In his introduction, Brodeur described Ornstein as he remembers her as an upperclassman at KO: hardworking, intelligent, curious, active, and engaged.
Ornstein acknowledged what a tremendous accomplishment Cum Laude was, especially noteworthy the journey to get there. “You spent countless hours studying, writing papers, prepping for tests,” she said. “All those countless hours studying, writing papers, prepping for tests, the time spent, and most importantly, the hard work, is substantial and meaningful. It matters, and it is why we are here today. It is more the marker of success than any GPA you have right now or will get in the future.”
Ornstein shared her experience growing up as the child of an immigrant and a high school science teacher, which she said fundamentally defined her as a person. Born and raised in New Britain, her parents valued education immensely and encouraged her and her siblings never to stop learning. Watching and learning from the immigrants in her own family, she worked hard to pay for her education and support herself. Ornstein said she had to redefine what success looked like and press back against societal norms.
After graduating from KO, she went to Harvard and the University of Southern California for law school. After graduation, she went on to join a large law firm. While she was on the fast track to partner, she decided to pause and pivot in the pursuit of redefining what success looked like for her and, by doing so, finding out what made her immensely happy. This brought her to Brooklyn Grange, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable living and local ecology in various ways, including building farm rooftops and green spaces. Ornstein has remained there ever since as chief operating officer and general council.
She challenged students to think about defining success, not necessarily in the conventional sense but one that requires a person to consider their community and the impact they can have on others. “I think that is something everyone can find valuable,” she said.
“What you have done in the past four years is acquired broad knowledge, an interest in learning, and the ability to teach yourself,” Orenstein said. “It is one of the greatest skills and assets you can have. It enables you to open doors for yourself. It allows you to try new things. To figure out what is fulfilling for each of you individually, to pivot, and be adaptable. You can be thrown into the unknown and put your skills into the task of learning and come to understand and master what was previously new to you. The ability to teach yourself. It is one of the things you have acquired in your time here at KO and proven up, and I promise it will serve you well time and time and time again.”
She challenged the students to fall back on this ability to work hard and do hard things when life gets hard or unsteady. “You can do hard things,” she said. “You have been doing it already. I want you all to feel the value of that. To know it and give you confidence and security as you carry forward in life.”