Juniors honored for their character, curiosity, and contributions

Eighteen Yale College juniors received honors from the Council of the Heads of Colleges in recognition of their scholarship, character, and contributions.
Pierson College courtyard.

Pierson College courtyard.

Eighteen Yale College juniors received honors from the Council of the Heads of Colleges in recognition of their scholarship, contributions to college life, and their character.

The winning students, their prizes, and the award citations written by their heads of college follow.

F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize

Established in 1939 by friends of F. Wilder Bellamy Jr., B.A. 1937, the prize is awarded to a junior who best exemplifies the qualities for which F. Wilder Bellamy, Jr. is remembered, including personal integrity, loyalty to friends, and high-spiritedness in athletics, academics, and social life.

Enzo Okpoye, Benjamin Franklin College

A political science major and star defender on the varsity men’s soccer team, Enzo Okpoye came to Yale from Asaba, Nigeria, where he was discovered by an agency seeking to help youth soccer players gain greater opportunities abroad. Last year he received the Amanda Walton Award from Yale Athletics, which is given to an outstanding student-athlete who has excelled on the field of play and shown spirit and courage in transcending challenges. This encapsulates Enzo. He fought through injuries and a concussion but managed to earn First Team All-Ivy and score the goal that clinched the Ivy League championship for the team his sophomore year. “To think of Enzo's path to Yale, his success as a student-athlete here, while also dealing with a lot of adversities, is simply remarkable to me,” wrote men’s soccer coach Kylie Stannard in his citation for the award.

Around Benjamin Franklin, Enzo is known for his steady demeanor and friendliness, and as a mentor to younger students. He is allergic to complaining but tempers his “get on with it” approach with patience and a willingness to listen to peers who aren’t fully getting on with it. Which will make him a popular FroCo next year!  Enzo is decent, loyal, and honorable to his core.

Charlie Uchno, Berkeley College

Charlie Uchno has contributed consistently and enthusiastically to the Berkeley College (BK) community for the past three years. He has been a leader in the college’s intramurals (IM) program and has served since April 2020 as one of BK’s three IM secretaries. With respect to social activities, Charlie has served as committee chair of the Yale Model United Nations Conference since April 2019, leading a committee of high school Model United Nations delegates and empowering their voices to be heard. Charlie also is a Discipleship Team leader for the Yale Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, a role that involves planning and guiding weekly small group meetings to mentor underclassmen and develop community. Next year, Charlie will bring his wide-ranging interests and caring spirit to the Berkeley FroCo team, helping to lead the Class of ’25 through their first year at Yale.

Juma Sei, Ezra Stiles College

An American studies major and member of the track team, Juma Sei combines a strong academic and athletic record with a deep commitment to several Yale communities, including Ezra Stiles, the Afro-American Cultural Center, the Yale Daily News, and the New Haven community. He is well-liked and well-respected in Stiles, where he is known for his warmth, approachability, kindness, and love of laughter. Juma is dedicated to service, social good, and racial justice, working with several campus and local organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. These qualities have distinguished him as a mentor — he is a peer liaison for the Afro-American Cultural Center and will serve as a Stiles First-Year Counselor next year.

Noah Aaron, Pierson College

Due to his incredible impact in Pierson College, across Yale’s campus, and far beyond, Noah Aaron is a deserved recipient of the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize. An economics major, he has had a range of summer internships in the financial sector, from Morgan Stanley, BWC Capital, and JPMorgan Chase. His navigation of that predominately white domain as a Black student has put into practice his commitment to opening spaces of change for himself and others. Here at Yale, his outstanding qualities of leadership, respect, integrity, and friendship have made him equally worthy of recognition. Since his first year, Noah has been a member of the Yale varsity football team, but he has also been deeply involved in the Afro-American Cultural Center and in his residential college community at Pierson. At the Af-Am House, he has been an integral part of the Yale Black Men’s Union. At Pierson, he has been a key member of the A-Hoops basketball team, which won the IM Championship in 2019 (and still reigns as defending champs). Whether on the playing field or the court, Noah consistently strikes a perfect balance between high-spirited competitiveness and an authentic openness and receptivity to both his teammates and his opponents. During games, he is a paragon of sportspersonship, Before and after games, players from other teams regularly come up to him to greet him and talk: it is clear to all that he is held in universal regard. This same magnetism and deep respect have also informed his personal relationships within the college, not just with students, but also markedly with staff. Noah has gotten to know everyone in Yale Dining, greeting them by name on daily basis. This year, during the difficulties of COVID, he has served as a student aide in the Pierson Dining Hall, and in that role, he has earned the implicit trust of the Pierson dining manager and her entire staff. Noah sees everyone, and he treats them as persons of inestimable worth (which they are). In all these ways, he is exactly the kind of student the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize was meant to honor.

Sam Feldman, Silliman College

Sam Feldman has been an active leader in residential college life at Silliman since the day he stepped foot in the courtyard. From his service as SAAC [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee] president in developing new social events during the tough COVID-19 semester to his role as a college tour guide, Sam embodies the high spirits and excitement for residential college life for which Bellamy was known. But Sam’s greatest form of leadership on campus is through his role as manager of the Silliman Acorn, our much beloved student-run coffee shop. Sam succeeded in taking the Acorn from being a small operation that served coffee for a few hours at a time to a revenue-generating business that became the literal center for social life in our college. His loyal and charismatic love for all things Silliman is contagious, and his hard work in the Acorn developed a new campus social hub that’s much beloved not just by Sillimanders but by all students on campus. Sam perfectly embodies the fun, college-loving spirit for which F. Wilder Bellamy was known. 

John C Schroeder Award

This award, which honors former Calhoun College Head of College John C. Schroeder, is given to students who have contributed to residential college life and who, in the opinion of the committee, will “play a part in the good labor of the world.”

Emma Pindur, Benjamin Franklin College

Emma has played a crucial role in Benjamin Franklin College (BF) this year. As one of the few college aides who chose to live on campus, she has been essential in keeping college life alive during the pandemic; without her enthusiastic help, the range of activities the college has been able to offer would have diminished considerably. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of friends and acquaintances in less formal ways, helping others to keep moving forward in these difficult times with her empathy and thoughtfulness. She has also helped support a wide range of communities across Yale, including sports fans, female engineers, LGBTQ+ students, and others. Because of her presence in the college and her participation in so many events, she became one of the few upper-level students in BF who really got to know the class of ’24, and she is helping to plan events for them next year to ensure they don’t miss out on the experiences that ordinarily come with being at Yale. She’s done so much for her peers. She’ll be doing still more for her successors. And in the years to come, there is no doubt that she will, in the words of the Schroeder prize description, continue to “find her place and play a part in the good labor of the world.”

Daniel Chabeda, Ezra Stiles College

A Goldwater Fellow in Chemistry, Daniel Chabeda is an ambitious, engaging scholar, adept in quantum mechanical modeling methods for advancing sustainable energy science research. A violist in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and trip leader for the First-Year Outdoor Orientation Program, Daniel has devoted himself to cultivating strong communities through music, outdoor education, and religious life. As a Chaplain’s Office Fellow and as co-president of Christian Union Lux, Daniel has helped shape a vibrant faith community centered on fellowship, service, and bible study. Daniel is a thoughtful and capacious thinker about matters of community, service to others, and naming the collective good. He models generous, life-affirming leadership and commitment to others in ways that make him an ideal recipient of the John C. Schroeder Award.

Morgan Ross, Grace Hopper College

Morgan Ross acts on the idea that the positive organization of a community is founded on the connections that community can build. A double major in environmental studies and political science, Morgan has served as the Hopper College Council co-president, is an incoming FroCo, and has played a pivotal leadership role at Yale, connecting students to political outreach and campaigns in the U.S. more generally. She’s engaged in a huge range of activities in doing so: research, recruitment, training, fundraising, and administering and participating in phone- and text-banking. With a heart towards serving others, at Yale and beyond, Morgan has also interned for the East Baton Rouge Development Authority, guiding over 200 residents through free housing and roof-repair applications. 

Carson Menkes, Pierson College

Carson Menkes is a most worthy recipient of the John C. Schroeder Award. During her first three years at Yale, she has filled an impressive range of leadership roles in Pierson College. Since her first year, she has been a Pierson aide, and throughout 2020–2021 she has admirably served as head aide. She has been a student manager for the Pierson Buttery. She has also been a member of the Pierson College Council since her first year, serving as president of the council this year as a junior. She applied for and was accepted to serve as a first-year counselor during her senior year in Pierson and was  named head FroCo. An urban studies major committed to social justice, she has also participated in campus activism on behalf of undocumented persons in New Haven, and has contributed to an online collection entitled “Race and Place in Cosmopolitan Cairo.” As a leader in the college, she is someone who manages an incredible balance between (on the one hand) the virtues of organization and efficiency and (on the other hand) the ability to listen, adapt, and know when to create space to support others. During this challenging year of COVID-19, she has been unfailingly present to her peers. It is this kind of “good labor” that the John C. Schroeder Award rightly honors in the person of Carson Menkes.

Helen Zhuo, Pauli Murray College

A stalwart of the college community, Helen Zhuo led the Pauli Murray College Council through the pandemic year, planning event after event and making life in the college more caring and more fun in ways big and small. The signature virtue of this year has been resilience, which Helen has displayed and shared with her whole college community. 

Gabe Hohensee, Silliman College

Gabe Hohensee embodies the spirit of religious service for which John C. Schroeder was known. Gabe has done an enormous amount of service during his time in Silliman College, both in his official role as a Chaplain’s Fellow but also in other religious and service groups on campus. Gabe has been a leader in altruistically supporting students in his role a Yale Public Health Educator for Peers (PHEP), one of the students charged with supporting student public health during COVID-19. Gabe also embodies a service orientation in all his extracurricular activities — he’s served as a tutor for the Fair Haven After-School Literacy Program, a teacher’s aide in the Dwight Hall Volunteers in Public Schools program, a volunteer with the Living History Project, and has trained as a lifeguard and EMT. As these many examples show, Gabe has structured his entire time at Yale to be sure that he is best serving those around him — whether they be students in need, a patient experiencing an emergency, or a student in need of academic support. Gabe’s incredible hard work and service in Silliman College and beyond makes him a perfect fit with this award.

Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award

The Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Junior Award is given each year to a member of the junior class of Yale College whose verve, idealism, and constructive interest in music and the humanities exemplify those qualities for which Selden is remembered. In recent years this award has gone to students especially notable for their contribution in the field of music.

Alex Goldberg, Ezra Stiles College

Alex Goldberg, a violinist, is one of the small number of Yale students admitted to the university’s five-year combined Bachelor of Arts/Master of Music program. He excelled as a musician from an early age; he debuted as a soloist at age 8 with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, and he made his Carnegie Weill Hall debut at age 11. A graduate of Phillips Academy Andover, he performed with several Boston-area orchestras, including the Concord, Brockton, and Quincy symphony orchestras. Most recently, he soloed with Yale’s Philharmonic Orchestra. Alex is also a talented humanist: he is a philosophy major, and he completed the Directed Studies program in his first year. For Alex, music and humanistic scholarship are intertwined, and he has combined concerts with lectures on music, art, and literature. We are lucky to have him as a member of the Stiles community, where he enriches our annual Classical Brunch with his great talent.

Sara Armstrong, Jonathan Edwards College

Sara Armstrong is a musician, singer, actor, playwright, and devoted lover of the life of the mind and the creative expression of its ideas. Sara knew when she entered Yale that the liberal arts were her life’s calling — philosophy, literature, and music are her passions. She is currently a comparative literature major whose education has added historical and cultural nuances to her work as a scholar and artist. Sara is the result of a multicultural background and speaks English and Korean, has read Voltaire and Rousseau in French, and fulfilled her language requirement in ancient Greek. She is a violinist, the musical director of Something Extra, the house manager for Undergraduate Productions and a tap for next year’s Whim ‘n Rhythm group. Sara’s teachers are effusive about her contributions to class: her musical and literary analyses are sophisticated, nuanced, and bold. Sara is brilliant, creative, diligent, and energetic; her on-campus contributions to music and the humanities merit the Selden award.

Alec Chai, Morse College

Alec Chai is a verygifted classical and jazz musician, a multi-instrumentalist who plays oboe, piano, trumpet, and saxophone. When COVID hit our Yale community, Alec knew that students were looking for human connection beyond the confines of schoolwork. He offered to teach an instrument like piano or violin, over Zoom, to anyone who might wish to learn how to play music, free of charge — a gesture that came from a place of love for music, connectedness, and fun. If anything, Alec is the perfect person to inspire someone to begin learning an instrument, simply wanting to foster interest in the arts, and in music, specifically. This year, Alec has given many virtual performances, solo and alongside other stellar young musicians. He has performed in a three-day fundraiser concert series to help the Yale Symphony Orchestra. He has distributed beautiful and safe masks for people to rehearse in small groups and feel good about themselves, while rehearsing during the pandemic. During his first year, he was winner of the William Waite Concerto Competition and had his solo performance with the Yale Symphony Orchestra in February of 2020. And during his sophomore year at Yale, he was selected as winner of the Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition, a key music award that recognizes outstanding musicians who excel in jazz, classical, and contemporary genres. All this shows his active, positive, and constructive inputs in the field of music, enriching our community and serving a passion for music with verve, idealism, and constructive skill.

Alex Whittington, Pierson College

For his outstanding work in the music and the humanities, Alex Whittington has been awarded the Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award. A student of mixed race (Black/African, Latino/Hispanic, and White/European), with language skills in Catalan, Spanish, French, and Arabic, Alex is majoring in music and theater and performance studies. A mainstay of the Yale musical and theatrical scene since arriving at the university his first year, from 2019 to 2021 he has been involved as a choreographer (“Pippen” and “Working”), composer (“Oedipus: A Workshop Production”), orchestrator (“So, Betsy!”, canceled due to COVID), musical director (“Oedipus” and “Kore”), and director (“The Gift of the Magi)”. He has also performed in five different productions: “Venus and Adonis,” Fin de partie,” “Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights”, “ORFEO,” and “Working.” This list would have included two more shows (“Chicago” and “Legally Blonde”), had they not been cancelled due to the pandemic in the spring of 2020. All told, Alex’s musical performances have successfully spanned a wide range of genres, from Baroque to Broadway. He also plays the flute, has been trained in voice with Janna Baty at the Yale School of Music, and sings in the Yale Glee Club. Distinguished by this remarkably diverse portfolio, Alex is most deserving of the public recognition accorded by the Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award.

Will Wegner, Pauli Murray College

Involved in all aspects of theater life at Yale, Will Wegner has distinguished himself as a gifted lyricist and librettist in musical theater. Whether for a children's puppet musical about friendship, a one-act musical portrait of American seamstress Betsy Ross, or a remotely produced satire about a university's response to COVID-19, Will's work is as musically sophisticated as it is witty and fun.

Sarah Grube, Silliman College

Sarah is a skilled and dedicated musician who has shared her talent with her residential college community and beyond. Despite being a political science major, it’s clear that Sarah’s true passion is music. She’s shared her love of music with others in nearly all her roles at Yale College. She’s been a long-standing member of the Yale Glee Club as well as a choir singer at the University Church at Yale. If there’s something musical or singing-related happening in the Yale community, Sarah is not only there but usually leading the way. But Sarah also uses her musical talent to give back to those in need — she’s run choir programs at area Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Connecticut and has served as a teaching artist for the Music in Schools program. In this way, she brings her love of music to others and puts enormous work into shaping musical communities at Yale and beyond for the better.

Brian Isaacs, Timothy Dwight College

A classical violist studying with Ettore Causa at the Yale School of Music, Brian Isaacs is a rare musical talent who has thrived musically and academically at Yale. In the spring semester of his first year he competed and won third place for viola in the 2019 International Anton Rubinstein Competition in Dusseldorf, Germany. This fall, he will be one of 40 violists selected from around the world to compete live in the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition sponsored by the British Viola Society and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Brian is currently principal viola for the Yale Symphony Orchestra (YSO) and plays in the viola section for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO). Maestro William Boughton, director of the YSO, praised Brian’s leadership skills as principal viola by stating that he “shows care, thought, preparedness, and openness with a very high expectancy from the section individuals and their individual role in producing the corporate-sound of the section.” This year, during the COVID-19 crisis, he has led sectional rehearsals via Zoom that have been described as “informative and inspiring.” We are delighted that he was recently accepted into Yale School of Music’s B.A./M.M. five-year program and are fortunate that we will have Brian’s warmth and musical talents in our community for an extra year.

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