Juniors honored for their character, curiosity, and contributions

Twenty-two Yale College juniors received honors from the Council of the Heads of Colleges for scholarship, contributions to college life, and character.
Bass Tower and Benjamin Franklin College.
(Photo by Jack Devlin ’22)

Twenty-two 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.

Yaakov Huba, Benjamin Franklin College

Yaakov has participated in a remarkable range of activities at Yale, with leadership roles in groups as varied as the Yale Friends of Israel and the Alleycats a cappella group. Within Benjamin Franklin College, he is known as a Communication and Consent Educator and as one of the most active participants and captains in intramural sports. As someone who takes ‘great enjoyment in the whole range of college life’ he embodies the traits celebrated by the Bellamy award.”

Ryan Huynh, Berkeley College

Ryan is recognized by the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize for his commitment to the joy of college life in the company of his friends, and dedication to his communities through service. Majoring in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration, he brings his academic knowledge to the benefit of New Haven. Since his first semester, he has participated in the Migration Alliance at Yale, and now serves as the President of that organization, which provides Spanish translation and interpretation services as well as legal assistance to undocumented immigrants in New Haven. The group also engages in weekly group sessions offering mentorship for New Haven high-school-age migrants, in conjunction with the Youth Program of Integrated Refugee & Immigration Services (IRIS). Ryan is a regular participant in Berkeley’s intramural program; and even when he’s not able to play directly due to injury or other reasons, he joins the sidelines of the fields or courts to cheer on his classmates. The Bellamy Prize also recognizes integrity. Ryan is a deeply caring person, not only as illustrated by the activities mentioned above, but also as anyone who meets him will appreciate. In his pre-first year advising survey, he stated that he was ‘most looking forward to developing deep, meaningful connections with the incredible people around me at Yale.’ We have observed that Ryan exemplifies this philosophy through his daily interactions throughout the Berkeley College community, and beyond.”

Robbie Samec, Ezra Stiles College

Robbie embodies the qualities of warmth, deep social intelligence, and high spirits that the Bellamy recognizes — updated for the more diverse and complex campus of the twenty-first century. As Head Aide for the HOC office, Robbie met the challenges of reopening the college with insight, care, and ingenuity. During periods of uncertainty, Robbie has modeled calm and engagement, and helped us revitalize social connections with those most affected by the disruptions of the pandemic. When our office staff were working from home or dealing with family concerns, Robbie provided coverage and reorganized our office. Because he is so insightful about — and invested in — communal living, Robbie has been an invaluable resource for imagining the full potential of residential education.  He is also the best kind of fun — he looks for maximum social impact in the work we do together.

A distinguished student of Architecture with a concentration in Design, Robbie possesses a remarkable degree of discernment and vision, both in their material and practical senses, and in their ethical and social application. During the pandemic he took a year leave, giving up time with his cohort to remain in northern California. During his year away, he reflected hard on what mattered most to him in his academic pursuits and friendships. While social distancing meant retreat for many, Robbie found ways to engage with his home community, his family, and his art. In his innovative practice of art and his open curiosity, Robbie also shows his peers how to cultivate their own creativity and spirit of discovery while managing the pressures to perform and achieve at Yale. In these many ways and more, Robbie deserves special recognition for his distinguished record of service and fellowship in the college.”

Saaya Sugiyama-Spearman, Jonathan Edwards College

We have been privileged to watch Saaya lend her energy, camaraderie, and good humor to the JE college community for the past four years. Saaya has literally and figuratively sung, danced, and cheered her way into the hearts of our students and staff. She is a student activities representative, the head of our college buttery, and a volunteer reading tutor. She is a Yale cheerleader and the social media manager of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Saaya is also an Astrophysics major who has studied three languages. She is simply brilliant, and she has also shown great resilience and in the light of some extraordinarily difficult challenges. Saaya is the epitome of the Bellamy’s definition of a person of attractive personality and high spirits, not mention unbendable will.”

Taylor Adams, Pierson College

Taylor has been awarded the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize for 2022. Taylor’s contributions at Yale have been deep and diverse. First, she has served as the Co-Executive Director for the Circle of Women, a nonprofit organization that has advocated for locally based solutions to combat gender inequity. A Black student majoring in English, she has been an outspoken advocate for a critical reassessment of the “western canon” and for open discussions of race, gender, and sexuality in the literature assigned and discussed in the classroom. Herself a writer of poetry and prose, she has mentored other students as a Writing Center tutor. Within Pierson College, Taylor was also one of only three students to serve on the Pierson Dean’s Search Committee in the fall of 2019, a major responsibility for which she reviewed application files, interviewed candidates, and helped make final recommendations to the Dean of Yale College. In that role, and as a member and co-chair of the Pierson Housing Committee, she has combined her remarkable organizational skills with a wicked and contagious sense of humor. Each year, during the housing process, she has supported other students with equal measures of practicality and joie de vivre. The Bellamy Prize is an award that honors ‘a person of attractive personality and high spirits,’ someone with “integrity” who is “well liked and respected.” These attributes sum up Taylor to a T.”

Henri Jacques Cornec, Silliman College

From his enjoyment of Silliman IMs to his leadership and service in developing so many new events for our Acorn café to his commitment to the many friends he has in Silliman, Henri embodies the hard-working yet fun spirit of F. Wilder Bellamy. Henri is the manager and leader of The Silliman Acorn, the much beloved Silliman student run café, which he nearly single-handled brought back online during COVID through hard work, vision, far-reaching friendships, and excitement for that space and our community. He’s an active presence on the Silliman IMs fields as well as one of our incoming frocos. As may be unsurprising given his French heritage, Henri perfectly embodies the joie de vivre of residential college life for which F. Wilder Bellamy was known.”

Ben Scher, Timothy Dwight College

Ben Scher has played an integral part in nearly all aspects of TD community life. As a first year, he participated enthusiastically in TD’s intramural sports (IMs), particularly soccer, basketball, and volleyball. By the end of his first year at Yale, Ben had built a solid reputation for himself on and off the IM playing fields with his infectious energy, athleticism, and love of bringing people together. During the challenging 2021-22 academic year of remote learning, Ben rose to the challenge by working with other TD IM secretaries to bring to life ‘TD IMs Sportscenter,’ a weekly IMs roundup released on the TD IMs Instagram page to rally the college to play. With Ben as the commentator infused with great humor, the videos were a hit and even gained a following among our college’s alumni! This year, Ben is putting his love of community into serving as a peer mentor to our first-year students for the Yale Student Accessibility Services (SAS) office. As a high school student in Wisconsin, he co-founded, ‘Sound Futures,’ with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to capture and present life stories of young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing to give a sense of the rich diversity of life experiences and the infinite possibilities and choices available for education and careers as people move into adulthood. With these accomplishments, Ben Scher is a model recipient of the F. Wilder Bellamy Jr. Memorial Prize.”

John C. Schroeder Award

This award, which honors former Calhoun College master 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.”

Nina Huang, Benjamin Franklin College

Nina hails originally from Shanghai, but she is at home wherever she goes. She is at home anywhere in the Yale curriculum, ending up as a Data Science major while comfortably excelling in graduate classes in the humanities and serving as an undergraduate TA in astrophysics. And she is at home anywhere in the world, having explored internships and job opportunities in China and the U.S., seeking out friendships with students, faculty, and visitors from every corner of the globe. While the exact location is still to be determined, there is no doubt that she will find ‘a place and play a part in the good labor of the world.’”

Sayda Martinez-Alvarado, Davenport College

Sayda is an astonishingly intelligent and capable person. She is charismatic and energetic in ways that seem to defy the ordinary range of human nature. She is gifted with good judgment and common sense.  She has unusual insight into the kinds of changes that she aims to make in the world. Sayda is headed to becoming a leader in the field of law and education. She exudes smarts. But there’s something more, too. She has a plan. She has ideas about changing the world to make it better. For Sayda, at least for now, this means rethinking the way we teach English-learner students and rethinking immigrant students into American schools. She has spent her summers working on the problem. She has thought about it in her academic work here on campus. And she is developing a cogent program for working on it in graduate school and in her work thereafter. Sayda also worked over the past year on an especially meaningful project here in the college. Nearly single-handedly, she assembled photographic portraits of Davenport alums going back into the early 1970s, beginning around the time women were admitted to the college.  The project yielded a diverse group of fifteen portraits in the Davenport library as an informal exhibit that we expect will rotate over time. Sayda’s path to do good labor in the future seems clear. She seems to me sure to change the world for the better.  She is the kind of student who offers hope in complicated times: brilliantly intelligent and supremely competent all at once. She has a plan — and she has the will to execute it.”

Zaporah Price, Ezra Stiles College

An inventive, expressive writer and journalist, Zaporah Price plans to use fiction, literary analysis, and teaching in the service of the global Black diaspora. Through the First Year Scholars at Yale and Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship programs, Zaporah strengthens relationships between students and faculty, between students and New Haven organizations, and enlivens campus discussion. Despite the pandemic, she has built bridges for first-generation students at Yale and helped expand pathways to higher education for students in her native Chicago and in New Haven. As a recruitment coordinator for the Yale Undergraduate Admissions Office, she codirected the virtual Multicultural Open House in 2020, reaching over 1,200 students in the U.S. and in 17 countries. Anyone watching noticed how her good humor and lively spirit burst through the screen. As a staff reporter and columnist for the Yale Daily News, Zaporah created the Black Communities beat, covering the impact of the pandemic on New Haven residents, and reporting about the Movement for Black Lives. Zaporah served as a journalism teaching assistant and mentor for the East Rock Record Journalism Project. She has continued to find important connections as an editorial assistant at the Yale University Art Gallery, expanding her repertoire of writing, cultural analysis, and public engagement. Ezra Stiles College has appointed her as a first-year counselor for next year, in recognition of the trust and affection she inspires in peers, mentees, and community members.”

David Foster, Grace Hopper College

David embodies the spirit of altruism and social service so esteemed in Mr. Schroeder. As Hopper’s Sustainability Liaison, David has raised the bar of environmental efforts at Yale. Events that David has planned have included Earth Day Planting, the Mill River Cleanup and Invasive Species Destruction Trip, and Hopper’s Marsh Botanical Garden Tour. The entire college fondly remembers the blueberry-bush, bulb-planting, and cider-drinking event he organized last fall. David has also worked hard to help beautify the exterior area of the College in meaningful ways. After finding in Yale’s archives photos of Hopper’s gate on cross-campus, David noticed ivy encircling the area where John C. Calhoun’s name is still inscribed. In conversation with HCC members, as well as Head and Dean, David raised the idea of reinstating that ivy, not merely to return the gate’s ivy-covered image to its previous state, but also to cover, but not erase, the name imprinted above the gate, marking Hopper’s layered history and the conversations that continue around the name change and its variety of visible and cloaked manifestations in the College. As a warm and dynamic incoming FroCo, David’s initiatives link sustainability and community-building in an organic and imaginative way.”

Sophie Ascheim, Jonathan Edwards College

Sophie Ascheim is beloved in JE as a warm and outgoing college aide. However, we recognize her now for the contributions she has made to the larger world. Sophie has become a voice for the menstrual rights of impoverished women everywhere. She began The Pad Project in her high school to address an underpublicized problem, which is that the cost of period products can cause women in poor areas to lose educational opportunities. She also filmed a documentary on the work of the Pad Project in India called ‘Period. End of Sentence’ for which she was awarded an Academy Award. Sophie plans a future where she continues to advocate and agitate. For her altruism and commitment to the health of the poorest women, she has earned the Schroeder Award.”

Geraldine Hernandez-Marin, Pierson College

Geraldine has been awarded the John C. Schroeder Award for 2022. A FGLI student majoring in Psychology, Geraldine has worked as a Research Assistant in the Clinical & Affective Neuroscience Laboratory directed by Professor Hedy Kober. But the impact she has had on the Yale community and on Pierson College goes well beyond the classroom and the lab. She has made substantial contributions to Yale’s music scene as a member of Yale’s a cappella group, Proof of the Pudding. Her contributions within Pierson have stood out as well. First, since her first year, Geraldine has provided leadership as a member of our Housing Committee and has shown marked maturity and unflappability in that role. Second, during the COVID-19 lockdown, she was diehard participant in Pierson’s online Friday Night Game Nights (and, as it so happens, a lethal assassin in Among Us!): her commitment to those gatherings proved crucial in providing interpersonal support to peers during an exceedingly difficult time. Third and finally, this spring Geraldine was selected as a Pierson FroCo 2022–23 and will serve as the team’s Head FroCo next year. She has a quiet presence that is constant and inspires confidence and trust. Geraldine’s ‘contribution to the good life of the residential college community’ have inspired confidence that she will continue to make a meaningful ‘contribution the community (or world)’ after her graduation from Yale, hallmark qualities recognized by the Schroeder Award.”

Jonathan Oates, Silliman College

Jonathan is a hard-working political science major. His interest in politics stems from an explicit moral conviction that government is not in fact broken — it’s the place that one goes to serve and make one’s community a better place. Jonathan absolutely lives these moral ideals in all his work at Yale — indeed, he has gone over and above the call of service during his time at Yale and at Silliman College From his work on the YCC to going above and beyond as Silliman SAAC co-president, Jonathan has already done important work to make Silliman and Yale a better place. Jonathan has also taken his altruistic service beyond Yale’s campus. Last year, he was inducted into the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, an organization that seeks out the nation's best and brightest to use their talents to serve others. As this long list shows, Jonathan has worked tirelessly and altruistically to help make the communities he’s part of better. He will undoubtedly do the good labor of the world and strongly lives up to all the moral ideals that this award and John C. Schroeder stood for.”

Joaquin Lara Midkiff, Saybrook College

From his first days on campus Joaquin Lara Midkiff quickly established himself as an avuncular figure in Saybrook.  Indeed, it was not uncommon for Joaquin’s FROCOs to remark that he sometimes ‘FROCOS us.’ Joaquin is mature, empathetic and a wonderful listener, all of which are qualities that help students gravitate to him. Whether it is attending a suitemate’s performance, recentering the focus when a college council meeting begins straying or sitting at a table in the dining hall while a classmate holds court, Joaquin has an incredible ability to make other people feel as if they and their interests are the most important thing in the world at the moment.”

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.

Jun-Davinci Choi, Benjamin Franklin College

Jun-Davinci has contributed enormously to the musical scene at Yale as a violinist, conductor, and organizational leader. She is the Assistant Conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and conducted the annual Halloween concert. As the music director of the Berkeley College Orchestra, she has led the oldest continuously active residential college orchestra back to life after the pandemic. She is also business manager of the Opera Theatre of Yale College, and will be the orchestral director of this year's Dramat musical. During the pandemic she co-founded ECHO: Musicians Connect, connecting students, musicians, and educators across the globe.”

Tilden Chao, Ezra Stiles College

Majoring in Economics and completing the Energy Studies Multidisciplinary Academic Program, Tilden has enlivened residential college life through a wide variety of musical performance and social engagements. A gifted saxophonist and musical arranger, Tilden leads ensembles of saxophonists and horn players, whose repertoire spans classical, jazz, and popular music. During this pandemic, his playfulness and his commitment to service has been a source of endless good. Tilden is always the first to volunteer his time and talents to get students together, and he has also taken pains to honor members of the dining hall and facilities staff at our celebrations. He sees music is a social practice and an expressive language, which connects us to one another and can accompany us in moments of challenge. When he brings out eight masked saxophonists to play in our dining hall, he fills the space with incomparable sound. At one performance, he passed an envelope with song titles so his audience would select the songs. It was a lovely gesture of invitation typical of Tilden’s musicianship. He could take solos and play as a virtuoso, but he is most inclined to put his music in the service of a social gathering.”

Jarron Long, Grace Hopper College

A member of the Yale Jazz Ensemble Big Band, Jarron Long is also president of the Yale Undergraduate Jazz Collective. He has energetically reached out to the broader jazz community at Yale, in New Haven, and beyond. As president, Jarron connects artists, administrators, and community members. He manages team initiatives for performance and education, including the creation of a student-run jazz publication. And he brings his social and historical knowledge, as well as his disarming personal modesty and generosity to others, to everything he does. During the early stages of the pandemic, when Yale students were strewn across the globe and undergraduate community was hard to come by, Jarron became the moving editorial force behind the Collective’s electronic magazine, ‘The Turnaround.’ Members of the YUJC also recorded during that period, with Jarron on drums, and he and other students merged their separately recorded performances into shared publicly available videos. Jarron contributed to ‘keeping jazz alive’ at Yale during the pandemic. He is also an excellent scholar, a humanistic cultural sociologist deeply versed in historical social theory, and president of the Yale Undergraduate Ethics Bowl. Jarron sees his Grace Hopper College-related activities as part of helping the college bridge between its Calhoun and Hopper periods.”

Oliver Leitner, Pierson College

Oliver has been awarded the Joseph Lentilhon Seldon Memorial Junior Award. A native Nevadan, Oliver is an accomplished violinist. Prior to coming to Yale, he studied with Carol Laube of the Reno Philharmonic and attended the Aspen Music School, California Summer Music, and the Academy for Gifted Students at the Freiburg Conservatory in Germany. As a seventeen-year-old, he was also featured on NPR’s From the Top. An All-State solo and ensemble performer, he was a three-time grand prize winner of the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and performed as a member of the Reno Chamber Orchestra and the Artemisia Chamber Ensemble. In the fall of 2019, while a student at Yale, Oliver was invited back to his home city to perform the Chausson Poème with the Reno Philharmonic. Since his arrival at the university, Oliver has performed with the Yale Symphony Orchestra, and he currently serves as a Co-Leader and Concertmaster for the YSO. A student of Wendy Sharp at the Yale School of Music, he regularly performs in chamber music concerts on campus. Finally, he is only one of two Yale students in history to have recorded a violin duet on Facebook under the title, ‘Ever imagine wielding your violin bow as a fencing sword?’ In all these endeavors at Yale and beyond, Oliver has demonstrated the characteristic ‘verve, idealism and constructive interest in music and the humanities’ duly honored by the Selden Award.”

Ben Beckman, Saybrook Collge

Saybrook junior Ben Beckman is a nationally accomplished composer and performer whose music, rooted in the Classical tradition, draws influence from a wide variety of styles — from post-rock, to jazz fusion, to traditional Jewish cantillation, among many others — to synthesize a new and unique sound for the modern world. Ben is also a fully engaged Saybrugian who during his tenure at Yale has been a member of the college’s arts committee, took a leading role in garnering student input for the 2021 Saybrook library renovations, and is currently one of the students at forefront of reviving live musical performances in Saybrook.”

Phoebe Liu, Trumbull College

Phoebe Liu is a Data Science and Statistics major, Education Studies student, a talented violinist and a journalist who has written about music related topics regularly in the Yale Daily News. Throughout Phoebe’s time at Yale she has shared her musical talents with others by organizing small performances with other musicians, playing in the Yale Symphony Orchestra and regularly volunteering to teach middle and high school students in New Haven about music and other topics. Phoebe does all this with dedication, hard work, warmth and a lovely humility which is striking given her huge level of talent. She has continued personal violin training with Professor Kyung Yu who describes her as a ‘tremendously gifted violinist’ who ‘approaches her studies with energy and enthusiasm’ while bringing ‘discipline and determination to her practicing.’ He also says, ‘She is supportive and helpful to fellow violinists providing great leadership and inspiration.’ Head of Trumbull College, Margaret Clark, describes Phoebe’s music performances as breath-taking and Phoebe herself as a wonderful human being and role model to others.”

Francis Fedora, Timothy Dwight College

A classical cellist, Francis Fedora has participated in key ensembles and curricular programs open to our most dedicated musicians on campus. As a member of the Yale Symphony Orchestra (YSO) since his first year, he has played key roles in the production of the ensemble’s Halloween film and wrote the script for this year’s ‘The Holy Ale.’ A dedicated and long-time participant in Yale’s chamber musician program and a member of the all-cello ensemble Low Strung, Francis also participates in the Yale Baroque Opera Project. A devoted member of the Timothy Dwight College community he has performed in many of the college’s Community Nights. This semester in honor of the college’s 2022 Spring semester Chubb Fellow, Hilary Hahn, he led and organized a quartet of TD musicians to perform at the celebratory dinner. As a student at Yale College, Francis is also a dedicated student exploring the world of physics and philosophy. His love of both the humanities and science connects with his desire to engage the world around him. For Francis, music, physics, and philosophy have helped him to navigate a world full of uncertainty and build community and connection especially during the pandemic. A rare combination of tremendous musical talent with a deep passion for his community, Francis embodies the finest qualities associated with the Joseph Lentilhon Selden Memorial Award.”

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