Academic achievement prizes, prize scholarships and other recognition of student accomplishments were announced at Hamilton’s annual Class & Charter Day convocation on Monday, May 7, in the Chapel. Among the top prizes, Jenny Soonthornrangsan ’19 was awarded the Milton F. Fillius Jr. /Joseph Drown Prize Scholarship, and Marquis Palmer ’18 received the James Soper Merrill Prize.
Christian A. Johnson Excellence in Teaching Professor of Philosophy Todd Franklin delivered remarks. “Today we celebrate a range of such voices and relish the fact that Hamilton is at its best and most excellent when it acknowledges, embraces, cultivates, and celebrates, a veritable chorus of voices,” Franklin said.
Jenny Soonthornrangsan is a geosciences and mathematics major from Panorama City, Calif. A Dean’s List student, she was born in Thailand and came to the U.S. as a child. In nominating her for the award, Professor of Geosciences Todd Rayne wrote, “I am confident that her natural intelligence, her scientific curiosity, her empathy for others, and her strong desire to improve our world will make her an excellent scientist.” [See video of Jenny winning the award]
Last summer she participated in a competitive National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates, and conducted research at the University of Buffalo on the project “Tracking Nutrient Fluxes In Groundwater And Surface Water On The Eastern Shore Of Lake Erie.” Soonthornrangsan was the lead author and presented the paper at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Seattle last year.
A total of 147 students won 179 other prizes and scholarships for public speaking, writing, campus leadership, and achievement in all academic disciplines.
She works for the Geosciences department as a grader and as an informal teaching assistant. Soonthornrangsan has been the student manager of the women’s basketball team since she arrived on campus in 2015, and has also captained the women’s club basketball team.
Soonthornrangsan traveled to West Virginia on an Alternative Spring Break trip to work on river clean-ups and teach young people about ecological conservation. In 2016, she visited rural Thailand to study sustainable living while teaching English to high school students.
After Hamilton, Soonthornrangsan hopes to attend graduate school in hydrogeology or environmental engineering and to use her strong scientific background to study environmental issues associated with water, particularly in developing countries.
The Milton F. Fillius, Jr. /Joseph Drown Prize Scholarship, established by the Joseph Drown Foundation, is awarded to a junior who has been very successful academically, has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities while at Hamilton and who is likely to make a significant contribution to society in the future.
Soper Merrill recipient Marquis Palmer is a Utica, N.Y. native, majoring in philosophy. He received a 2018 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for his project “The Inner-world of Skateboarding Communities.” Palmer, recently elected to Phi Beta Kappa, also received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Czech Republic. [See video of Marquis winning the award]
In nominating Palmer, Rick Werner, The John Stewart Kennedy Chair of Philosophy Emeritus wrote, “Marquis’ story is one of resourcefulness … [that] is made possible by an enormous imagination that allows him to see options where others see despair… Marquis speaks with compassion and others listen… Most students see their education as only a means to some other end; a chore to be accomplished for things of actual importance. Marquis understands that education is only worthwhile if it is edifying; if it is at least in part worthy for its own sake.”
Professor Todd Franklin, another nominator, wrote, “To my mind, no other member of the class of 2018 has made their presence felt more…rarely has a young person cherished, embraced, and made such magnanimous use of such a chance.”
Palmer studied at Oxford University during the 2016-17 academic year. He is a Writing Center tutor, a teaching assistant in the Literature and Philosophy departments, Student Assembly class representative, and BLSU member/officer. Palmer conducted Emerson grant research in 2015 and 2017, and he founded Hamilton Philanthropy Committee’s Young Civic Leader scholarship for local high school students.
The James Soper Merrill Prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class “who, in character and influence, has typified the highest ideals of the College.” The winner is selected by the faculty and speaks at Commencement.