Nineteen students were inducted into the Harpeth Hall Chapter of the Cum Laude Society on April 2 at a special all-school assembly.
President of Harpeth Hall's Cum Laude society, Mohini Misra '19, welcomed assembly attendees and spoke about the society's history.
"In 1973, Harpeth Hall was granted a charter by the National Cum Laude Society. Since its inception in 1906, the primary purpose of the society has been to recognize scholastic achievement of students in secondary schools while also working to encourage qualities of excellence, justice, and honor. This assembly today recognizes members of our Junior and Senior classes who embody those qualities, who have embraced the life of the mind, and who have attained a level of academic excellence. It has earned them membership in the Harpeth Hall Cum Laude chapter," Misra said.
She then transitioned, "Cum Laude is rooted in Harpeth Hall tradition, but today I want to speak to you about something that is not traditionally included in a celebration of accomplishment: failure."
Misra went on to explain her fear of failure, and how she manages it. She used the metaphor of a coin toss to explore the pros and cons of taking a chance, and also emphasized the importance of taking that chance. "Each time we flip the coin, we both risk failure and give ourselves a shot at success," Misra said.
"Accepting the role of failure won't make us invincible to it... Failure isn't final, and putting ourselves out there, or, to extend my metaphor, feeling comfortable with flipping the coin, is the only thing that really allows us the opportunity to succeed," Misra concluded.
Vice President of Harpeth Hall's Cum Laude society, Olivia Leu '19, introduced the winner of the 2018 Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching, Mr. Benny Abraham, World Languages Teacher in both the Middle School and the Upper School, to deliver the Cum Laude address.
Mr. Abraham spoke beautifully about his passion for teaching, and more specifically about his deep love of Latin. He shared that often he gets asked why he loves Latin when it is "a dead language."
"The answer I usually give is in the spirit of small talk. 'I like the parallels between ancient and modern history' or 'I love word roots' or 'It's fascinating that stuff written two thousand years ago still survives' or 'I just like it,'" Abraham said.
As any good teacher does, he went on to share an interesting story about the parallel between the politics of ancient Rome and modern day politics in our country today. He said this example is part of the reason he teaches Latin, but it is not the whole reason.
"I teach and study Latin today because... and it sounds strange to say... because it haunts me. Teaching this dead language in some small way brings it back to life. And for me, it also brings back to life the memory of several friends, whom I will never see again," he said.
Abraham shared the stories of four people who "changed my life, and who themselves have passed on to, I hope, the Elysian Fields - a place where they will spend the afterlife amongst heroes. The certainly deserve to."
Charles Linnenbringer - his friend from the University of Missouri that he met in a Latin class.
Dr. Shilpa Raval - a teacher at the University of Missouri who inspired him to pursue his passions.
Margaret Lowe, Harpeth Hall class of 2012 - his student at Harpeth Hall for five years, and an exceptional Latin student who went on to major in Classics and pre-med at the University of Virginia.
Joyce Ward, a Latin teacher in Harpeth Hall's Upper School for many years who became his mentor. She was the very first winner of the Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching.
He introduced these special people to the assembly crowd and told their stories with love and dignity, sharing about his connection to each person, their unique traits and passions, and the deep impact each one made on him and his life.
"So, to sum up, I teach and study Latin... because Charles was my friend... because Shilpa was my teacher... because Margaret was my student... because Joyce was my mentor. Latin is the tie that binds me to the memories of these people whom I knew and loved in my past. I teach and study Latin because they no longer can. Because holding on to the past has value, even if it's painful," Abraham said.
He concluded his powerful speech, "Who will know Charles's humor, or Shilpa's wisdom, or Margaret's brilliance, or Joyce's dedication, if I don't remember it? They lived. They were here. They were important. At least to me. And so is Latin."
The crowd gave Mr. Abraham a standing ovation for his heart-felt, inspiring, and moving speech. After which, Mrs. Hill and Mr. Echerd introduced the new Cum Laude members and presented them with certificates.
Margaret Claire Beuter
Katherine Rose Dovan
Ainsley Rein Hanrahan
Hannah MacKenzie Higgins
Melissa Langley King
Ingram Pennebaker Link
Alexandra Eleanor Massey
Sarah Elizabeth Parks
Meghna Chandni Ramaiah
Alexandria Clareese Anderson
Emily Clay Beach
Mia Cosette Brakebill
Claiborne Parke Fowler
Helen Adair Griffith
Caroline Miller Kirkland
Margaret Ella Nelson
Olivia Margaux Olafsson
Anna Scout Robbins
Charlotte Mikell Taylor
Benjamin Curtiss Fulwider
Members in Course
Annmarie Noor Allos
Caleigh Elizabeth Dennis
Jane Elizabeth Flautt
Ana Claire Gonzalez
Kathryn Carlton Jenkins
Margaret Olivia Leu
Mohini Kavya Misra
Catherine Connelly Smith
Katherine Gingrass Stark
Holland Scott Strang
Arthur Reeves Echerd, Jr.
Jennifer Jean Jervis
Michele Lynn O'Brien
Jacqueline O'Keefe Powers
Legare Davis Vest
Madeline Martin Waud
Robert English Womack
Adam Richard Wilsman