Valedictorian, Salutatorian Named for 100th Commencement
Following a rigorous selection process, Assumption College is pleased to announce the valedictorian and salutatorian for its centennial commencement. As salutatorian, Sonia Nunes will introduce the Commencement speaker, and Rachel Avard, who has been chosen as the valedictorian, will address her fellow classmates and their families. Commencement, Assumption’s 100th, will take place on Sunday, May 14 at the DCU Center, where nearly 700 candidates for graduation will receive either an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree or a certificate of advanced graduate study.
“At Assumption, these highest honors are not a matter of grades alone, but are awarded after a careful and deliberative process on the part of a group of students, faculty, and administrators, said Eloise R. Knowlton, Ph.D, dean of undergraduate studies.
Avard, a native of Manchester, NH, is a candidate for graduation with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and minor in biology. She has participated in two summer internships-- one in the field of neuroscience and another in organic chemistry—and has also conducted independent research in both fields. In regard to community service, a hallmark of an Assumption education, Avard has volunteered at the Salvation Army’s Kid’s FEAST program, the annual Harvest Home 5K and coordinated the Light the Night 5K for charity. As a member of Assumption Peers Advocating for Wellness, Food and Auxiliary Committee, Honors Program Council, and athletic representative for the Student Government Association and a head tutor for the Academic Support Center, Avard sought to use her gifts and talents in service to others. She is also the first chair cellist for the College’s String Camerata.
In recognition of Avard’s excellence in academics, she was named an Aquinas Scholar, a Presidential Scholar, was a recipient of the Dr. Byrnes Scholarship for Excellence in the Natural Sciences, and was named to the Dean’s List for each semester she attended Assumption.
In addition to her extra-curricular activities, Avard is also captain of the women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams. Her athletic recognitions include National Cross Country Academic All-American and NE-10 Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field All-Conference.
Avard will attend Columbia University in the fall, where she will pursue a doctorate in chemistry.
Nunes, of Webster, MA, is a candidate for graduation with a bachelor of arts in English literature with a minor in art history. During her studies at Assumption, Nunes served as head tutor of the Academic Support Center and trained more than 50 student tutors. She was also an enhanced COMPASS teaching assistant in the College’s Academic Support Center, and worked as a COMPASS workshop facilitator, continuing education writing fellow and orientation leader.
Among Nunes’s many academic achievements, she created and co-presented a workshop for the New England Peer Tutoring Association’s conference on effective tutoring strategies and improving communication with English Language Learner (ELL) students, which is used in tutor trainings. Nunes has earned recognition on the Dean’s List for each semester in which she was enrolled at Assumption. She is fluent in Polish, Spanish and has a master level College Reading & Learning Association certification in writing.
Avard and Nunes were chosen from a pool of senior applicants that ranked in the top percentile of the Class of 2017. The finalists were interviewed by a committee comprised of faculty and administrators for the honor of serving as the valedictorian and salutatorian. The committee includes Dean Knowlton, committee chair; Dan DiTullio, assistant to the president, and co-chair of the Commencement Committee; Carl Keyes, associate professor of history; Frank Marino, associate professor of business studies; Nancy O'Sullivan, d'Alzon librarian and co-chair of the Commencement Committee; Derek Pettinelli, president of the Class of 2017; and Gabriella Rosa, vice president of the Class of 2017.
Assumption’s Commencement speaker is John L. Allen, Jr., senior Vatican analyst for CNN and editor of Crux, a publication that focuses on news of the Vatican and Catholic Church. Allen, Mary Lou Jennings, executive director of the Sister Thea Bowman Black Catholic Educational Foundation, and Roberta Schaefer, Ph.D., founder and former president of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, will receive honorary degrees during Commencement recognizing their dedicated work to community service and living lives that reflect the values of the College’s mission that include critical intelligence, thoughtful citizenship and compassionate service
Kimberly Dunbar, Director of Public Affairs, Assumption College