|June 17, 2007|
Profiles of valedictorian, salutatorian, student speaker
VALEDICTORIAN JONATHAN YOUNG: 'I have really enjoyed my time here'
As a high school senior choosing a college, Jonathan Young thought the perfect fit was 3,000 miles from his southern California home.
Four years later, Young came tantalizingly close to perfection.
The 21-year-old Biology/Economics major got straight A’s across the board, except for an A-minus during his term abroad in China between his sophomore and junior year. Young’s academic prowess has earned him the title of valedictorian for Union College’s Class of 2007.
“I have really enjoyed my time here at Union,” said Young, who lives in Walnut, Ca., with his parents, Robert and Antonia, and younger sister, Jocelyn. “The College offers tremendous opportunities in research, as well as extra-curricular activities.”
Young is a member of several honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma XI (scientific research) and Omicron Delta Epsilon (economics). He presented his thesis at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and took second place at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Science Research (ICPSR).
At Union, he won the Stephen F. Leo, M.D. Prize and the Elias Peissner Prize for top pre-med student and economics student, respectively. He also received the Rosenthal Prize, given to a pre-medical student by the Biology Department for excellence in academics and contribution to the College community.
He was a tutor for the Writing Center and the Economics Department Crisis Center, a senior intern for Admissions, a volunteer for the Kenney Community Center, and the science and technology editor for Concordiensis all four years.
He credits his two thesis advisors, Brian D. Cohen in Biology and Younghwan Song in Economics, for much of his success.
“They sacrificed many long hours to help me get where I am today,” he said.
Young is returning west to attend medical school at UCLA in the fall. Even so, Union won’t be far from his thoughts.
“I’m excited to go back home, closer to my family,” he said, “but I loved my four years here.”
SALUTATORIAN LEIGH ANN HOLTERMAN: 'I threw myself into the work'
Leigh Ann Holterman
For Class of 2007 Salutatorian Leigh Ann Holterman, the path to exceptionally high grades was clear from day one of her first year at Union.
“I made sure I was on top of my work. I spent a lot of time figuring out what needed to get done, and I got it done,” Holterman said. “I also paid attention in class, and I really threw myself into the work and learning process.”
But class work is just one side of Holterman’s life at Union.
The Psychology major also had a range of other interests, like starting a student-run babysitting service for College faculty and staff; booking comedians, including The Daily Show’s John Oliver, to perform at Memorial Chapel; and working as an Admissions interviewer senior year. And as a French minor, she completed a term abroad in fall 2005 at the University of Rennes 2.
“I am grateful that I had the chance to do it all at Union," Holterman said. “I think it gave me a good, strong background in different areas, so when I go out into the real world, I will be able to pick and choose from those experiences. And also, it was a lot of fun getting to know different people.”
Holterman, the daughter of Amy Holterman of Albany and Robert Holterman of Clifton Park, is a graduate of Albany High School. She was the 2007 Lisa S. Gerhan Memorial Award winner, given to a Union student who shows academic excellence, a commitment to the field of psychology and the potential for future contributions to the field.
She recently accepted a job as a research assistant at the Burlington, Vt., offices of Macro International, Inc., a research and consulting firm. Holterman plans to pursue a doctoral degree in industrial and organizational psychology in the fall of 2008.
STUDENT SPEAKER KARYN AMIRA: ‘We’ve done some amazing things’
When Karyn Amira began writing her remarks for Commencement, she realized how much her classmates had accomplished in four years.
“We started Rolling for Autism. ‘Tie the Nott’ raised $27,000 in two weeks for cancer research. We kicked off the environmental campaign at Union with recycling advocacy, and organic cafés and dinners. We started the Dutch Oven, perhaps the funniest publication at any college or university. We’ve done some amazing things.”
Among those accomplishments is her own. A Political Science major and Psychology minor from Newton Mass., Amira won a $10,000 Kathryn Wasserman Davis “100 Projects for Peace” award this spring for her campaign, “Students for a Mine-Free World.” She is reaching out to college students throughout the country to encourage the U.S. government to sign the international Treaty to Ban Landmines.
The landmine project became her senior thesis, and she credits her thesis advisor, Wu Zhang of the Political Science Department, with helping her throughout the process.
“Going on the Vietnam a term abroad and learning about the landmines are two of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Amira said.
Amira, 21, is the daughter of Stephen Amira ’71, a clinical psychologist, and Shelley Amira, an administrator in geriatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Amira also received the Delphic Honor Society Award for exemplary service to the College. She was president of Springfest, a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, music columnist for Concordiensis and a contributor to the Dutch Oven. She attended Hillel events and played broomball and softball.
“I like the community feeling you get at Union,” Amira said. “I really took advantage of opportunities to get involved.”
After graduation, Amira hopes to work with a non-governmental agency or nonprofit organization before going on to study international relations.
Meanwhile, she has some unfinished business. As part of her peace award, she is planning a mass advertising and postcard campaign against landmines.
“I still have $9,900 to spend by this summer,” she said.