Abigail Smith ’23 and Brandon Mitchell ’23 captured the top two awards at Prize Day Saturday in Memorial Chapel.
More than 100 awards were presented to honor students for achievement in academics, leadership and community service.
An interdepartmental major in biology and English from Killingworth, Conn., Smith received the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize. It is awarded annually to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field. It is considered the most prestigious student prize at Union.
In presenting Smith with her award, President David R. Harris said nominators described Smith as “a truly interdisciplinary scholar and thinker who approached her time at Union as an opportunity to gather all the knowledge she could while building our community through service, both official and unofficial.”
As a senior admissions interviewer, she has been an effective ambassador with prospective students, describing the many activities available and the strong sense of community to be found at Union.
And as an ID major, she relates her experience in finding connections between medicine and literature. A Union Scholar, she focused her sophomore independent research project focused on reproductive science misconceptions in Romantic and Modern Literature. For her senior thesis, she has written a series of braided essays that explore the concept of femininity, with each essay grounded in biological metaphor.
Among her many leadership roles, she served as a first-year student on the COVID programming task force to organize events to boost morale at a difficult time, Harris said.
She is also president of the Springfest Committee and Speakers Forum, where she has played an instrumental role in bringing to campus a number of innovative performers and engaging speakers. Through the Lunch with a Leader program, she has helped to cultivate the next generation of student leaders.
“Through her many roles – welcoming future Union students, creating opportunities for members of the Union community to engage with each other, enriching the campus through art and culture – she is a fitting recipient of this honor,” Harris told the audience.
In addition to the Bailey Prize, Smith received three other awards Saturday.
A neuroscience major from Brooklyn, Mitchell received the Josephine Daggett Prize, presented annually to a senior for conduct and character.
Mitchell is recognized by nominators as someone willing to take risks to follow his commitment to advancing social justice and inclusion, Harris said in presenting the award.
A leader in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and a member of Bronner House, which strives to raise awareness of the diverse cultures that make up the Union community, Mitchell is also a member of the Black Student Union’s executive board.
He has participated in the First-Generation Mentorship program and has served as a mentor himself.
“He appreciates the necessity for a leader to listen,” Harris said. “He understands that leadership takes many forms and that it is not simply a position or title, but a way to engage with others for a common purpose.”
Harris said Mitchell’s ability to rally his classmates was obvious when as president of the senior class, he led the development of the inaugural “100 Days Until Commencement,” which provides seniors important information as they approach a milestone.
As a student athlete, Mitchell is well known among his football teammates for his compassion and character. He led by example, always challenging his teammates to get involved with campus organizations and causes. He also served as a member of the Committee on Athletics Inclusion.
“He has helped to mold Union into a better form of itself through humility, kindness and passion,” Harris said.
In addition to the Daggett Prize, Mitchell received two other awards at Prize Day.
Other presenters at Prize Day included Michele Angrist, the Stephen J. and Diane K. Ciesinski Dean of Faculty and vice president for Academic Affairs; Annette Diorio, vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students; Robin Olinsky, class dean for Class of 2023; and Kara Doyle, interim dean of Academic Departments and Programs.
The ceremony featured student dance performances choreographed by Megan Flynn, the Gustave L. Davis ’59 and Susan S. Davis Director of Dance and artist in residence in the Department of Theater and Dance.
The first Prize Day was held in May 1932 to complement the annual Block U Dinner for athletic achievement. The new event honored 20 seniors for their intellectual accomplishments.