Sixteen students, including many West Hartford residents, were inducted into the Cum Laude Society at Kingswood Oxford earlier this year.
Submitted by Jackie Pisani, Kingswood Oxford School
Earlier this year, 16 Kingswood Oxford scholars were inducted into the Cum Laude Society. Head of School Tom Dillow said these students exemplify KO’s core values of intellectual curiosity, hard work, and perseverance.
Brenda Semmelrock, the president of the school’s Cum Laude Society, noted that the society was established in 1906 to promote learning so that scholars could use their minds for noble purposes. Currently, there are 382 chapters, and the society inducts 4,000 new members each year. The society’s motto is “Areté, Diké, Timé,” which translates from the Greek into “Excellence, Justice, Honor.”
The following students were inducted: Ananya Alleyne, daughter of Julie and Richard L. Alleyne ’87 of West Hartford; Charlie Coxon and Olivia Coxon, son and daughter of Karen and Christopher Coxon of Glastonbury; Ruize “Jack” Gao, son of Xue Mei and Dongsheng Gao of West Hartford and Beijing; Elise Gendrich, daughter of Jodi and Charles Gendrich of Middletown; Emma Kate Johansen, daughter of Jane and Eric Johansen of Avon; Joshua Leshem, son of Elaine and Jerry Leshem of West Hartford; Hailin “Helen” Lu, daughter of Ping Li and Daoru Lu of Daxing/Xicheng, Beijing; Ali Meizels and Jason Meizels, daughter and son of Jennifer and David Meizels of West Hartford; Amy Mistri, daughter of Rachna and Kamlesh Mistri of Enfield; Yaxin “Casey” Qi, daughter of Ying Qu of Haidian, Beijing; Mia Seymour, daughter of Anna and David W. Seymour ’84 of West Hartford; Benjamin Small, son of Janet Wong (dec.) and Ronald Small of West Hartford; Shuze “Kevin” Wan, son of Ying Yo and Hui Wan of Tianjin; and Yiqian “Rita” Zhao daughter of Caiyang Gan of Shaoxing, Zheijang.
Ryan Cronin ’98 served as the evening’s keynote speaker. After graduating from KO, Cronin attended Amherst College where he fell in love with teaching and playing rugby. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in English and a teacher’s certification obtained through a partnership with Mount Holyoke College. Upon graduation, he traveled around the Pacific Rim which sparked a passion in people of diverse backgrounds. Subsequently, he earned his masters in ESOL, teaching the language to non-native speakers.
A passionate advocate for equity for students and their families, Cronin now teaches at Whiting Lane Elementary School in West Hartford where he attended school himself as a young boy. He is an avid meditator and student of Buddhism, and he serves as director of a Buddhist center in East Hartford for the past ten years. He is currently enrolled in a six-year program at the University of Connecticut in school administration in the hopes of becoming a principal one day.
Cronin stated that to speak to the recipients was a precious opportunity to reflect upon the blessings in his life. Although the phrase “count your blessings” is cliched, Cronin believes gratitude is a deeply sacred act, infused with healing powers. “As you reflect, your heart becomes filled with appreciation, humility, and joy. Through this [reflection], I’m left with a deeper sense of gratitude of this place, KO. I am thankful for the certain gifts learned here that I use every day in public education: to think critically, ask great questions, find answers in data and research, communicate my thinking clearly and powerfully,” Cronin said. He believes these skills will serve the students as they make their mark in both their personal and professional communities around them.
Cronin credited KO for teaching him the concept of faith, to believe in the unseen. “My teachers saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself. Faith allows the unseen to become manifest.” He expressed that the students alone can create the reality of the path they chose, and they must have the courage to choose the best version of themselves.
Cronin shared a sage piece of advice: “Always mix humility with success” and showed examples of his misguided pride in his younger years which life soon disabused him of his self-importance and taught him the deep lesson that everyone can be our teacher. He challenged the students to question society’s definition of success and instead seek out a place that makes them fulfilled. “Don’t let the pursuit of success distract you from the joy of living your life … If your life is full of love, joy, and work that is meaningful to you, success will be a natural by-product,” he said.
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