Occidental College Honors Eight Outstanding Students With Class Awards
Occidental College kicked off its 118th academic year by granting class awards to eight notable students during convocation ceremonies held Thursday, Sept. 2.
The college is fortunate to have three endowed funds that make possible annual awards of $500 apiece to outstanding men and women in the sophomore, junior and senior classes.
The awards, based on the students’ prior year’s achievements, take into account scholarship, moral character, and contributions to student life and the general welfare of the college. A committee convened by the Office of the Dean of Students makes the selections.
The awards and recipients are as follows:
The freshman award was established in 1955 in memory of Charles W. List ’08. The 2003-04 awardees are sophomores Kevin Adler of Livermore, Calif., and Yohualli Balderas of Harbor City, Calif., both undeclared majors. As a freshman, Adler compiled a 3.82 grade point average while serving as an elected representative to the Residence Hall Association, a member of the Dean of Students Advisory Group, and the chair for publicity and volunteer recruitment for the Department of Diplomacy and World Affairs’ Compton Global Affairs Conference. He also is a mentor and companion for elementary/middle school students through his work with Olive Branches, and has served as an intern for Los Angeles City Council member Eric Garcetti, working on environmental issues. In her first year at Occidental, Balderas tallied a 3.96 grade point average. Beyond an interest in scientific research, she has shown her commitment to the community through volunteerism, including providing pediatric play therapy, pursuing a Cards for Cancer Patients project at the City of Hope, and recruiting blood donors. Balderas also has been involved with Ballet Folklorico as a dancer and assistant instructor.
The Cynthia Cox Memorial Award for sophomores is presented in recognition of an alumna of the Class of 1972. It was established in 1980 by her parents and friends. This year’s awardees are Ethan Ambabo, an art history/visual arts major from Albuquerque; Matt Leonard, a cognitive science major from Santa Monica, Calif.; Gina Alicia Lopez, a psychology major from Pacoima, Calif.; and Rachel Tusler, an English/comparative literary studies major from Eugene, Ore.
Ambabo maintains outstanding grades while carrying out the demanding responsibilities as a resident adviser. He has helped build community, created a safe and healthy environment for learning and social interaction, and advised residents as the need arises. He has served on the staff of the college yearbook, La Encina, and is an active lacrosse player. Leonard has maintained a 3.81 grade point average at Occidental. His commitment to academic pursuits was particularly complemented by his work on music for the Theater Department’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Leonard’s behind-the-scene contributions encompassed studio recording, orchestrating, and music copying. Lopez has been described by one of her professors as a “naturally quiet personality” who “shines like a supernova” in her written work. She has served as a leader in MEChA/ALAS and as a member of the Latino Graduation Committee. Lopez also volunteers her time as a tutor at Toland Way Elementary School and works with L.A. Bridges, an after-school program that provides a safe outlet for at-risk middle-school students. Tusler has been recognized for her scholarly prowess (and 3.86 grade point average) with two awards from the Osage Tribal Education Committee. Lauded by one of her instructors as having superb writing and analytical skills, she has used these talents outside the classroom as a regular contributor to the Occidental Weekly student newspaper. Away from campus, Tusler is active in the community tutoring at-risk students at Eagle Rock High School as a member of the Gear Up Program.
The junior class award was established in 1955 in memory of trustee Daniel Stewart Hammack, a member of the Class of 1905, by his family and friends. After the 1973 death of Hammack’s son, trustee Daniel Hammack Jr. ’35, his name was added to the award. The 2003-04 Hammack Awardees are Melanie Deutsch, a psychology major from Los Angeles, and Michael Lee, a chemistry major from Sunnyvale, Calif. Deutsch has been described as a “peer helper” with a solid attitude of caring for others. She has demonstrated this in her work as a resident adviser, while maintaining a 3.58 grade point average. Deutsch has been an active member of the Delta sorority and has served as captain of the lacrosse team. Lee has maintained a 3.97 grade point average since transferring to Occidental after his freshman year. He received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship and was a teaching assistant for Chemistry 201 last year. He also is an active member of the Newman Club Catholic Community on campus, sings with the Glee Clubs, and represented the student body as a delegate to the Educational Affairs Committee on the Board of Trustees.