Dartmouth Honors Four Valedictorians, One Salutatorian for the Class of 2010


For the first time in its recorded history, Dartmouth College will honor four valedictorians at Commencement on June 13. The Class of 2010 valedictorians, who each earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA), are: Benjamin Gifford of Newton, Mass.; Gregory W. Hart of Scarsdale, N.Y.; Tomi Jun from Singapore; and Adrian Wood-Smith of St. Paul, Minn. This year’s salutatorian is Ayah Ahmed from Arlington, Va. She maintained a 3.99 grade point average.

The valedictorians will each speak at Commencement and will receive the Mina Warren Scholarship Prize. The prize, established in 1906 by gifts from Kenneth Archibald, Class of 1902, and Cecil Archibald, Class of 1905, in memory of their aunt, is awarded “to that member of the graduating class, who, after four years in attendance at Dartmouth College, ranks highest in scholarship.”

Benjamin Gifford: A native of Newton, Mass., Gifford is a graduate of Newton South High School and a philosophy major at Dartmouth. He earned seven citations for outstanding academic achievement, as well as the Edson Prize for excellence in an introductory government course. He is a Rufus Choate Scholar (an award for students in the top 5 percent of their class), and a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize (an award for students with the highest GPA after five terms at the College). Gifford wrote a philosophy honors thesis, “Making Sense of our Modal Discourse,” in which he dealt with aspects of logic, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.

Gifford was the fundraising coordinator for Dartmouth’s Big Green Bus, which he rode around the country during the summer of 2009. He was also a staff columnist and opinion editor for The Dartmouth (the student newspaper); a performer in the Dog Day Players, Dartmouth’s oldest improv comedy group; a DJ with Dartmouth College Radio; a member of Bones Gate fraternity; and a team leader in the Peer Academic Link program.

After graduation, Gifford will be working as an Investment Associate at Bridgewater Associates in Connecticut.

What has been your Dartmouth experience? “I spent most of my time at Dartmouth trying to find different kinds of balances. There was the balance between work and play, which I think we all hear about a lot, the balance between scheduled and unscheduled time, and—on a slightly different note—the balance between idealism and pragmatism. Even after four years, I’m still struggling to understand the world, to put that understanding into practice, and to do it all without sacrificing too much of my mental or physical health.”

Gregory W. Hart: A native of Scarsdale, N.Y., Hart graduated from Scarsdale High School and is an economics major and an English minor at Dartmouth. Hart received five academic citations at Dartmouth, and is the recipient of the Economics Commendation Award in 2010. He was an early inductee to Phi Beta Kappa and a Rufus Choate Scholar, an award for students in the top 5 percent of their class, all four years.

Hart worked as a Presidential Scholar research assistant to Economics Professor Nina Pavcnik during his junior year, and also assisted Professor Elias Papaioannou with economics research during his senior year. He was an undergraduate adviser, a member of Green Key Society, an intern in the Dartmouth Office of Alumni Relations, and a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He also played baritone saxophone for the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble for four years. In 2008, Hart participated in a language study abroad program in Toulouse, France, studying French language and culture. In 2009, he worked as an intern in Dubai and Oman for financial consulting firm Oliver Wyman as well as in New York with J.P. Morgan.

After graduation, Hart will return to the investment banking division of J.P. Morgan in New York.

What has been your Dartmouth experience? “Dartmouth opened so many doors for me. From working as a consulting intern in Dubai to performing with the Barbary Coast at New York’s Jazz at Lincoln Center to collaborating one-on-one with world-class faculty, Dartmouth has given me countless opportunities I would not have imagined four years ago. I will truly miss Dartmouth, but I feel well prepared for what comes next.”

Listen to Gregory’s valedictory speech

Tomi Jun: A native of Singapore, Jun is a biology major at Dartmouth and from 2007 to 2009 served in the Singapore Armed Forces, rising to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. As an officer, he was a platoon commander responsible for planning and conducting training exercises for up to 200 recruits.

While at Dartmouth, Jun served as a research intern in the Guerinot Plant Molecular Biology Lab, taught Mandarin to middle school children as a member of the Dartmouth Chinese Teaching Society, and wrote a comic strip for The Dartmouth. A Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity member, he was awarded the Phi Beta Kappa Prize for highest GPA in his junior class and is a Rufus Choate Scholar, an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class.

After graduation, Jun will be working in the Guerinot lab full time on the project that comprised his honors thesis: the identification of genes related to iron nutrition in plants. He will also be applying to medical schools for admission in fall 2011.

What has been your Dartmouth experience? “For me, Dartmouth has been about learning in all aspects of life from all the impressive people around me—students, friends, faculty, and staff. Dartmouth has a great community and these past years have been a very humbling education.”

Adrian Wood-Smith: A native of St. Paul, Minn., Wood-Smith graduated from Minnehaha Academy High School and is an Arabic language and literature major at Dartmouth. Wood-Smith is an early inductee into the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society, has received four citations for exceptional academic achievement, and is a War and Peace Studies Fellow with the Dickey Center for International Understanding.

In 2007, Wood-Smith attended Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, as part of an intensive Arabic summer program and studied modern standard Arabic and Egyptian colloquial arabic at the University of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt, in 2008. He also spent a term at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., studying Arabic, Arab culture, and national security issues.

While at Dartmouth, Wood-Smith was a drill instructor in Arabic, an undergraduate residential advisor for first-year and upper-class students in the Office of Residential Life, an image digitizer in the Department of Radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, and a member of the Handel Society and Dartmouth Students Stand with Staff. He has served as the president of Dartmouth’s Muslim student association and an emergency medical technician (EMT) with Dartmouth Emergency Medical Services. In 2008, he volunteered as an English teacher in Cairo, Egypt, for Marhaba: Volunteers in the Middle East, a service-learning summer program for university students and recent graduates based in Egypt. He has also volunteered with Dartmouth’s Prison Project, leading classes on Arabic and Islam at a correctional facility in Vermont.

After graduation, Wood-Smith will spend a year in Damascus, Syria, studying Arabic with the University of Texas’ Center for Arabic Study Abroad.

What has been your Dartmouth experience? “My experience has involved taking advantage of the many opportunities we have here at the College and in the Upper Valley: in the arts, local service, academics, and many other programs. I am grateful to all of my classmates, my professors, and the staff here for a wonderful four years—I could not have asked for better.”

Ayah Ahmed: Ahmed, the Class of 2010 salutatorian, is a graduate of the American International School in Kuwait. She is a biology major with a concentration in women’s health and genetics and minored in Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures.

She is the recipient of Dartmouth’s General Scholarship for Educational Excellence; a Rufus Choate Scholar, awarded to students in the top 5 percent of their class; winner of the Christopher G. Reed Biologist Award; a William Chaplin Bemis and Howard Kenyon Bemis Merit Scholarship awardee; and a James Freedman Presidential Scholar. She’s received four citations and is a member of the Golden Key Collegiate Honor Society.

In 2008, Ahmed worked as a research assistant in the Yashi Ahmed Lab at Dartmouth Medical School, was a United Nations intern in the Gender in Health and Development Unit of the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt, and worked as a research assistant in the summer of 2006 with the World Health Organization. She has been published in the Encyclopedia of Cancer & Society and a publication by the WHO on community-based initiatives. She currently has an article under review with Global Pulse on hypertension in underserved North African communities.

After graduation, Ahmed will be attending a graduate studies program in public health and primary care at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom this fall.

What has been your Dartmouth experience? “It has been rewarding in every way possible. I’ve had the chance to meet, work with, and learn from exceptional educators and students here who have added much to my academic career and personal aspirations.”

Latarsha Gatlin