Dartmouth Honors Five Valedictorians and Five Salutatorians


This year, 10 Dartmouth students— five valedictorians and five salutatorians—will be recognized at Sunday’s Commencement.

Earning the co-valedictorian distinction for the 2014 graduating class are Serena Liu ’14, Jonathan Pedde ’14, Ethan Portnoy ’14, Ezra Toback ’14, and Natalie Salmanowitz ’14. Salmanowitz was selected by the faculty of the College of Arts & Sciences to deliver the Valedictory to the College at the ceremony (see paragraph at the end of this story).


Natalie Salmanowitz (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Natalie Salmanowitz

The Class of 2014 Valedictory Commencement speaker, Natalie Salmanowitz, is a neuroscience major with a minor in theater whose academic focus is neurolaw—the study of how neuroscientific advances can enhance the equity of the criminal justice system.

After graduation, Salmanowitz will spend the summer in New Haven, Conn., at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics Summer Institute. In the fall, she will pursue a master’s in bioethics and science policy at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Salmanowitz was an early inductee of Phi Beta Kappa, a Rufus Choate Scholar (an honor for students in the top 5 percent of their class), a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, and the recipient of the Kaminsky Family Fund research award. Her senior thesis in neuroscience is titled “Brains and Justice: The Insula and Judgements of Guilt.” Salmanowitz also acted in the 2013 Mainstage production of Angels in America.

The Menlo Park, Calif., native was a Deans Office Student Consultant, a member of Kappa Delta Epsilon sorority, and a first-year Trips leader with the Dartmouth Outing club.

“The people at Dartmouth have had an incredibly profound impact on both my college career and my future ambitions,” Salmanowitz says. “Their passion, intellectual curiosity, and amiability impress and inspire me on a daily basis.”

She also mentored Mascoma High School students in the Let’s Get Ready SAT tutoring program, was part of Mascoma High’s Early College Awareness College Counseling program, and was captain of the Dartmouth Women’s Club Soccer team.


Serena Liu (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Serena Liu

Serena Liu is graduating from Dartmouth with a major in biology and an economics minor. Her academic work has included research in genetics, health science technology, and bioinformatics. After graduation, she will pursue a PhD in computational biology in the University of Washington genome sciences program.

At Dartmouth, she was an inductee of Phi Beta Kappa, received a Goldwater Scholarship and a Kaminsky Family Fund Award to fund her honors thesis in biology. She was a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years, a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, received a Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Fund Research Grant funding one term of full-time research, was a tutor for the Academic Skills Center, and a teaching assistant in computer science and biology.

Liu, of Bellevue, Wash., was a member of the Handel Society on campus and assisted at The Donald Claflin Jewelry Studio. She also spent an off-campus summer as a research assistant for Tianxi Cai of the Harvard School of Public Health as part of the Harvard-MIT Health Science Technology Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics summer program.

Liu also enjoys singing, handcrafts including jewelry making, embroidery, glassblowing and bead making, and ballroom and swing dancing.

“I am deeply thankful for the friends and mentors I have found over the past four years,” Liu says. “My time at Dartmouth has been filled with incredible people and incredible opportunities, and I’ve truly valued having the freedom to explore a diverse range of academic and extracurricular interests.“


Jonathan Pedde (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)



Jonathan Pedde

Jonathan Pedde is a double major in economics and mathematics with a minor in engineering sciences. He has been writing and editing opinion articles for The Dartmouth since 2010, and worked as a research assistant to Meir Kohn, a professor of economics. He was selected as a 2014 Rhodes Scholar, allowing him to pursue a masters of philosophy in economics at the University of Oxford after graduation.

Pedde is an inductee of Phi Beta Kappa and a Rufus Choate Scholar. He received the Philip R. Jackson Engineering Sciences Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize, and the Air Commodore Leonard and Kathleen Birchall Scholarship (a post-secondary scholarship awarded annually by the Air Card League of Canada). He was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, and studied for a term at Oxford’s Keble College through an exchange program sponsored by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences.

A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, where he grew up on a family farm, Pedde worked off-campus for the Canadian nonprofit and relief and development organization The Sharing Way. He spent 12 weeks in India through The Sharing Way helping to design a food security program that aims to increase agriculture yields and decrease malnutrition. His senior thesis in economics examined the effects of political election results on the probability distributions of stock prices at future dates.

”Over the last four years, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from such an incredible group of faculty and peers,“ Pedde says. ”I will look back with great fondness upon my time at the College on the hill.“

Pedde was also a member of Dartmouth’s Ultimate Frisbee team and is a licensed glider pilot and pilots with a local flying club near his home in Regina.


Ezra J. Toback (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Ezra J. Toback

Toback graduates with a major in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literature, specializing in Japanese. His academic interests include history, visual culture studies, urban studies, religion studies, literary theory, and geography. After graduation, Toback will attend the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama, Japan, and plans to apply for PhD programs in East Asian Studies and anthropology this winter.

At Dartmouth, Toback was an inductee of Phi Beta Kappa and a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years. He was recipient of two Dartmouth-funded research grants to Tokyo in 2012 and 2013, he was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, and he translated portions of an 1836 Japanese city guidebook for an independent research class, and received Japanese government certification in Japanese language fluency.

Toback, of Westchester, N.Y., was a member of the Brovertones, an a cappella group that produced an album in 2012. He was a member of Alpha Theta fraternity. He worked as a language drill instructor in Japanese for seven terms, and participated in a leave term exchange to Keio University in Tokyo. He will be submitting for publication several chapter of his Dartmouth thesis titled, ”Historicity and Popular Culture: Selling Sacred Space in Edo-Tokyo, 1836-2014.“

”Here at Dartmouth I’ve encountered the most formative intellectual forces of my life,“ Toback says. ”I know that this school’s students and faculty will continue to shape me going forward.“

Among his other interests are singing, reading early 20th-century novels and works of sociocultural criticism, and baseball books.


Ethan Portnoy (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Ethan Portnoy

Portnoy is graduating from Dartmouth with a major in economics and a minor in Spanish. His academic interests include financial markets, international trade, managerial economics, and business strategy; he started two businesses while at Dartmouth, and was a leader in Greek system philanthropic efforts. After graduation, he will move to Boston to join Bain Capital as a private equity analyst.

At Dartmouth, Portnoy was an early inductee of Phi Beta Kappa, a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize, and a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years. He served as co-president of the Dartmouth Investment and Philanthropy Program (DIPP), and as co-president of the Philanthropic All-American Rush (PAAR), which raised more than $200,000 in 2012 and 2013 combined for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD).

The Chappaqua, N.Y., native is a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity; he is co-owner of Dart Dorm Rentals, a futon rental company on campus, as well as co-founder of Baker Bed Company, a provider of bed rentals on campus. He studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain, on a transfer program through the Acadamy of Liberal & Beaux Arts, and interned at Morgan Stanley during his junior winter and junior summer. He also volunteered as a Bar Mitzvah tutor at the Roth Center during all four years at the College.

”For me, Dartmouth is defined by its strong sense of community and passionate student body,“ Portnoy says. ”Dartmouth students’ enthusiasm for everything they do—from academic studies to extracurricular interests—has always impressed me. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend four years at such a special place.“

Portnoy also enjoys travel, being active, watching professional football, soccer, and college basketball, and he is a New York Yankees fan. He notes that at his high school graduation, he was co-salutatorian with Ezra Toback, who graduates from Dartmouth as a co-valedictorian with Portnoy.

College Names Five Salutatorians

There was a four-way tie for Class of 2014 salutatorian, and a salutatorian with the Class of 2013 receiving honors after a gap year. The honorees are Julia Berkowitz ’14 of Waban, Mass.; Laura Cressman ’14 of Saint Petersburg, Fla.; Charles Dong ’13 of Madison, Wis.; Miriam Kilimo ’14 of Nairobi, Kenya; and Jake Leichtling ’14 of San Francisco, Calif.


Julia Berkowitz (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Julia Berkowitz

Berkowitz, a neuroscience major, is an inductee of Phi Beta Kappa and has been a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years. She was a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, a Sophomore Science Scholar; and a recipient of a Class of ’96 Research award and a Neukom Scholars Grant for her honors thesis work. She interned in the Laboratory of Neuroimaging Research with Dr. Rohit Bakshi at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and did full time research in Professor Paul Whalen’s Affective Neuroscience Research Lab at Dartmouth. Berkowitz, of Waban, Mass., is a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority, a Women in Science Peer Mentor, and a singer with the Dartmouth Decibelles all-female a cappella group. After graduation, she will volunteer at Partners in Health in Boston, and will begin medical school at Geisel School of Medicine in the fall of 2015.


Laura Cressman (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Laura Cressman

Cressman is a double major in chemistry and economics. She is a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Sophomore Prize, she was an early Phi Beta Kappa inductee. She served as a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar as a research assistant in the chemistry lab of Professor Joseph BelBruno, and she was a Rufus Choate Scholar. Cressman, of Saint Petersburg, Fla., was a member of the Epsilon Kappa Theta sorority, and an undergraduate adviser in La Casa, an affinity house sponsored by the departments of Spanish and Portuguese. She completed internships with Bridgewater Associates as an investment intern and with the Tampa Bay Business Journal. After graduation, she plans to work as an investment associate at Bridgewater.


Charles Dong (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Charles Dong

Dong majored in economics modified with mathematics and computer science. Dong is a member of the Class of 2013 who will receive his degree at Sunday’s Commencement ceremony. Dong, of Madison, Wis., took a gap year in 2012, during which he financed and developed $2-10 million solar, hydro, and biomass gasification plants in Kenya and Tanzania with Virunga Power, and he helped start The Savannah Fund, a $10 million venture capital fund and startup incubator in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition, Dong participated in private equity and hedge fund internships at The Blackstone Group in New York and Ward Ferry Management in Hong Kong, respectively. He was president of Dartmouth Society of Investment and Economics, and has backpacked across six continents. After graduation, he plans to begin a rotational program at Box.com, which will give him experience in product management, business development, and sales/marketing.


Miriam Kilimo (Photo by Courtney Cania)


Miriam Kilimo

Kilimo majored in anthropology, and as a Senior Fellow, conducted research on ”Inter-ethnic Friendship among Youth in Urban Kenya.“ She is an inductee in Phi Beta Kappa, a James O. Freedman Presidential Scholar, and has been a Rufus Choate Scholar for three years. Kilimo, of Nairobi, Kenya, was a recipient of the W.E.B. DuBoise Award for Academic Excellence for all four years of her Dartmouth career, she received a Robert G. McGuire III 1958 Memorial Fund grant for academic research on ethnicity and nationalism in Kenya, and she received a Tucker Foundation Fellowship grant for a project to combat female circumcision through education in Kenya. Kilimo was a member of the Dartmouth African Students Association, the Christian Union, and the Jabulani African Chorus, and she worked as an undergraduate adviser and as a student consultant with the office of the Dean of the College. After graduation, she will continue her work as a Lombard Fellow at the African Coordinating Center for the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation (ACCAF) at the University of Nairobi.


Jake Leichtling (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)


Jake Leichtling

Leichtling is a double major in computer science and economics whose academic interests include theoretical computer science, machine learning, software development, and financial economics. He was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and a recipient of the Francis L. Town Scientific Prize in computer science and the Greek Letter Organizations and Undergraduate Societies (GLOS) All Star Award. Leichting, of San Francisco, Calif., wrote his senior thesis on concurrent algorithms with Professor Prasad Jayanti, and conducted economics research under Economics Professor Andrew Samwick. He completed a transfer term at Oxford’s St. Catherine’s College, he was a software engineering intern at Google and at CoupFlip.com, and was an investment intern at Bridgewater Associates. Leichtling is a member of Psi Upsilon fraternity, the Griffin Senior Society, and sings bass with the Dartmouth Cords, an all-male a cappella ensemble. After graduation, he plans to take a position as associated product manager at Google in Mountain View, Calif.

Commencement 2014 Features One Valedictory Speaker

For the first time in recent history, Dartmouth’s Commencement ceremony will feature one valedictory speaker, chosen at random from those among the five co-valedictorians who expressed an interest in addressing the Class of 2014.

”Frankly, they’re all incredible,“ says Inge-Lise Ameer, senior associate dean of the College. ”So once we determined who wanted to speak, the choice had to be random."

All five valedictorians will march at the head of the Class of 2014, will be recognized from the podium, and will be afforded all the honors and privileges of their achievement. In recent years, the number of valedictorians has fluctuated from two to five, and the decision was made to choose a single speaker in the interest of time, Ameer says.

A selection committee representing the dean of the faculty and the dean of the college, picked the 2014 valedictorian from among the names submitted after final grades were recorded with the registrar on Thursday.

Bill Platt