Princeton names 2001 valedictorians, salutatorian
the first time since its founding in 1746, Princeton University has selected two valedictorians for Commencement. Jared Kramer, an engineering student in the Department of Computer Science, and Christine McLeavey, a physics major and award-winning pianist, will address the University's 2001 Commencement June 5.
The salutatorian, who gives an address in Latin, is classics major Christopher Bradley.
Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel noted that the faculty committee that selects the valedictorian was unable to limit itself to just one student for the honor this year. "The extraordinary academic achievements of these two students made it impossible to find any legitimate, defensible grounds for choosing one over the other," she said.
Jared Kramer, who is from Atkinson, N.H., is "often ranked not only the best in the class but the best his professor has ever seen," said David Dobkin, chairman of the computer science department, who nominated Kramer. For his senior project, Kramer chose what his faculty adviser, Bernard Chazelle, described as a "hopelessly difficult" project which involved understanding, implementing and thoroughly testing the most complex, technically difficult graph algorithm in existence.
Kramer, who was valedictorian of his class at Phillips Exeter Academy, has earned A+'s in courses in chemistry, operations research, computer science, economics, electrical engineering, math, molecular biology and physics. He received his only non-A grade at Princeton in a course about the development of the U.S. Constitution. The intellectual challenge of that class was one factor in his decision to head to Harvard Law School in the fall.
"I really enjoy writing and thinking rigorously, and computer science contributed 90 percent of my education in rigorous thinking, but I felt I wanted to apply that in a different field," Kramer said. After law school, Kramer hopes to pursue a career as a law professor or a judge.
In addition to winning the Freshman First Honor Prize and the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award for his class, Kramer received the President's Award for Academic Achievement for his freshman and sophomore years and the Class of 1883 English Prize for Freshmen in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. He also has been elected to the Tau Beta Pi National Engineering Society. He will receive a bachelor of science degree in engineering.
His extracurricular activities have included participating in the Human Values Forum, an ethics discussion group for students and faculty members, and singing in the Glee Club. He is the son of George and Jennie Kramer.
Christine McLeavey also was the co-valedictorian of her high school class in South Kingstown, R.I., but instead of giving a speech, she played a violin solo. (This year she plans on speaking, not playing.)
Before deciding to pursue a degree in physics, McLeavey considered majoring in music, math or electrical engineering. McLeavey has earned A+'s in computer science, electrical engineering, math, mechanical and aerospace engineering, music, physics, and sociology. For her senior thesis, she began developing a bedside tool to diagnose lung problems in children who are in intensive care. Her thesis adviser, Professor Michael Littman, said McLeavey functions "like a mature investigator, much more like a senior graduate student than an undergraduate."
In addition to her scientific achievements, McLeavey is an accomplished musician. Michael Pratt, conductor of the University Orchestra, said, "Christine is more than just a gifted pianist. She has been the musical citizen par excellence, giving generously of her time to other students in everything from chamber music concerts and chorus rehearsals to auditions." Last January she was the eastern division winner in a competition sponsored by the Music Teachers' National Association.
McLeavey has won the Kusaka Memorial Prize and the Manfred Pyka Memorial Prize in Physics as well as the President's Award for Academic Achievement. Last year she was awarded both the George Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize and a Barry Goldwater Scholarship. She will receive a bachelor of arts in physics.
Of her dual interests in science and music, McLeavey said, "I feel like I have two completely different personalities going on at the same time." This year she managed to keep up by devoting a month at a time to each subject - one month consumed with piano, the next with work in the lab.
McLeavey plans to study piano privately next year in London or Washington, D.C., and then will decide between further work at a conservatory or graduate work in medical technology or astrophysics. She is excited to be devoting all of next year to music, but knows she will miss science and may take on some tutoring. "I think I'll always find a way to be a little bit involved in science," she said. She is the daughter of Janet and Dennis McLeavey.
Christopher Bradley's thesis explores how words of praise were used in classical and late antiquity. His work makes forays into archaic and Hellenistic Greek poetry while examining the vocabulary of flattery and propaganda. Bradley chose to major in classics because the department offers the opportunity to study in so many different fields - not just linguistics and history, but also anthropology, sociology and art history. "And the professors were always interested in nourishing me as a scholar and thinker," he said.
Andrew Feldherr, the departmental representative in classics who was the Latin salutatorian in 1985, noted that the word most often used by classics faculty to describe Bradley is "brilliant."
"It is not the mere strength of his intellect that impresses. In perpetually questioning the works he reads and demanding that they matter, Chris in the very best way challenges and inspires students and teachers alike," he said.
As a high school student at Trinity Christian Academy in Carrollton, Texas, Bradley was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant for summer research and writing on Dante's Commedia. Since coming to Princeton, he has received a grant from the classics department to study classical Greek at the CUNY Greek Institute, a Ferris grant for an internship in publishing from the Princeton Humanities Council, a German department grant for study at the Goethe Institut, and the Harland Prize for summer study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
He also was a prizewinner in Latin and Greek sight translation in the competition sponsored by the New York Classical Club. Finally, he was a recipient of the President's Award for Academic Achievement for his sophomore year.
In his spare time, Bradley has played the French horn in the University Orchestra, co-founded and played with a rock band, designed and led a volunteer work project in inner-city Philadelphia, participated in the Princeton Undergraduate Society of Fellows and been involved in campus religious life. He especially enjoyed his musical pursuits, he said, because "we do so much analytical thinking here, it's nice to do something that isn't analytical."
Bradley plans to study for a master's degree in medieval English literature at Oxford University next year, to prepare for a career in writing. His parents are Bill and Patti Bradley.
Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601