Graduating students in a crowd with one raising their fist in excitement

Students honored for leadership and service at 2024 Class Day

Members of Princeton University’s Class of 2024 celebrated the end of their undergraduate careers with a Class Day ceremony honoring their achievements and leadership on Monday, May 27.

The Allen Macy Dulles ’51 Award was given to Chioma Ugwonali of Arlington, Texas. The award recognizes a senior whose activities at Princeton best exemplify the University’s informal motto, “Princeton in the nation’s service and the service of humanity.” Ugwonali is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology with a certificate in environmental studies. She volunteers with the Eastern Service Workers of Trenton, which assists low-income service and temporary workers. In Texas, she has helped organize a summer wellness festival for her community and worked on outreach programs for high school students. At Princeton, she was a peer health adviser at University Health Services and a fellow at the Office of Campus Engagement. Ugwonali is a member of Butler College.

Torre Wilks of Solon, Ohio, received the Frederick Douglass Service Award, established in 1969 at the recommendation of Carl Fields, who was assistant dean of the college. The award is given to a senior who has exhibited “courage, leadership, intellectual achievement and a willingness to contribute unselfishly toward a deeper understanding of the experiences of racial minorities and who, in so doing, reflects the tradition of service embodied in education at Princeton.” Wilks is a sociology major with a certificate in technology and society. She was an intern at Coca-Cola focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion. She has served as president of Our Health Matters and director of Business Today’s Boost Conference. Wilks is a member of New College West, where she served as a residential college adviser and chair of the college council.

The Harold Willis Dodds Achievement Prize was presented to Liliana “Lily” Gittoes of Redwood City, California. The award recognizes the senior who best embodies the qualities of Princeton’s 15th president, Harold Dodds, “particularly in the qualities of clear thinking, moral courage, a patient and judicious regard for the opinions of others, and a thoroughgoing devotion to the welfare of the University and to the life of the mind.” Gittoes is majoring in operations research and financial engineering, with a certificate in applications of computing. She has been awarded the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and the Community Energy Undergraduate Presentation Award from the Andlinger Center. She served as co-chair of the Undergraduate Student Government Projects Board and was one of two students selected to serve on the Dean of the College Search Committee. Gittoes is a member of Whitman College, where she serves as a residential college adviser.

Sydney Johnson of Piscataway, New Jersey, received two prizes: the W. Sanderson Detwiler 1903 Prize, awarded to a senior who, in the judgment of classmates, has done the most for the class, and the Walter E. Hope Class of 1901 Medal, which recognizes the senior who, in the judgment of classmates, has done the most for Princeton. The two prizes were last awarded to the same student in 2011. Johnson, who is majoring in Spanish and Portuguese with certificates in Latin American studies and urban studies, served as president of the Class of 2024. She participated in numerous campus organizations, including the Black Theatre Collective, the Princeton Film Society, El Centro ESL and women’s club volleyball, where she was an officer. She also served as a student representative for Princeton in Hollywood. She is a member of New College West, where she was a residential college adviser.

The Priscilla Glickman ’92 Memorial Prize — given to a Princeton senior who has demonstrated independence and imagination in the area of community service, who seeks knowledge and purposeful adventure in unfamiliar cultures, and who maintains strong academic work — was awarded to Jasper Lydon of Bethesda, Maryland. Lydon is majoring in the School of Public and International Affairs with a focus on environmental justice. Before coming to campus, they participated in Princeton’s Novogratz Bridge Year program in Jogjakarta, Indonesia. Lydon co-founded the Inter-Club Sustainability Council, which coordinates sustainability efforts across Princeton's eating clubs. Lydon also completed internships through Princeton Internships in Civic Service, Princeton RISE, and the John C. Bogle '51 Fellows in Civic Service.

Athletic awards

The Class of 1916 Cup was presented to field hockey player Sam Davidson of North Andover, Massachusetts. The award, which was established by the Class of 1916 on the occasion of its 50th reunion, is presented to the senior varsity letter winner with the highest academic standing. Davidson, who is majoring in sociology, helped the Tigers to two Ivy League Championships and a 2019 postseason run that culminated in an appearance in the national championship game as a defender for the team. A two-time Academic All-Ivy selection, Davidson tallied 11 goals on penalty strokes during her career. As a leader with SCORRE, she helped educate coaches and teammates on healthy relationships and building a culture of respect and inclusion. She also volunteered with the Princeton Best Buddies chapter and was a peer mentor for Princeton Women in Economics and Policy. A team captain during her senior year, Davidson is a member of Whitman College.

The C. Otto von Kienbusch Award, which recognizes the top senior sportswoman at Princeton, was awarded to basketball player Kaitlyn Chen, an anthropology major from San Marino, California. A three-time Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player, Chen led the Tigers to three Ivy League titles, three Ivy League Tournament crowns and three NCAA Tournament appearances. She helped the Tigers become the first Ivy League women's team to win NCAA Tournament games in back-to-back seasons. The two-time unanimous First-Team All-Ivy selection and 2023 Ivy Player of the Year has amassed a 74-16 mark during her time at Princeton, including three Top 25 victories. Chen was named a College Sports Communicators Second Team Academic All-American as a senior, the program's first since 2016, after finishing her Tiger career with 1,276 points and 359 assists. She is a member of Forbes College.

The William Winston Roper Trophy was awarded to fencer Tristan Szapary, a neuroscience major from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. The trophy, awarded since 1936, goes to “a male senior of high scholastic rank and outstanding qualities of sportsmanship and general proficiency in athletics.” Szapary led the team to its ninth individual men’s fencing national championship this year, its first since 2012. The All-American honor that came with the NCAA title was Szapary’s second straight. He was a two-time NCAA regional champion and three-time All-Ivy League honoree, twice earning first-team honors. Szapary's final season also saw the team return to the top of the Ivy League, winning its first men's Ivy title since 2017. That followed a 2023 season where Szapary helped the team to a national runner-up finish at the 2023 NCAA Championships. Szapary is a two-time team captain and a member of Butler College.

The Arthur Lane ’34 Citizen Athlete Award honors selfless contribution to sport and society by an undergraduate student-athlete. This year the honor went to football player Jalen Travis, an anthropology major with a certificate in African American studies who is from Minneapolis. A senior captain and offensive lineman, Travis was a two-time All-Ivy performer and Ivy League champion. He was named the national male collegiate recipient of the Athletes for a Better World Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, which honors character, teamwork and citizenship. Travis founded the nonprofit organization The Just Action Coalition in Minneapolis. At Princeton, he was co-director of the Minority Pre-Law Association. He has been awarded a Truman Scholarship to attend law school and pursue a career in public service. He is a member of New College West.

The Chris Sailer Leadership Award honors two senior student-athletes who demonstrate exceptional leadership and a commitment to serving others. The award was donated by Lucy Small DeStefano of the Class of 1999 and Chris DeStefano of the Class of 1994 in honor of Chris Sailer, Hall of Fame women’s lacrosse coach at Princeton from 1987 to 2022. The award recipients are Matt Allocco and Leilani Bender.

  • Matt Allocco, a sociology major from Hilliard, Ohio, is a two-year team captain and two-time All-Ivy performer for Princeton men’s basketball. Allocco, who never missed a game during his Princeton career, was the catalyst and inspirational team leader behind one of the most successful three-year stretches in program history. This 2022-2024 run saw the Tigers capture three consecutive Ivy League championships for the first time in nearly three decades. As a junior captain, Allocco led the Tigers to upset wins over No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 7 seed Missouri and a berth in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, Princeton's first time playing in the regional round since 1967. He is a member of Whitman College.
  • Leilani Bender is a civil and environmental engineering major from Honolulu, Hawaii. Bender, an Academic All-Ivy honoree and Shapiro Prize recipient, is a flanker for Princeton women’s rugby. The two-year captain was honored with the program’s Most Versatile Player and Top Defensive Player Awards, as well as the Phil Rogers Award for leadership and sportsmanship. Bender volunteers with Reading with the Tigers and PVC youth sports clinics. She also serves as a tutor and teaching assistant for middle and high school students. Bender is a student leader with Princeton Campus Recreation and works with Natives of Princeton to help bring visibility and awareness to Native and Indigenous issues. She is a member of Mathey College.

Honorary class members

Each year, the graduating class nominates and selects faculty, staff, alumni or others who have made a profound impact on the student body.

The Class of 2024 recognized the following people as honorary class members: Claire Gmachl, Head of Whitman College and the Eugene Higgins Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and interim director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment; Mia Gonzalez Guerrero, retail food service worker for Campus Dining, Frist Campus Center; Neena Simpson, orientation program coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students; James Vreeland, professor of politics and international affairs in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs; and Sam Waterston, Emmy-award winning actor and this year’s Class Day speaker.

Commencement 2024