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Accolades for students at first
Academic Day at State Capitol
April 27, 1998

The smiles of the 27 students standing on the floor of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and the applause that greeted them said it all.

The students, undergraduate scholars from the University, were being honored for their diligence, sacrifice, hard work and discipline. It was a scene that has been played out in these chambers before. But today there was an important difference. For the first time that anyone could remember, the accolades were going to students for academic excellence. Speaker of the House Thomas Ritter's introduction proclaiming April 22 the General Assembly's first annual "Academic Day" made it official. The significance was not lost on those present.

"Mr. Speaker," said State Rep. Cameron Staples (D-New Haven), co-chair of the Education Committee, "We are here to show the same recognition to our state's academic achievement that we show to our athletic achievement.

With that pronouncement, various representatives took turns introducing the students.

As each name was called and a list of impressive achievements noted, a round of applause came from the legislators and observers in attendance. The students, and the parents who attended the event, clearly loved it.

"Now I know how Rebecca Lobo felt when they had her and the rest of the women's team here," said Lisbeth Disney, a junior from Trumbull. "It was great!

President Philip E. Austin said the public recognition by legislators serves a useful purpose. "The achievements of these students are truly impressive, and they are only a representive sample of the outstanding students we have at the University," Austin said at the event. "This type of recognition is not only well deserved, it puts a human face on scholarship for our elected lawmakers. They see these bright young faces and it makes a connection. It has impact."

Chancellor Mark A. Emmert agreed. "I think it's important for our elected officials to get a first hand chance to meet some of the young men and women here at the University who have done so well academically," said Emmert. "I think they represent the University at its finest and their presence here sends an important message.

After the recognition by the assembly, which was organized in part through the efforts of state representatives Richard Roy, Pam Sawyer, and Denise Merrill, the students enjoyed a reception attended by Governor John G. Rowland.

The governor spent nearly a half hour with the students praising their achievements and meeting individually with the students and their parents. He also took a few moments to re-mind the students of the opportunities in the Nutmeg State.

"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find the quality of life we have here in Connecticut anywhere else," he said. "It is the kind of place where certainly men and women such as yourselves can find tremendous economic and cultural opportunities.

These scholars were honored at the first annual Academic Day.

Benjamin Buckley, double major in history and philosophy
Maria Choupres, senior, psychology
Amy Clark, senior, individualized dual degree major
Dan Craig, senior, double major in biological sciences and music
Mara Davis, senior, political science
Justin Dextradeur, senior, environmenta l science
Lisbeth Dizney, junior, individualized double major in elementary education and American studies
Sarah Donnelly, junior, double major physics and applied mathematics
Timothy Fenn, senior, molecular and cell biology
Jacqueline Fernandes, senior, pre-med biological sciences
David France, senior, music education
Melissa Kaplan, senior, political science
Jaren Madden, senior, ecology and evolutionary biology
Marie Maignan, sophomore, human development and family relations
Ann Matthews, senior, general studies with a concentration in sociology
Greg Metro, senior, finance
Ursula McMillian, sophomore, physiology and neurobiology
Nicholas Mocciolo, senior, double major in math and philosophy
Etai Nahary, sophomore, double major in English and Judaic studies
Julissa Nixon, double major in psychology and African Diaspora Studies
Gretchen Oat, senior, ecology and evolutionary biology
Clifford Rios, sophomore, physiology and neurobiology
Aixa Couvertier Rosario, senior, education
Angela Ruggiero, sophomore, education
Maria Sanabria, senior, economics
Kristen Sandstrom, senior, psychology
Karen Sherk, sophomore, Spanish
Vincent Southerland, junior, political science
Lisa Teng, junior, chemistry
Brooke Zelesnick, senior, economics