Students Honored at 2018 Tropaia Ceremony

Gaia Mattiace (C'18) delivers a speech at the podium at Gaston Hall
Gaia Mattiace (C'18) delivers the Cohonguroton Address during Georgetown College's annual Tropaia academic awards ceremony, held in Gaston Hall last Friday. (Photo by Kuna Malik Hamad/Georgetown College)

May 23, 2018 — Georgetown College honored its top academic achievers on Friday in the annual Tropaia ceremony in Gaston Hall.

Dean Christopher S. Celenza presented more than 40 student awards for academic excellence across the College’s departments and programs, as well as three special awards selected through a faculty nomination process and two awards given to faculty and staff members.


Eliane Lakam was awarded the Coakley Medal, given to a College senior who “manifested above all others the qualities of loving service, honor, and courage in all facets of college life.”

A native of Cameroon, Lakam transferred to Georgetown from Prince George’s Community College in 2016. Having already established a scholarship fund for first-generation college students at PGCC, she brought a service-based mentality to Georgetown and chose to major in justice and peace studies. Lakam served on the board of the Class of 2018 Fund, sat on the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, and participated in the Doyle Engaging Difference program at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Lakam will enter the Master of Education program in International Education Policy at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education next year.

Josué Coronado won the Katherine Kraft Medal, awarded to a student who “best manifests a spirit of humility, cooperation, and commitment as a woman or man for others in all facets of college life.”

From the minute he arrived on the Hilltop as part of the Community Scholars Program, Coronado immersed himself in meaningful work and extracurricular activities. He worked as a resident assistant, in the writing center, and in the Afterschool Kids Program, all while spearheading the establishment of Casa Latina, where he would go on to lead events. His exemplary service on and off campus earned him the Lena Landeggar Award for community service as a junior.

A double major in Anthropology and English, Coronado is returning to Texas after graduation to teach at his former high school.

Brian Ferguson won the Louis McCahill Award, presented to a student who “has demonstrated perseverance and determination of a high order in pursuing his or her educational objectives.”

Midway through his undergraduate career at West Virginia University, Ferguson was accused, tried, and convicted of a murder he didn’t commit; 11 years later, he was exonerated and returned to his native Washington, D.C. Since enrolling at Georgetown to finish his college career, he has become involved with the Prisons & Justice Initiative in addition to excelling in his coursework in government and justice and peace studies.

Ferguson’s longer-term plans include law school, but for now he will continue in his position as Director of the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs in D.C.


The Cohonguroton Address is delivered each year by a top academic achiever in the College senior class whose speech is selected by the Dean’s Office. This year’s speaker, Gaia Mattiace, discussed how her Georgetown experience has helped her question her own knowledge, consider new perspectives, and address questions in new ways.

“What Georgetown teaches us isn’t just that we should seek out solutions, but that there is always a new question to be asked, and that we should never be satisfied that we have asked our last one,” Mattiace said. “What Georgetown teaches us is that we should question perfection.”

Mattiace went on to challenge her graduates to confront the biggest questions facing the world today.

“Whether the question is ‘How can we halt climate change?’ ‘How can we mitigate world hunger?’ or “How can we fight for gender equality worldwide?’ I know we will rise to the occasion of asking it, being bothered by it, and relentlessly striving for its solution,” she said.

Mattiace, who graduated summa cum laude with a degree in government, will enter the J.D. program at Harvard Law School this fall.


Each year, students nominate one member of the College faculty for the Edward B. Bunn Award for Faculty Excellence. This year’s winner was Professor Soyica Diggs Colbert, Chair of the Department of Performing Arts.

After receiving her medal from Dean Celenza, Colbert gave a speech calling upon graduates to follow their passions, encouraging them to keep service in mind, and reminding them that Georgetown will always be there.

“Although I hope you return, my greater desire is that you begin the next chapter of your lives knowing that what you learned here is animated, enriched, and deepened by the relationships you developed here,” she said. “The connection between care as investment and as service distinguishes learning at Georgetown and has deeply changed the work that I do as a scholar, teacher, mentor, administrator and a member of the community.”

Martha Warner, a longtime Georgetown employee and current office administrator in the College Dean’s Office, received the Condé Nast Award, given to men and women who have served education with distinguished teaching, service, and scholarship on the Georgetown campus or in the arena of public affairs.


Below is a list of students who received awards at the 2018 Tropaia ceremony.

Mary Catherine Mita Award

Aidan Kenney

Oustanding Senior Award in Women’s & Gender Studies

Michaela Pepi-Lewis

McSorley Award

Elena Margareta Kyllikki Itameri

Clifford T. Chieffo Award 

Ariel Chia Wen Chu

Leo Doran Award for Art History 

Sarah Jane Kim

Kircher Medal

Natasha Cherelle Janfaza­

Davis Medal

Michaela Jane Farrell

Outstanding Senior in English Award 

Samantha Kyung Lee

B.J. Phoenix Medal 

Kevin Yuan

Department of Government Award 

Gaia L. Mattiace

Morris Historical Medal 

Xinlan Hu

Ryan Medal 

Robert Alexander Cortes

Rosenzweig Medal 

Marie Ann Frolich

Hoggson Award 

Déja Lunyé Lindsey

Brennan Medal 

Jack Benjamin Segelstein

Senior Award for Outstanding Research in Anthropology

Tara Jean Viviani

Rowe Award 

Ian Austin Rose

William Manger Latin American Studies Award 

Diana Laura Marin-Melo

John W. Witek, S.J. Prize in Japanese Studies 

Rayne Anthony Sullivan

Arabic Award 

Nathanial Cayer Card

Matteo Ricci, S.J. Award in Chinese 

Erin Toomey Annick

Horace Medal

Grace Marie Alburger

Comparative Literature Award 

Elisabeth Jo Neylan

E. Joseph McCarthy Award

Rebecca Elizabeth Saltzman

George M. Roth Award

Evan James Thomson

St. Francis Xavier, S.J. Award 

Kevin Yuan

Francis P. Dinneen, S.J. Award for Distinction in Linguistics

Rebecca Elizabeth Saltzman

Eric Duffell Class of 1996 Dobro Slavo Award for Achievement in Russian Language, Literature and Culture 

Alexandra Karina Lazare Norden

Dante Award 

Thomas Garrett Kiely

Coutinho Medal

Emily Claire Smith

Caíno Medal for Achievement in Spanish 

Elena Adele Plenefisch

Wililam T. Taylor and Richard J. Weber Biology Award

Thea Louisa Johnson

Miljevic Chemistry Award

Jennifer Lynn Franke

Kidwell Medal

Thomas Garrett Kiely

Henry M. Leslie Award

Ben Gabriel Goldschlager

Computer Science Award

Clarissa Kuder Somers

Edward L. Mahoney Medal

Alexandra Karina Lazare Norden

Dr. Michael Barrette Medal

Kelly Clancy Zochowski

Thomas Francis Graham Award

Joshua Yaro

Loyola Medal

Mercedes Alexis Munguia Larios

Lambert H. Spronck Medal

Ari Samuel Goldstein

Distinguished Service Award 

Brendan Stafford Saunders

Louis McCahill Award Brian Ferguson
Katherine Kraft Medal Josué Coronado
Coakley Medal Eliane Lakam