News Story

Students Honored at 2018 Tropaia Ceremony

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 were 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
Outstanding 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