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Dr. Katharine Brooks ’72 Inspires Students at Cum Laude Convocation

Mercersburg Academy honored 22 members of its Class of 2024 for excellence in academics at the annual Cum Laude Convocation March 22 in the Irvine Memorial Chapel. Dr. Katharine Brooks ’72, a board-certified counselor and coach who directed career centers at Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Dickinson College for more than 30 years, was the invited speaker.

Brooks discussed chaos theory and how seemingly random events can create life-changing connections. She referenced the butterfly effect, an idea that a small action can lead to something wonderful.

That small action for Brooks happened in October 1971 when a Mercersburg faculty member introduced her to musician John Stewart, a meeting which later led to more than 20 years of music connections through camps, performances, and friendships. 

“One afternoon at Mercersburg, one incredibly otherwise uninteresting afternoon, a Sunday at Mercersburg, 10 minutes of kindness from a faculty member, and it changed my life,” said Brooks, who attended Mercersburg for her senior year, which was early in the school’s return to coeducation. “I had no idea where that was going to lead, and that's what I want to convey to you all.”

Katharine Brooks

Listen to Brook’s address

Eleven new students in the senior class were announced for membership in the school’s Cum Laude Society chapter during the service. They are:

Sihyeon Bae of Seoul, Korea

Mu Lin “Ivy” Chan of Hong Kong

Ava Harrington of Alberta, Canada

Arpi Karapetyan of Lewes, DE

Jonah Lee of Fountain Valley, CA

Indira Moshi of Washington, D.C.

Thach Anh “Jelly” Nguyen of Hanoi, Vietnam

Junseo “Dean” Tae of Seoul, Korea

Emily Tan of Beijing, China

Cricket Tatone of Delmont, PA

Dylan Stiffler of Huntingdon, PA

They join 11 students in the Class of 2024 who were chosen as Cum Laude members last fall. Students chosen during the fall included:

Minsuh “Ben” Cho of Seoul, Korea
James “Ivan” Dwyer of Hagerstown, MD
Selena Feng of Chambersburg, PA
Nathaniel Gotera of Chesterfield, VA
Andrew Leibowitz of Whitehouse Station, NJ
Gabriel McGuire of Mercersburg, PA
Tri “Bill” Nguyen of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Anish Shrestha of Frederick, MD
Maia Somma of Greenwich, CT
Crystal Yuen of Lawrence, NJ
Ruohan “Sam” Zhao of Shenzhen, China

Brooks is the author of several career books including What Color is Your Parachute For College, You Majored in What?, Picture Your Career, and is the co-author, with Richard Bolles, of What Color is Your Parachute 2020, 2021, and 2022. For 10 years she was a blogger for Psychology Today, and was twice designated a “Top Ten Most Visionary Leader in Career Services” by CSO Research. She is also a recipient of the NACE Kauffman Award and the NACE/Chevron award for outstanding innovative programming. She received her master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling and doctorate in educational psychology from West Virginia University. Brooks has now retired from higher education and lives in Winston-Salem, NC, where she is working on her first novel, and plays guitar in the Wake Forest multi-generational Americana jam known as the Unbroken Circle.

Founded in 1906, the Cum Laude Society is billed as the secondary-school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa. Cum Laude honorees are elected as seniors by the faculty of Mercersburg’s Cum Laude chapter. Mercersburg is one of 382 secondary schools across the country with a Cum Laude Society chapter; those chosen for membership represent the highest level of academic achievement within the school.