Cum Laude Convocation Features Olympian Betsy Mitchell ’83

Lee Owen
A total of 25 members of Mercersburg’s Class of 2017 were formally inducted into the school’s chapter of the Cum Laude Society at Mercersburg’s Cum Laude Convocation 2017, which was held Friday, March 24, in the Irvine Memorial Chapel. Olympic gold medalist and California Institute of Technology Director of Athletics Betsy Mitchell ’83 served as the featured speaker.
Click here to watch coverage of Mitchell’s visit from WHAG-TV in Hagerstown, Md.;  to read the text of Mitchell's speech, click here.

The students were chosen by faculty members of Mercersburg’s chapter for excellence in academic work. Founded in 1906, the Cum Laude Society has chapters at more than 350 secondary schools nationwide and around the world, and is the secondary-school equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa.

Students elected to Cum Laude membership include Nathan Abel ’17 (Mercersburg, Pa.); Daphne Flores ’17 (River Edge, N.J.); Ryan Geitner ’17 (Hickory, N.C.); Elma Hoffman ’17 (Harrisburg, Pa.); Melanie Jiang ’17 (Pittsburgh, Pa.); Jinmook Kang ’17 (San Diego, Calif.); Jane Kistler ’17 (Centre Hall, Pa.); Bill Le ’17 (Hanoi, Vietnam) Jahyung Lee ’17 (Seoul, South Korea); Yulia Lee ’17 (Seoul, South Korea); Rebecca Li ’17 (Chambersburg, Pa.); Jacky Lu ’17 (Guangzhou, China); Alistair Matsuda ’17 (New Vernon, N.J.); Alex Nanos ’17 (Annapolis, Md.); Erin Pak ’17 (Duluth, Ga.); Illia Presman ’17 (San Diego, Calif.); Maddie Rogers ’17 (Trappe, Pa.); Emma Shapiro ’17 (Potomac Falls, Va.); Alex Solganik ’17 (Moscow, Russia); Maddie Surmacz ’17 (Lewisberry, Pa.); Carol Tang ’17 (Shenzhen, China); Maya Tetali ’17 (Exton, Pa.); Will Thompson ’17 (Franklin, Pa.); Mia Wang ’17 (Beijing, China); and Christy Zhang ’17 (Guangzhou, China).

Flores and Hoffman are attending School Year Abroad this year in Rennes, France.

Since 2011, Mitchell has served as director of athletics, physical education, and recreation at Caltech in Pasadena, Calif. She had previously been director of athletics and recreation at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., for five years. She won three Olympic medals in swimming: a gold as a member of the United States’ 400-meter medley relay team at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, a silver in the 100m backstroke (also in Los Angeles), and a silver with the 400m medley relay team at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

“Don’t be a spectator; be a participant. Jump in,” Mitchell told the student body and school community in her address, which she delivered from various locations inside the Chapel—many of which corresponded with important moments in her life.

“Start by really knowing yourself, live with integrity to be yourself, leave a footprint for others to follow, and leave an imprint on your community. Make this world better. The role played by others in your life so far has been critical, and you’re all entering a time when you have to decide for yourself: Are you going to stay comfortable? Or are you going to make mistakes and get messy and push boundaries intentionally?”

Following the ceremony, the new Cum Laude students gathered with Titus and Mitchell for a luncheon inside the Prentiss Alumni and Parent Center at North Cottage.

Mitchell has been the head swimming and diving coach at Dartmouth College, director of athletics at Laurel School for Girls and Thomas Worthington High School (both in Ohio), and an instructor in sports management at Notre Dame College of Ohio. She spent nine years as a member of Mercersburg’s Board of Regents (1993 to 2002), and also served for a year as the school’s alumni secretary, head softball coach, and assistant swimming coach.

Mitchell held the world record in the 200m backstroke for five years in the 1980s and early 1990s, and was named the 1986 American Female Swimmer of the Year. She is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as a certificate of advanced study in education administration, planning, and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her stepdaughter, Clare Laughery ’15, also attended Mercersburg and plays lacrosse at Central Michigan University.

Click here to read a first-person essay by Mitchell from a past issue of Mercersburg magazine.
Founded in 1893 in the heart of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic, Mercersburg is a private, coed, college preparatory boarding school with approximately 435 students (15 percent are day), grades 9-12 and postgraduate.
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