Community Celebrates 18 Years, Thousands of Scholars
By Julia Gavin
The University’s Commonwealth Honors Program recently celebrated nearly 20 years and thousands of successful students by presenting Founders Awards at a benefit event. The program has grown since its founding in 1995, but has made large jumps recently to 733 active students — up from 298 students in 2008 — and a record 270 incoming freshmen.
The event, held in the O’Leary Library Learning Commons, celebrated past faculty advisers, supporters, alumni and current students. Emeritus Professor Eric Sheldon, the program’s founder, flew from England to see how far his idea has come.
“What a joy-filled day,” said Sheldon. “Would you ever have dreamed of this?”
Sheldon was a member of the Physics Department from 1970 to 1996 and taught the first honors sections of introductory physics. Introduction-to-physics classes of 1,000 students were split into three tracks, one of which was a 60-student honors section. The idea of honors-level courses took off, with more departments following suit until they were offered university-wide.
Sheldon presented the first Eric Sheldon Founders Award in recognition of scholarly achievement and original academic work to Zeda Babroudi ’14, a biology major who balances a 3.99 GPA, two part-time jobs and lab research each semester. Babroudi is also a Commonwealth Honors scholarship recipient.
“Without the Commonwealth Honors Program I wouldn’t be here to accept this award,” said Babroudi. “I’m grateful to Dr. Sheldon for creating the initiative for this program.”
Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney — who established the Honors Scholarship Endowed Fund, which this year provided direct funding to 23 students — presented the first Jacqueline Moloney Honors Founders Award to Assoc. Prof. Todd Avery. His strong support for honors students and work as a thesis adviser have been an asset to the program, as evidenced by the success of Ray Grinnell ’11, whose honors thesis received a national honors award.
“I like to play with ideas and talk with smart people who are driven by curiosity,” said Avery, an English Department member. “It’s a pleasure to play with ideas and talk with smart university students who help me more than they could know.”
The event raised money for honors scholarships and programs, drawing more than 150 community members. See photos of the event in our photo gallery.