SSE Student Honored with Highest Academic Honor

Summer 2014 | Article by Kirby Messinger

SSE Student Honored with Highest Academic Honor

As if majoring in chemisty wasn’t enough, recent graduate Joanna Lapucha decided to receive a dual degree in French, while competing as part of Tulane’s track and field team. Lapucha made it a mission to personally challenge herself with graduate-level courses. And she did all this while maintaining the highest of cumulative grade point averages.

That hard work, dedication and academic excellence was recognized when Lapucha was chosen as the recipient of the 2014 William Wallace Peery Medal for Academic Excellence. The William Wallace Peery Medal for Academic Excellence is the highest academic honor conferred by Newcomb-Tulane College. It is awarded to the student who best embodies Dr. Peery’s emphasis on the important of both depth and breadth of learning.

The William Wallace Peery Society was established in 1964 by Mrs. Peery in memory of her husband, the late Dr. William Peery, who was a professor of English and served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1955 to 1964. Membership in the society is awarded to those students who have earned the highest cumulative grade point averages over the course of their undergraduate careers.

A special committee carefully considers each candidate’s grades and course selections, as well as recommendations submitted by faculty members. With an overall GPA of 3.925, a challenging course load, study abroad classes, and a full schedule of Division 1 athletics, Lapucha clearly demonstrated a remarkable breadth and depth of learning throughout her Tulane career.

“I have been at Tulane 26 years and taught over 3,000 students, and Joanna Lapucha may well be the most amazing student I have met here,” says Dr. Brent Koplitz, chair of the Department of Chemistry. “The remarkable fact about Joanna is that she accomplishes all of these feats while being a competitive Division 1 athlete. How she balances her studies with the travel, time and emotional pressures that come with competition at that level is beyond my comprehension.”

Lapucha’s research on the synthesis of dendritic polymers has culminated in her contribution as a secondary author on two publications in professional journals of chemistry. The department has chosen her for this year’s American Chemical Society Outstanding Senior.

Lapucha’s French professor Toby Wikstrom says about her work ethic and academic success: “Lapucha is an uncommonly gifted, industrious, serious and responsible student. And as the only undergraduate student in a graduate-level class she more than held her own, fearlessly making contributions to class discussion that were every bit as sharp as those of the older, more experienced doctoral students.”

But even though Lapucha felt that she did well during her four years at Tulane, receiving the Perry award was a wonderful surprise.

"I wasn’t really expecting this at all,” says Lapucha. “The students that I graduated with are extremely impressive. Anyone in the Perry Society deserves this honor.”

Following graduation, Lapucha will be working in Houston as a field engineer for Schlumberger, the leading supplier of technology, project management and information solutions to customers in the oil and gas field.

Lapucha says that receiving the Perry medal was a highlight of graduation and something that she will never forget.

“If you try to make the most of your time at Tulane,” says Lapucha “you’ll have a plethora of opportunities.”

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