Phi Beta Kappa holds virtual induction ceremony

Chapter of prestigious honor society, hosted at Saint Michael's since 2004, hears inspiring words via Zoom from Dean Natarajan

April 23, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

Tara Natarajan, dean of the faculty at Saint Michael’s, was the keynote speaker for last Friday’s virtual induction ceremony for Phi Beta Kappa.

Tara Natarajan, dean of the faculty, gave the keynote address for the virtual induction ceremony of the Saint Michael’s members of Phi Beta Kappa, the prestigious national academic honor society for which Saint Michael’s has hosted a chapter since 2004.

The ceremony was last Friday, April 17, via Zoom — normally it would be in McCarthy Recital Hall — and George Dameron of the history faculty, who was instrumental in bringing Phi Beta Kappa to campus 16 years ago — was a key organizer to make an event possible despite the limitations of the pandemic isolation.

Fr. Marcel Rainville, S.S.E. ’67, Trustees chair, gave an invocation. Peter Vantine used a PowerPoint describing the history and prestige of the honor society and some of its initiatives on campus last year, such as hosting a speaker, Fr. Columba Stewart, an internationally respected scholar.

President Lorraine Sterritt made remarks, and VPAA Jeffrey Trumbower introduced the keynote speaker, Dean Natarajan, who spoke eloquently of her life growing up in India and how she later realized the experience to be a liberal arts education with many threads of culture and learning weaving together meaningfully. She spoke of the relevance of the day’s event in this time of pandemic, saying, “humans must do what might seem ordinary at this time because a people’s history of the world reveals to us that ordinary people, and the vulnerable amongst us, have walked side by side with great thinkers and leaders and together have created entire civilizations through both untold suffering and endurance.”Phi Beta Kappa key

Another key point Dean Natarajan made was about “how our identities and understanding of the world are culturally, historically and socially embedded and therefore shapes us and our values, …how those values seed and shape many of the disciplines we study, thereby making the liberal arts indispensable to the understanding of various fields of study and the values that in fact shape them.”

Her concluding advice to the members and new inductees: “So question methodically, without an agenda or dogma — that is what the liberal arts gives us. Stay committed, doubt and inquire, embrace complexity and pluralism, build bridges and know that you have a lifetime of inquiry ahead of you and oh what a blessing that is.”

Ariel Wish

Ariel Wish ’20

One of the student inductees during the virtual ceremony, Ariel Wish ’20, said, “Signing onto a Zoom Phi Beta Kappa induction was bittersweet. I had been so looking forward to the event, and it felt sad and strange to be having it from my living room. However, it was nice to see so many familiar faces on the screen. Dean Natarajan’s address was exactly what I needed, as it focused in part on things not working out according to plan. I hadn’t listened that intently to a speaker in quite a while.”

The chapter of Phi Beta Kappa hosted at Saint  Michael’s is the Gamma of Vermont, installed officially on April 16, 2004, George Dameron of the history faculty said, noting that PBK is the oldest and most prestigious of academic honors societies in the country, and its mission focuses on the promotion and celebration of the liberal arts.

This year’s inductees

Saint Michael’s Phi Beta Kappa inductees this year included: Seniors — Megan A. Beatty, Isabella M. Cigna, Talia M. Cote, Shane H. Coughlin, Deana J. DiBenedetto, Annabelle K. Elvidge, Luke A. Fournier, Amy C. Gagliardi, Hannah M. Geick, Genevieve M. Guibord, Lauren N. Ivers, Kyle J. Kowalski, Melissa E. Lezama, Sophie F. Lizotte, Jane L. Maloney, Katelyn M. Merchat, Madison V. Newman, Coline L. Redeker, Owen D. Sanborn, Keyana S. Smith, Cameron M. Sullivan, Autumn L. Tamlyn, Kelli M. Thornhill, Hattie Wilczewski, Anna D. Willassen, Ariel B. Wish, Morgan L. Zifchak; junior inductee — Conner A. Lorenz; student members (last year’s junior inductees, many virtually present for the occasion — Risa S. Berman, Makayla R. Foster, Jonah D. Hunt, Dina Alsaffar, Danielle R. Joubert, Cierra M. Pierce, Lillian J. Richardson, Cameron J. Shippee.

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