5/14/2021 Staff Writer

Williamson Medalist Citation: Leilani Tomiko Ly

Williamson Medal | Leilani Ly

The Williamson Medal is the highest student award presented each year at Franklin & Marshall’s Commencement. It is given to the member of the graduating class who has, during his or her senior year, reached the highest standing in character, leadership and scholarship. The medal was endowed by Owen Moon Jr., in memory of former trustee Henry S. Williamson, and it has been presented annually since 1922. This year, it is awarded to Leilani Tomiko Ly. 

Leilani came to the College from Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduates summa cum laude with a major in sociology, concentrating in racial and socioeconomic inequality. 

Leilani has tackled complex issues in her academic research. Last year, she completed a research paper investigating the informal economy in Kenya’s largest refugee camp and its role in providing dignity to refugees who had been stripped of their legal status. Her recently presented honors thesis is titled, “Cultural Capital Acquisition Among First-Generation College Students.” In it, she researches how those students acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and behaviors to navigate the implicit rules and expectations of higher education. 

Among her many campus leadership roles, Leilani has been a tutor in the Writing Center since 2018; a board member of the Alice Drum Women’s Center for the last three years; and a member of the Asian American Alliance, where she served as vice president for two years. She has mentored local high-school and middle-school students as part of F&M’s Squash ACES program throughout her College career. 

Leilani also has earned several prestigious academic honors and awards at Franklin & Marshall, including the William M. Kephart Prize in Sociology. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Black Pyramid Senior Honor Society. 

Franklin & Marshall faculty frequently selected Leilani for roles in which she assisted or helped to teach her classmates, from her three years as a Writing Center tutor to being a preceptor in the Islam in North America course to serving as teaching assistant in sociology and writing seminars. One professor wrote, “Leilani’s academic work is on a level of sophistication that equals that of many graduate students; her writing is stellar and always a joy to read. Her mastery of the academic literature on her research topics, combined with her observational skills in field research, have put her in a class apart from her peers.” 

After graduation, Leilani plans to work in a position that combines journalism and the legal field. She is considering pursuing both a master’s degree in journalism and a law degree. She ultimately hopes to use her writing skills to amplify the stories of misunderstood and underrepresented groups often overlooked in the mainstream media. 

Leilani, your thought-provoking academic research, your excellent record of scholarship, and your dedication and service to your fellow students and the greater community personify the College’s ideal of developing graduates of intellect, character and leadership. You represent not only the power of a liberal arts education, but all that makes Franklin & Marshall College such a special place. Congratulations!

Leilani Tomiko Ly
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