The Williamson Medal is the highest student award presented each year at Franklin & Marshall’s Commencement and is given to the member of the graduating class who has, during his or senior year, reached the highest standing in character, leadership and scholarship. The medal, endowed by Owen Moon Jr., in memory of former trustee Henry S. Williamson, has been presented annually since 1922. This year, it is awarded to Tekla Iashagashvili.
Tekla’s academic research and path to graduate school began with a simple question—why do we assume that museums are unbiased transmitters of knowledge?
Finding an answer led to her travels as a Marshall Fellow last summer to the Louvre in Paris and the Uffizi in Florence. It led to research for her senior thesis, “The Louvre Narratives: Production of Identity at Public Arts Museums,” which her adviser, Jerome Hodos, associate professor of sociology, describes as “inherently interdisciplinary, combining sociology with something more akin to cultural studies.” And it led to her being accepted into the master’s program in sociology at the University of Cambridge in England, where she will continue her research into how museum collections create narratives about domestic and foreign cultures.
Tekla came to the College from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and graduates summa cum laude with a double major in business, organizations and society and in sociology. Her professors describe her as one of the most intelligent and accomplished students they have ever taught, someone who is not just curious, but intellectually ambitious, willing to challenge herself to explore new topics and embrace new opportunities.
Tekla recently earned the College’s Alice Distler Award for leadership in service of the campus community. She was president of Black Pyramid Senior Honor Society this year and was associate chair of Club Council for two years. She is a three-year member of the Common Hour Committee, and a statistics and accounting tutor at the Quantitative and Science Center. She was a session organizer for last fall’s Day of Dialogue and a member of the Marketing and Communications Committee of the Board of Trustees.
Tekla has done much to attract fellow international students to our campus and support them when they enroll. She has been a student assistant in the Office of Admission for four years, and starting in her second semester, she has interviewed students from around the globe via Skype. Several have enrolled at F&M and a couple now conduct those same Skype interviews with her in Admission. She also has worked on the International Student Advisory Board and served as a student mentor in the Joseph International Center.Tekla, your outstanding academic research, your extraordinary record of scholarship and your selfless service to Franklin & Marshall and your fellow students embodies the College’s ideal of “cultivating the whole person” through the development of intellect, character and leadership. You are an ambassador for not only of the power of a liberal arts education, but also for what all of us believe makes the College a special place. Congratulations!