Several awards are presented annually to graduates, staff and faculty members during the William & Mary Commencement ceremony. Below is a list of the awards that were presented during this year’s ceremony on May 19. – Ed.

The Lord Botetourt Medal 

The Lord Botetourt Medal is presented each year to the undergraduate student who has most distinguished himself or herself in scholarship during their time at William & Mary. In 2023, this honor is awarded to William Carlos Noel II ’23.

Noel is recognized for his scholarship as well as his humility, character, empathy and commitment to inclusion. In the words of an advisor, “Carlos is a rare gem who the academy or the world only has the chance to engage with once in a lifetime.” 

A self-designed social justice in medicine major and biochemistry minor, Noel diligently pursued research at William & Mary, earning a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, one of the most prestigious national undergraduate scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. He gave a poster presentation at the American Society of Biochemistry 2023 annual meeting and is the first to investigate N2a neuronal cells in the lab of Associate Professor of Biology Shantá Hinton, enhancing her research programs as well as contributing to understanding neurological disorders such as dementia. 

In addition to a perfect GPA, Noel has received a number of scholarships. He is a Murray 1693 Scholar, Monroe Scholar and WMSURE Scholar. As part of the REACH Undergraduate Research Program, Noel worked with Dr. Vanessa B. Shepard at VCU Medical School on research focusing on hypertension in Black breast cancer survivors. He is also a Hulon Willis Memorial Scholar, Virginia Space Grant Consortium STEM Bridge Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa inductee.

Recently, Noel was named the Albert and Phyllis Cornell Pre-Medical Awardee. This award, established in honor of the late Dr. Albert Cornell ’30, is made annually to two graduating senior premedical students who show great promise to become outstanding physicians.

James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup

The James Frederic Carr Memorial Cup was established in honor of a William & Mary student who served with distinction in World War I and lost his life before he could graduate. The award recognizes the student who best exemplifies character, scholarship and leadership.

This year’s recipient was Sarah Jean Larimer ’23.

A Monroe Scholar, Larimer earned a Bachelor of Science degree as a double major in data science and economics with a 3.92 grade point average. As a research assistant in AidData’s research and evaluation unit, she geocoded Chinese development financing in the Middle East and South Asia and researched object detection algorithms for a new deep learning software.

Larimer participated in applied mathematics research and, as a Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Fellow, worked on a team to build a machine learning classification model that could evaluate the quality of roads from satellite imagery.

Larimer served as editor-in-chief of the William & Mary Review, which is a national literary and art journal, as well as president of Delta Gamma sorority and vice president of Omicron Delta Kappa. Her passion for leadership and creating a sense of community shine clearly through her impact in these organizations, according to the award citation. Nominators share that Larimer “accepts no less than her best from herself and pushes her friends to be their best and kindest selves.”

As a member of both the Undergraduate Student Conduct Council and Honor Appeals Board, Larimer is dedicated to restorative justice and preventative behavioral measures, reflecting her drive to find and maintain the peace within her community, according to the citation. She also served as a Connects Peer Mentor, mentoring suspended students and helping students create, achieve and reflect on academic goals so that they thrived upon their return to campus.

Larimer “gives grace to every person that comes her way, and whether a student is her friend or sitting on the other side of a panel, she makes them feel heard and understood,” wrote one nominator. According to another: “We all need someone like Sarah in our lives.”

The Thatcher Prize for Excellence in Graduate and Professional Study

The Thatcher Prize was created in honor of the 21st chancellor of William & Mary and is presented annually to recognize an outstanding student in graduate or professional study. The winner is selected on the basis of scholarship, leadership, character and service. This year’s recipient is Andrew Derik Corso Ph.D. ’23.

Corso earned his doctoral degree from W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science in fisheries science and a sub-concentration in marine policy. His study area is the Western Antarctic Peninsula, one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. His research is the first to document the impacts of climate change on any fish species in this region, which is one of the central locations for U.S. research in Antarctica.

“His reputation as a scientist ‘for all seasons’ precedes him among VIMS faculty, staff and students alike: a student highly regarded for his intellect, passion and — perhaps most of all — his kindness and approachability,” one nominator wrote.

Corso’s cutting-edge research deeply contributes to understanding the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans. He has first-authored five publications in highly respected journals and there are more to come, including the description of a new “dragonfish” species he discovered. 

Corso has received numerous fellowships and awards, including the School of Marine Science Dean’s Fellowship Award in 2021 and most recently the PSECCO Belonging, Accessibility, Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (BAJEDI) grant to support his outreach and education activities. He is admired as an undergraduate instructor at William & Mary, including a course a nominator described as “an absolute masterclass in blending teaching and learning styles.” 

The Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award For Sustained Excellence In Teaching

The Thomas Ashley Graves Jr. Award is named for the university’s 23rd president, and recipients are selected annually by the president of the university from nominations submitted by each of the academic deans. This year’s recipients are Associate Professor of Business Inga Carboni and Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies Carla Buck.

Inga Carboni

Carboni has had a substantial impact on the Mason School of Business community with her innovative and inclusive teaching and research, according to nominators.

Recognized as a knowledgeable and passionate educator, Carboni uses innovative techniques to catalyze learning. For example, she worked with the W&M School of Education to develop an avatar-based online exercise to teach diversity and inclusion skills and offer real-time practice sessions to learn how to address micro-aggressions, lack of inclusion and other DEIB principles safely and constructively.

Carboni also participates in the Management Consulting Advisory Board and has worked with business leaders to incorporate industry expertise into her classroom. Live case studies provide students with a real-world application of theoretical management principles. In addition to hosting leaders as guest speakers, Carboni engages with board members to provide opportunities for student mentorship and coaching, helping students polish and fine-tune their communication and presentation skills. 

Carboni’s work has appeared in several journals and books. Her research interests include networks and networking, diversity and inclusion, building and managing relationships and leadership.

Nominators described Carboni as a thoughtful and dedicated teacher who seeks to understand her students’ perspectives, and they characterized her courses as interactive and relevant. Carboni was lauded for encouraging students to seek out answers, appreciate different perspectives and learn how to navigate situations in which the answer is not always apparent.

Carla Buck

Buck has taught almost every course imaginable at all levels of the Hispanic studies curriculum and also developed new courses in women’s studies — including courses on writers, filmmakers and cultural agents from both Spain and Latin America. She has been a member and chair of the International Studies Advisory Committee and an advisor for the Spanish National Honors Society since 2001. 

Buck has led more study abroad summer programs than any other member of her department, including the Galway, Ireland program. She served consecutive terms as program director for the former Morelia, Mexico-based summer program. She co-founded the Cádiz summer research program and designed a memorable, embedded study away capstone seminar for students in the Basque Country of Spain. 

Her students, one of whom is now a colleague, praised her leadership in their nomination letters. One wrote that during the study abroad program in Cádiz, Spain, “I learned more about the Spanish language, life outside the U.S., and myself than I did in any other season of my undergraduate career.”

Buck “empowers and connects students to so many opportunities that propel their Hispanic Studies journeys beyond what they ever expected. … She will be so dearly missed when she retires at the end of this academic year,” another nominator wrote.

Buck’s colleagues commended her for an exemplary 36-year teaching career and expressed gratitude for her dedication to the program, department, university and students.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

The Sullivan Award is in recognition of influence for good, taking into consideration such characteristics of heart, mind, conduct and demonstrating a spirit of love and helpfulness to others. It is awarded each year to two individuals from the graduating student body and to a third person who has a close relationship to the university. This year’s student recipients were Ephraim Amponsah Takyi ’23 and Michaela-Katherine Gabrielle Taylor ’23. William & Mary Police Chief Deborah Cheesebro was this year’s non-student recipient of the Sullivan Award.

Ephraim Amponsah Takyi ’23

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science with a double major in kinesiology & health sciences and theatre, Takyi has excelled through scholarship and performance with a spirit of love and consideration for others, according to the award citation.

He served in the Office of Undergraduate Admission as a Griffin Ambassador and a Fine & Performing Arts Panelist, showcasing art and promoting university values to prospective students. When working at the office’s front desk, Tayki’s “consideration and joyful attitude can be felt even over the phone, drawing people in just like he does on stage,” according to one nominator.

Takyi was heavily involved in the theatre department. He starred in “A Chorus Line” and “Bright Star,” attended the Stella Adler Studio for Acting Musical Theatre Intensive in New York and interned at the Weathervane Theatre. Afterward he shared his knowledge with friends and colleagues. Takyi also performed with the a cappella group No Ceiling and received the 2022 Catron Grant for Artistic Development from the Charles Center.

Much of Takyi’s work was dedicated to amplifying social justice, including a 2021 performance in honor of Hearth: Memorial to the Enslaved at a Lemon Project event.

His peers recognize Takyi for his exceptional talent and graciousness in uplifting others, according to the award citation. “He makes sure that every student that comes to our campus knows that there is a place for them within our community and a chance for them to express their gifts, talents and artistry,” wrote a nominator.

Michaela-Katherine Gabrielle Taylor ’23

Taylor graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in global studies with a concentration in Asian and Middle Eastern studies further focused on East Asian studies. Raised across England, Germany, Korea and Japan, she has a unique perspective on the world and a desire to share it with others, according to the award citation.

Taylor served in the Global Education Office as a peer advisor, guiding students through the study abroad process, conducting workshops and promoting study abroad opportunities on campus. She was selected as an International Student Advisory Board member and International Peer Leader, assisting international students as they transitioned to W&M. 

Taylor worked as a resident advisor, peer advisor and served on advisory boards for the dean of students and the provost. She has also supported her department, volunteering to help with communications and social media and actively working to create feelings of comradery among students. During study abroad, Taylor sought ways to uplift others, including volunteering to help South Korean children learn English. She was recently awarded a Fulbright Scholarship.

One nominator described a phenomenon at the Reves Center as the “Mika Effect.” The simple mention of Taylor’s nickname elicits a smile, a tiny pause of shared recognition and appreciation and the conversation continues. Her colleagues appreciated her for her empathy, caring and dependability — qualities that “make her a superb writer and a wonderful human being,” according to a nominator.

“Her heart, mind and conduct have marked campus and the world-at-large for the better,” a mentor wrote.

Deborah Cheesebro

Cheesebro,associate vice president for public safety and chief of William & Mary Police, is retiring after nearly a decade at the university and more than 50 years in law enforcement with a legacy as a transformational and compassionate leader, according to the award citation.

Cheesebro came to W&M in 2014 to oversee the police department and the offices of emergency management, risk management and environmental health and safety. She led the growth of the police department to 24 full-time sworn officers and transformed the department’s policing philosophy and culture, according to the citation. She established a values-based approach to policing, expanding the department’s commitments to integrity, professionalism, community engagement and fair and impartial policing.

With a spirit energized by innovation, Cheesebro modernized the department through revised policies and procedures; strengthened professional training and career development; reorganized organizational structure; revised recruiting, hiring and promotional processes and instilled a focus on qualitative response to community needs, the citation continued.

She overhauled the department’s emergency communications center, including its transition to fiber optics technology to enhance reliability. “Deb has worked tirelessly to make the W&M community safe, and also to make sure that the community feels safe,” according to a nominator.

Cheesebro was recognized by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion in 2019-20 for her efforts in “making the department more demographically similar to the community and helping build tremendous relationships.” In 2021, WMPD received the inaugural Building Connections and Bridging Differences Team Award for its work promoting compassion, empathy and respectful discourse.

“Rarely have I known someone as selfless as Deb Cheesebro. … She has devoted her life’s work to serving the public, to mentoring her colleagues and young officers, to engaging meaningfully with those whom she serves, and (if necessary) to sacrificing her own safety for the sake of another,” wrote Vice President of Student Affairs Ginger Ambler. “There is no greater gift she could have given this W&M community.”

, University News & Media