By Michael Sullivan
Thomas Atlee is the Class of 2016’s valedictorian, an award given annually to a student who maintained consistent academic excellence and participated in various aspects of the Loyola community during his Loyola career.
Atlee, who will be attending Yale University this fall, engaged in many activities, including track and cross country.
Atlee also participated in Loyola’s Intercambio program to Argentina and Uruguay as part of Loyola’s Intercambio program, which provides students the opportunity to travel to foreign countries for extended periods of time to both study and serve as ambassadors. Additionally, Atlee has traveled to Mexico with Director of Director of Community Service Thomas Zeko to assist with the Baja Build program.
In addition to the Baja Build, Atlee involved himself in many other service activities. Beginning his sophomore year, Atlee joined the Community Service Leadership Team, a group that works to give back to the community through service-based projects. As part of his involvement with the team, Atlee traveled to Washington, D.C, to lobby for social justice issues.
Atlee also engaged himself in many campus ministry activities during his Cub career. As a junior, he assisted with the First Year Retreat as a member of Junior Ground Crew, and his involvement with the First Year Retreat continued into his senior year when he served as a Big Brother. Atlee also acted as a Kairos retreat leader during his final year at Loyola.
In the classroom Atlee challenged himself consistently by taking several rigorous courses throughout his four years. Freshman year, he took two honors classes. For the next three years, Atlee took a combined number of five honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes– annually. According to Atlee, the hardest course he took was either Honors English II with Mary Arney or Honors Spanish with Alirian Mejia, who is now retired.
In regards to winning the award, Atlee believes that his involvement in the community and his overall attitude separated him from the other candidates. “I think a lot of what goes into the award is attitude; there’s a lot of kids here who have the grades and the intelligence to win the award, but it’s not based solely on GPA,” he said.
Despite his extensive track record in sports, service and academics, Atlee’s winning of the valedictorian award came as a surprise to him. “I never really expected to win this award. There are a lot of kids in this class that I could see winning this award; [winning]it came as a surprise,” he said.
Atlee said that he has learned many valuable lessons at Loyola that he will carry into his future; he said that the most important lesson he gained is “learning to keep my eyes open to new ideas and developing new ways of thinking about things,” and he attributed this skill to the diverse environment of Loyola and the critical thinking required from him during class.
Atlee feels very pleased to be named valedictorian, saying, “Winning this award is a validation of my hard work; it makes me very proud and honored. When I heard that I won the award, I was shocked but also very proud and happy at the same time.”
Henry Welsh is the Class of 2016’s salutatorian, an award presented to the student graduating with second-most prestigious honors.
During his time as a Cub, Welsh participated in many different facets of student life.
As a freshman, he played both JV basketball and freshman baseball. In addition, he joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Club, which he engaged in throughout the remainder of his time at Loyola.
Sophomore year, Welsh ended his involvement with baseball; however, he joined the Monogram Club, another activity he maintained until the culmination of his Loyola career.
Similar to classmate Thomas Atlee, this year’s valedictorian, Welsh involved himself heavily with community service, completing the majority of his hours at Saint Thomas School adjacent to Loyola.
In addition, Welsh was involved with the freshman retreat. As a junior, he served as a member of the Junior Ground Crew, and he transitioned his involvement with the retreat into serving as a Big Brother during his senior year. Most recently, Welsh served as a rector on the 113th Kairos retreat.
Along with his many extracurricular activities, Welsh challenged himself
through his academic coursework. He took a variety of different honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses during his four years, and he has maintained high grades in these classes.
Welsh said that his hardest class was AP United States History with social sciences teacher Thomas Goepel. “There were a lot of papers that had to be very concise. I also thought that there was a lot of content and tests,” Welsh said.
Welsh felt that his hard work led to his reception of this award. “Hard work is what I think made me win the award. I like to say I’m a pretty smart guy, but I had to work very hard to be the best I could be in all my classes and activities,” Welsh said.
Welsh thinks that Loyola has helped him grow into a better person and believes that this growth will help him next year at Harvard University, where he will play basketball. “The most important thing I have taken away from Loyola is my growth into a true man for others. I have learned especially from my coaches and teachers what it takes to be a man. I have grown as a man of faith, as a man of God, and as a leader,” Welsh said.
After learning he was selected as salutatorian, Welsh felt very proud of his accomplishments. “Winning this award is a great honor. There are a lot of smart kids here, and many of them are worthy of winning this award,” he said.
Being named salutatorian evoked a special response for Welsh rooted in his grade school years. “When I was in 8th grade, my brother [Thomas ‘13] graduated. The salutatorian of his class was Cody Whitford, and I thought it would be very cool if that was me some day,” he said.
Welsh maintained, however, that winning this award was not his overall goal in attending Loyola; rather, it was a result of his hard work in his classes. “I focused mainly on my classes and activities, but winning this award was a great result of all my hard work,” he said.