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Seniors say Culver taught them to ‘lean into discomfort,’ readied them for future

Tom Coyne

Color guard presents the colors at commencement on Sunday. (Photo by Andrew Crowell '18)


Two graduating seniors chosen by Culver Academies classmates to speak at the Baccalaureate Service Convocation recalled the challenges they faced during their four years, especially the pandemic, and how those challenges prepared them for the future.

Kevin (Yuzhe) Zhang remembered taking classes via Zoom as an instructor struggled to share his screen, the color-coded mask rotation to make sure students were changing masks every day, and fire alarms going off late at night because someone burned Ramen in the microwave.

He also recalled arriving at Culver on the night of Jan. 14, 2021, after 14 days of quarantine and a 16-hour trip from Shanghai, China, and the first thing he had to do was to take a COVID test. He soon discovered that the Culver wi-fi turned off promptly at midnight.

“It feels as if many things simply ‘happened,’ most of which were out of our control,” Zhang said. “These moments evoke many different emotions – happiness, excitement, confusion, frustration and, perhaps worst of all, embarrassment,” he said. “Yet, this is precisely how Culver prepares us for our future.”


Kevin (Yuzhe) Zhang speaks at the Baccalaureate Service Convocation. (Photo by Andrew Crowell '18)

Linda (Qiyan) Su (Xiamen City, China), speaking Saturday at Memorial Chapel, described feeling isolated as an international student during the pandemic, bonding with friends via video calls even though they lived in the same hall, and listening to online lectures, wondering if she could survive Culver.

“Yet we found joy amidst disappointments,” she said. “As discomfort became the norm, we learned not only to accept it, but to lean into it.”

By leaning into discomforts, they learned to accept life's frustrations and challenge themselves to try new things, she said.

She said it taught the students to accept life’s frustrations and to challenge themselves by trying new things.

She said it also taught students to voice their opinions and led to a schoolwide discourse on diversity, changes in recycling and other issues.

“Finding and expressing our voices has been a crucial lesson Culver has taught us,” she said.



Baccalaureate Convocation Service on Saturday at Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Andrew Crowell '18)


Zhang drew laughter from the crowd when he talked about policy changes in how students could use their phones and other technology “based on surveys we don’t remember taking,” and comparing school policies to government legislation, saying: “Both are extremely hard to change and rarely reflects what the general population really wants.

“Yet, this is precisely how Culver prepares us for our future. Culver is not just a private boarding leadership academy in the middle of Indiana; it is a microcosm of real-world society, where so many things are beyond our control,” he said.

Both students said they are confident their classmates are ready for the challenges ahead.

“Know you are prepared to take on life’s challenges, expected or not,” Zhang said. “Use the skills that you have learned here at Culver to make a difference.”

Su said the Class of 2024 will remember Culver fondly.   

“Culver is more than a school; it’s a home. It’s where we built lasting relationships, found mentors and discovered our passions,” she said.



Culver Girls Academy Dean Caren Standfast presents Destiny Ndubuisi-Obi with the Arthur G. Hughes Award. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


The recipients of the top student awards were presented at Commencement Convocation on Saturday.

The Arthur G. Hughes Award was presented to Destiny Ndubuisi-Obi (Chicago, Illinois). The award, named in honor of the late Arthur G. Hughes, first chairman of the Fine Arts Department, is given to the graduating senior girl who has revealed exceptional concern for cultural life on campus.

The McDonald Award was presented to A.J. Black (Zionsville, Indiana). The award, given by E.C. McDonald, Class of 1915, is awarded to the cadet who -- by his individual work, example and inspiration -- has contributed materially to the betterment of cultural life at Culver.


Col. Mike Squires, commandant of the Culver Military Academy, presents A.J. Black with the McDonald Award. (Photo by Tom Coyne)

The Mary Frances England Humanitarian Award was presented to Chloe Swank (South Bend, Indiana). The award is named for the founding director of Culver Girls Academy and is presented annually to the senior girl who, by her acts, has revealed an exemplary concern for others. It was established in 1973 by the Culver Parents Association.

The Van Zandt Key was presented to Jack Quigg (Faribault, Minnesota). The key is presented to the cadet who, by his effort and example, has increased an awareness among the Corps of Cadets of the importance of moral and spiritual values. The award was established in 1954 by Richard R. Van Zandt, Class of 1928.

The Superintendent’s Bowl was presented to Kari Teglia (Key Largo, Florida). The bowl, given by a former Culver cadet in 1972, is presented to a graduating Culver Girls Academy senior whose leadership, example, influence and total record of achievement has brought honor to the Academies.

The YMCA Cup, established in 1915, was presented to Johnny Jimenez (Plymouth, Indiana). The award is presented to the cadet who, in the opinion of the faculty and staff, best exemplifies the ideals of Culver.

Ashley (Yuqi) Zheng (Hefei, China) was recognized as the valedictorian of the Class of 2024 and the recipient of the Jonas Weil Award. Established by Jonas Weil ’54, the Weil Award provides a monetary award to the valedictorian and salutatorian. Michelle (Yuchen) Luo (Shanghai, China) was named the salutatorian.


Josh Pretzer, Culver Academies dean of faculty, with valedictorian Ashley (Yuqi) Zheng. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


Jason (Jiachen) Lu (Shanghai, China) was awarded The Scholarship Medal, which was established in 1946. The award is presented to the cadet with the highest cumulative grade point average during the second- and first-class years at Culver.

Ashley (Yuqi) Zheng was presented the Alfred J. Donnelly Scholastic Award. The award is given in memory of Alfred J. Donnelly, Culver’s long esteemed teacher, counselor and dean. It recognizes the graduating senior in CGA who has attained the highest academic average during her junior and senior years. The award was established in 1979.

Terell Cooley (South Holland, Illinois) was presented with the Thomas Bridegroom Award for fine arts, named for a 2000 graduate who died in 2011.  The award is given to a CMA first classman or a CGA senior intending to study a fine arts discipline at a college, university, or conservatory level. The award was provided by Michael Huffington ’65.

Quinn Bird (Sturgis, Michigan) was named Outstanding Sportswomen of the Year. The award is presented by the CGA Class of 1972 to the senior who is the best all-around athlete in Culver Girls Academy. The award goes to the CGA student who displays outstanding participation, spirit, and enthusiasm.

Kyle Bergen (Newtown Square, Pennsylvania) received the Russ and Myra Oliver Best All-Around Athlete award, which is presented to the CMA first classman who best represents the ideals of Russ and Myra Oliver.

Aiden Froh (Fond du Lac, Wisconsin) earned The Chambers Award, which recognizes the first-classman who has distinguished himself through a combination of excellence in scholarship and athletics.  The award, established in 1915, is given in memory of Cal C. Chambers, Class of 1908.

Emma Andrus (Midland, Michigan) earned the Jane Metcalfe Culver Bowl awarded to a graduating CGA student who has distinguished herself in scholastic and academic achievement.

Dorm/Unit Awards

Benson earned The Benson Bowl for Academic Achievement with an overall grade point average of 3.8172. The award, established by a former Culver cadet, is dedicated to the memory of Dean Ernest B. Benson and is awarded to the CGA dormitory having the highest academic achievement for the year.

Company B won The Silver Bowl with an overall GPA of 3.6870. Given by E.R. Culver III, Class of 1918, to the CMA organization having the highest academic achievement for the year. The bowl was given by E.R. Culver III, Class of 1938.



Emily Uebler, Culver Academies dean of faculty, presents humanities instructor Shalena Eaton with the Maj. Gen. Delmar T. Spivey Award for Teaching. (Photo by Tom Coyne)

Faculty Awards

Culver Academies honored faculty and staff for their dedication and service.

Humanities instructor Shalena Eaton received the Maj. Gen. Delmar T. Spivey Award for Teaching. The award, named for Culver’s sixth superintendent, recognizes and encourages superior teaching among younger promising faculty members. The recipient is selected by the academic department chairs.

Humanities master instructor Jen Cerny was awarded the Kaser Scholar Award. The award is presented to the faculty member “whose scholarly interests, enthusiastic teaching, sympathetic understanding, and wise counsel combine to inspire students and kindle in them the zest for life and learning.” The winner is selected by the top 30 percent of the senior class and is named in honor of Mark. B. Kaser ’75.


Emily Uebler, Culver Academies dean of faculty, presents humanities master instructor Jen Cerny with the Kaser Scholar Award. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


Mathematics master instructor Lori Elliott was awarded the John R. Mars Award. Established by the board of trustees to honor Culver’s 10th superintendent, the award is given to the member of the faculty/staff who best exemplifies the ideals of Culver and Dean Mars during his 41-year career.

Honors and Concentrations

A total of 81 students received diplomas indicating they successfully completed the requirements for concentrations or honors in a discipline.

Students graduating with a concentration in a subject completed a series of prerequisite courses, including special seminars focusing intensively on their areas of interest.

Those students graduating with honors will have produced a body of work judged to be of high merit by the corresponding subject-area faculty committee.

Service Academy Appointments
Four members of the Class of 2024 accepted appointments to service academies. John Afari-Aikins (Carmel, Indiana), William Gray (San Rafael, California) and Tade Wynn (Kansas City, Missouri) will attend West Point (2026) and Frank Whitlock (Culver, Indiana) will attend the Naval Academy.

 ROTC Scholarships

Brandon Baek (Seoul, South Korea) Vanderbilt University, Marines;

Charles Faul (Bradenton, Florida) Virginia Military Institute, Army;

Meghan Feick (Culver, Indiana) Vanderbilt University, Army; Emilio Gonzalez Chavez (Juarez, Mexico) MIT, Army; Preston Hensley (Ashville, Ohio) Vanderbilt University, Army; Kevin Huang (Richmond Hill, Canada) Rose Hulman University, Army; Aidan Ji (Long Grove, Illinois) Princeton University, Army; Johnny Jimenez (Culver, Indiana) University of Notre Dame, Army; Eamon Seeley (Lafayette, Indiana) University of Notre Dame, Army; Matthew Spear (Short Hills, New Jersey) George Washington University,    Navy; Zach Venable (Arlington, Virginia) University of Wisconsin, Army; Troy Weirick (Elkhart, Indiana) Vanderbilt University, Army.

Emeritus Faculty and Staff

As a way of honoring longtime service, the Board of Trustees established “emeritus” status in 1983 to retiring individuals who have served at least 20 years at Culver. In their May meeting, the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees conferred the following faculty and staff “emeritus” status:

Gabrielle DiLorenzo, 22 years, master instructor Spanish

Ed Quella, 26 Years, officer in charge

Robin Siems, 30 years, horsemanship instructor

Lori Elliott, 38 Years, master instructor mathematics


Josh Pretzer, Culver Academies dean of faculty, presents mathematic master instructor Lori Elliott with the John R. Mars Award. (Photo by Tom Coyne)


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