Spencer Grayson CC’22, an English major, and William Ingalls CC’22, a psychology major, have been named valedictorian and salutatorian respectively, the top academic honors for the Class of 2022.
Grayson and Ingalls were selected by the faculty Committee on Honors, Awards and Prizes based the strength, breadth, depth and rigor of their academic achievements, as well as on evidence of their intellectual promise, character and achievement outside the classroom.
Grayson is a Junior Phi Beta Kappa inductee and has been both a managing editor for The Columbia Review and an assistant editor for a digital humanities project at the University of Washington. As a CC Summer Research Fellow, she conducted research on early modern English colonialism, queer poetics and women writers, with a particular interest in questions surrounding female participation in English colonial projects.
“I am honored and overwhelmed to be chosen as this year’s valedictorian. It is a testament to the unparalleled English faculty and their commitments to undergraduate education and thoughtful, meticulous scholarship,” Grayson says.
Molly Murray, an associate professor and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, says, “Spencer is probably the single most impressive undergraduate I have taught in 20 years at Columbia, a student whose gift for reading and analyzing early modern literature (and not only early modern!) has been a source of wonderment and even inspiration for me as well as my colleagues in English over the last three years.”
“Spencer is voracious, but she is also sagacious,” says Julie Crawford, the Mark Van Doren Professor of Humanities in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. “There is no ‘more more more’ mania to her intellectual curiosity. Rather, it really seems that she is patiently, studiously and passionately building her expertise in the field of early modern literary studies. I have simply never had a student so suited to, and deeply — seemingly natively — interested in, the field I have studied for decades.”
Grayson will pursue an M.St. in English literature (1500–1700) at Oxford on a Clarendon Fund Scholarship, followed by a Ph.D. in English at the University of Virginia.
“My time at the College has demonstrated to me the power of radical thought and reading in reimagining what education and academia could one day become,” Grayson says. “I have been able to hone my skills as a critical thinker and researcher to determine how historical texts perpetuate unjust hierarchies and how we can work to unravel them.”
Ingalls is a Junior Phi Beta Kappa inductee who studied emotion regulation in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab, culminating in his honors thesis on emotional responses to political news. He also participated in the Global Behavioral Science Program, publishing a replication study of bias in out-group meta-perceptions.
He says he is grateful to his professors for providing such engaging opportunities, and to his Carman 708 roommates, with whom he spent his first year “alternating fervent studying with repartee.” Ingalls says that for him, this was the crucible of Columbia — an environment of exceptional academic rigor that forges meaningful relationships.
“I trust the relationships I’ve formed here will continue to shape my life in beautiful and unexpected ways,” he adds.
“The bottom line is that William is one of the most creative and talented undergraduates I have had the pleasure to meet and mentor in my time at Columbia,” says Kevin Ochsner, chair of the Department of Psychology. “For his thesis work he was drawn to asking ‘big’ questions about human nature, and he demonstrated the skills and wherewithal to come up with meaningful and realistic answers. He presents an incredibly winning combination of scholarly acumen and pragmatic work ethic, guided by a refreshingly optimistic and down-to-earth moral sensibility.”
Says Katherine Fox-Glassman, a lecturer in discipline and the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Psychology, “Will stands out ... with the depth and creativity of his thinking; the level of challenge he sets for himself and his ability to see that through; the intellectual and emotional maturity that shows in his coursework and teaching skills; and the warmth and caring he shows toward his peers.”
Ingalls spent his childhood making movies with his two older brothers; after graduation he will join them at their production company, Ingalls Pictures, to pursue a career in filmmaking.
Grayson and Ingalls will be recognized at Class Day on Tuesday, May 17.