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Eschenauer, Adams graduate at top of SMC senior class

Megan O'Neil | Thursday, May 12, 2005

For the first time in 17 years, two Saint Mary’s students have been named co-valedictorians for a graduating class.

Seniors Dawn Eschenauer and Julia Adams topped the Class of 2005 rankings, which includes 368 students, with identical GPAs to the fifth decimal place. Both will deliver speeches on commencement day.

The co-valedictorians were notified about the honor several months ago, but the official announcement was made to the College community May 1 during Honors Convocation.

Eschenauer called walking up on stage during the honors ceremony, where she was also awarded the creative writing prize by the English writing department, a bit overwhelming.

“It was such a blur, I don’t even remember,” Eschenauer said.

A native of Corunna, Ind., Eschenauer said as a senior in high school, Saint Mary’s offered her exactly what she was looking for in a college.

“I guess I just liked everything I read about it,” Eschenauer said. “I liked the idea of going to a women’s college, and I liked that it was small.”

The philosophy and English writing major said as a first year student, she never expected to become her class valedictorian and she is very excited about the honor.

“I see it as a responsibility,” Eschenauer said. “I want to represent my class really well.”

As a Saint Mary’s student, Eschenauer was a member of the collegiate choir and worked as a volunteer for Reading Corps.

She will begin a graduate program in philosophy in the fall at the University of Chicago.

“[I am going to miss] all of the people,” Eschenauer said. “I have met the most wonderful people here, both professors and students.”

Adams, a biology major and a chemistry minor, is well known among faculty and students on campus not just for her academic excellence, but also for her prowess on the golf course.

The Peoria, Ill., native is a four-year member of the Saint Mary’s golf team and helped lead the team to eighth- and fourth-place finishes at the national championship in 2004 and 2003, respectively. She is also this year’s MIAA low medalist and is currently competing at the national championships with her teammates in North Carolina.

Maintaining perfect grades while simultaneously competing as an athlete on the highest level required carefully balancing studying and training.

“It took a lot of discipline on my part,” Adams said. “I just work to try and do my best at everything. I can never really settle if I know I can do better.”

Weekends spent traveling during the spring season left Adams with what she described as a “stressful” weekday schedule of homework and studying.

“The teachers were really supportive of me missing class and doing makeup work,” Adams said.

Like Eschenauer, Adams said she never anticipated being named co-valedictorian but was extremely pleased.

“I guess it just sort of happened,” Adams said. “I didn’t even think about it until I got the letter in the mail a couple of months ago. My parents were excited, probably more excited than I was. They are very proud.”

Adams begins medical school in the fall at Loyola of Chicago and intends to spend time abroad during service work in the medical field.

“There is a lot I am going to miss [about Saint Mary’s],” Adams said. “I am definitely going to miss competitive golf. And I am going to miss the beautiful environment and my friends. … It has been great.”