Past valedictorians find celebrity fades quickly after graduation

by Charles Davant | 6/11/95 5:00am

While being named valedictorian is the highest honor the College can bestow on a graduate, the instant celebrity fades quickly, according to three former valedictorians.

Kamala Dansinghani '94, Ally Jeddy '93 and Henry Spindler '92 all said they were honored to speak at Commencement, but that the title has affected them only in subtle ways.

Dansinghani, who graduated from the College with eight academic citations and a perfect grade point average of 4.0, said one effect of graduating first in her class was she "felt a little more confident coming" to Harvard Medical School.

"It is the same thing as Dartmouth. Everyone was valedictorian of their high school class. You get here and you feel the same way," she said.

Spindler said being Dartmouth's valedictorian "probably helped my getting into graduate school. And I got a fellowship," he said.

Spindler, a chemistry major who graduated with more than 16 academic citations, is currently researching solid state nuclear magnetic resonance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

According to Jeddy, his title may have helped him get his job as a consultant at the McKinsey Global Institute. But, he said, being valedictorian is certainly not a prerequisite.

For example, Jeddy said there are other Dartmouth alumni who were not valedictorians working with the firm.

All of the valedictorians said few people outside of the College know they were valedictorians.

"Maybe some of my professors know; the ones who read my application," Spindler said.

"After graduation it got out in the papers at home. People were impressed to some degree," he said.

But "it really hasn't done a whole lot since graduation," he said.

Dansinghani said she "had a lot of reporters getting in touch with me at first. But all the publicity was more around the time of graduation."

She added, "It hasn't had as huge an impact as you might think. It is nice to have that, but it really doesn't phase you."

According to Jeddy, "every once in a while you get on a subway in New York City and someone recognizes you."

"Someone walked up to me in Yellowstone Park once, and said 'aren't you the person who made that speech.' But that is not the point," he said.

The point, Jeddy said, is that "being valedictorian puts you in a better place to be of service to others, and only to the extent you do that are you actually of service."

In spite of the confidence being valedictorian gave her, Dansinghani said she is not cocky.

"I have to work just as hard as everyone else does. Sometimes I feel like 'Oh my gosh, I'll never be able to learn this,'" she said.

Dansinghani said she is adjusting well to medical school, including the switch from a 4.0 GPA to no GPA at all.

"We don't have grades here. It is all pass-fail. It is problem-based learning as opposed to the didactic traditional lecture. It took a while to get used to, but I like it a lot," she said.

"It is nice to have the pressure of grades off," she added.

Dansinghani plans to focus on neonatology or neurobiology at Harvard Medical School.

Spindler spent the year after graduation in Marburg, Germany, on a Fulbright Scholarship. He also got married to Carol Bertucci '91 last August 20, he said.

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