Texas A&M University recently presented its top student awards — recognizing outstanding accomplishments in academics, leadership and service by graduating seniors — to Gabrielle Lessen of Alexandria, Louisiana, Brooke Versaw of College Station and Rachel Keathley of Austin.
Each student’s identity was kept confidential until the spring commencement ceremonies, during which they received their diplomas.
Brown Foundation-Earl Rudder Memorial Outstanding Student Awards, which include cash gifts of $5,000 each, were presented to Lessen and Versaw. The award honors top students who exemplify the leadership and related traits of the late Gen. Earl Rudder, a World War II hero who served as president of Texas A&M from 1959 until his death in 1970.
The Robert Gates-Muller Family Outstanding Student Award, which also includes a $5,000 gift, was presented to Keathley.
The award was established through a gift from the Muller family of Galveston to provide public recognition to the outstanding seniors graduating from Texas A&M who have demonstrated those qualities of leadership, patriotism and courage exemplified by Robert M. Gates. He served as president of the university from 2002 until 2006, when he was named U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Lessen was an Undergraduate Research Scholar, a University Scholar and an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. She has earned a First Year Involvement award for her contributions to MSC programming and the Senior Merit Award for her college. She was selected as a Beckman Scholar for her promise in leadership and research, and her adviser described her as “light years ahead of her peers” with an extraordinary “intellectual maturity and aptitude for science.”
“Reading her resume is a jaw-dropping experience. Yet what those who know her best extoll is her commitment to learning about different religious traditions and cultures, attending political lectures that offer different perspectives, and acting as caretaker for a family member while maintaining her academic and extracurricular commitments,” said one nominator.
Versaw was also an Undergraduate Research Scholar, a University Scholar and an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. She has been recognized by three national fellowship entities: the National Science Foundation, the Goldwater Foundation and the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. She also was selected as a Beckman Scholar for her excellence and creativity in research. She has served as director of programming for the MSC and demonstrated her ethical integrity as hearing chair and council member for the Texas A&M University Honor Council.
Her research adviser described her as having “the highest level of independent creativity” with “the greatest potential to rise as a world-class star.” Her other references extoll her “characteristic honesty,” “quiet bravery,” and her humbleness in taking on “not very visible, not always rewarding, difficult and incredibly important service.”
Keathley, the Gates-Muller award winner, was a business honors major and events coordinator and executive vice-president for the Student Government Association. She was selected as a public policy intern for the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C., and awarded the Sophomore Gathright Award and Outstanding Junior award for her college. She has served on multiple committees including University Disciplinary Appeals, the Student Health Services Advisory Committee and Wiley Lecture Marketing committee. She is heavily involved in local ministry services such as the Philadelphia Sisters, Save our Streets and the Grace Bible Church Street Team.
Her references commend her commitment to “being a true friend,” someone who cares for “the frequently overlooked,” and who has ability to “stay true to what she believes in, even in the face of challenges.” This fortitude was demonstrated during her term as elections commissioner through which her “conduct was above reproach”— showing “initiative, integrity, and leadership” while handling challenges “with grace.”
Media contact: Keith Randall, News and Information, at (979) 845-4644 or firstname.lastname@example.org