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Scarlet Key Society Inducts 81 from Class of 2013

Seniors awarded for scholarship, community service


One led BU’s Latino fraternity and encouraged its longtime partnership with a local school’s homework help program. Another is a track and field star who spent her downtime advocating for BU’s student-athletes. And a third supervised 100 of his peers as they traveled around Boston salvaging food to give to the less fortunate.

These students—Jonathan Orrala (SAR’13), Nikko Brady (CGS’11, CAS’13), and Ernesto Botello (SAR’13)—are among a select group in the Class of 2013 who will be inducted tonight into BU’s Scarlet Key Society, the University’s highest honor for student leaders. This year’s winners, who were selected from each of the University’s undergraduate schools and colleges, will join more than 1,500 Scarlet Key alumni. The ceremony is being held in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom at 6 p.m.

“These are the people who have put their time and energy into a wide range of involvement at BU,” says Kat Hasenauer Cornetta, assistant to the dean of students. “The selection committee isn’t looking for people who spent all of their time in SMG, for instance, and never took part in an extracurricular group. The Scarlet Key Society looks for those students who have impacted people all over the University.”

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Jonathan Orrala (SAR'13). Photo by Cydney Scott

The Scarlet Key Society was established in 1938 by the General Alumni Association—now the Boston University Alumni Association—as an extracurricular activities honor society, and it recognized mostly juniors. The Dean of Students Office took over administration of the society nearly a decade ago, and today the award is presented to graduating seniors “who have exhibited exceptional leadership” and “excellence in University student activities and organizations, commitment to the individual’s school or college, and scholarship.”

Faculty, staff, and alumni recommend potential Scarlet Key recipients to the Dean of Students Office, which checks candidates’ GPAs and Judicial Affairs records. Nominees must then submit an application, a résumé, and a list of their extracurricular activities. Of the 99 seniors nominated this year, 81 will be awarded the Scarlet Key. The number of inductees fluctuates from year to year, with last year seeing a record high of 104.

“This is definitely an award that students aspire to,” Cornetta says. “I get juniors coming into my office all the time asking about it.”

So what kind of students are Scarlet Key material? A quick look at Orrala’s, Brady’s, and Botello’s résumés gives you some idea. In addition to serving as the chapter president of Phi Iota Alpha fraternity, Orrala worked as a student ambassador at BU’s Center for Career Development, was a coordinator on two Alternative Spring Break trips, and was an admissions ambassador.

He says being involved in so many things taught him a valuable lesson: how to say no. “I have good time-management skills, but one of the biggest lessons I learned was picking what was really important to me,” says Orrala, who plans to go on to graduate school and become a registered dietitian. “Focusing on only a few different things means you can really give your all to the activities that mean the most to you.”

Brady has been a jumper and hurdler for the Terrier women’s track and field team, and off the track was vice president of the University’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC). “The SAAC works to uphold BU’s image as well as voicing student-athletes’ concerns,” Brady says. “It was important to me to be involved.”

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Nikko Brady (CGS’11, CAS'13) (far right) practicing with indoor track team members Julia Mirochnick (SAR’13) (from left) and Catherine Milledge (CGS’11, MET'13). Photo by Cydney Scott

After graduation she will enter Metropolitan College to earn a master’s degree in city planning. Coupled with her undergraduate degree in environmental policy, she hopes to work abroad one day with low-income housing settlements, “which lack official governance, planning, and other city infrastructures,” Brady says.

Botello spent much of his time at BU volunteering at the University’s Community Service Center Student Food Rescue. At Thanksgiving, he coordinated the efforts of fellow students as they collected and distributed approximately 1,000 pounds of turkeys and another 1,000 pounds of vegetables and desserts to needy residents in the Brookline area. He was also a First-Year Student Outreach Project (FYSOP) coordinator and participated in marching band and percussion, all while working as the student manager at the Warren Tower dining hall and Marciano Commons.

“I think I was in shock when I received the email telling me I was being inducted into the Scarlet Key Society,” Botello says. “I laughed because I never thought of myself as a Scarlet Key winner. I had seen friends win it in years past, and it’s a pretty prestigious award to get.” After graduation Botello plans to spend two weeks biking from New Orleans to Dallas for Ride for the Future to highlight the work of local leaders who are dealing with the health and climate harms of fossil fuels.

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Ernesto Botello (SAR’13). Photo by Kayla Lewkowicz

At tonight’s induction ceremony, the Scarlet Key recipients will pass through three stations. First, they are tapped with a sword on each shoulder by a Scarlet Key alum.  Students next sign the Scarlet Key book—which contains the signatures of every past recipient. Finally, they receive a certificate and the Scarlet Key pin, which carries an image of a scarlet key and the BU crest.

The Honorary Scarlet Key Award, which recognizes exceptional alumni, faculty, staff, or trustees, will be given to three members of the BU community: longtime men’s hockey coach Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97), who recently announced his retirement; Kelly Walter, an associate vice president and executive director of admissions; and Diane Meuser, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of mathematics and statistics.

Meuser, who has been at the University for 32 years, is the faculty-in-residence at Claflin Hall, but is most famous for hosting weekly math nights at the Rich Hall Cinema Room, where she invites BU students to come for math homework help. She often drafts upperclassmen to help tutor when she is busy with other students. Meuser also hosts homemade ice cream nights (she can make over 800 flavors) and leads students on hikes around the New England area.

The honorary Scarlet Key Award nomination, she says, is an affirmation of her goals at BU. “The line that stood out to me was that someone who wins this award is involved with the intellectual and personal life of students,” Meuser says. “I definitely think that is one of my goals here. I want to make students’ intellectual life better, and I do that with my math help and advising students, but I’m also interested in them as people and in their personal formation.”

The winner of this year’s Leila Saad Award, which honors the “most scarlet of the Scarlet Key” recipients with a $1,000 prize, will be announced at the end of the ceremony.

Read a detailed history of the Scarlet Key Awards here.

The Scarlet Key Society ceremony is tonight, May 16, at 6 p.m. in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, 775 Commonwealth Ave. All are welcome.

More information about Commencement can be found on the Commencement website.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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