Before naming the students of the year, Santurri called attention to Lowell and Barbara Johnson, both long-time members and contributors to the St. Olaf community. The Johnsons endowed a scholarship for the Great Con Students of the Year, and were present Wednesday to congratulate the winners.
Santurri also called attention to the six professors who make up the two cohorts of the Great Conversation program, as well as past Great Con professors who attended the event. "Its a lot of work," Santurri said about teaching in the program.
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy Elizabeth Galbraith agreed. "Its been one of the most exhausting and one of the most thrilling teaching experiences of my career," she said.
The Great Con Students of the Year were chosen according to a number of criteria, including academic achievement, a manifest love of the material, dexterity of mind, ability to listen well and contributions to class discussion. "Needless to say, the Great Con has a number of students who make significant contributions," Santurri said. "It was a hard choice." The three professors in each cohort chose one representative student to honor as the Great Con Student of the Year.
Koch and Moench came up to receive their awards to the applause of their classmates. "I had no idea the winner would have to give a speech," Koch said. She commented on the caliber of her classmates and her admiration of all participants of the program. "I looked around at all the people in our class, and I could not believe our profs picked one person," she said. "It would be impossible."
Moench agreed. "Everyone contributed in their own unique way," he said. "Thats what made it work." Attendees, professors and students alike pointed to the outstanding abilities and talents alive in the program. "This evening has been honoring all the students," Galbraith said. Associate Professor of Norwegian and current Great Con professor Anne Sabo agreed. "I dont like it being about an individual," she said, wishing the event would honor one specific day of discussion. "Its never about one person," she said.
The evening ended with a song, entitled "A Hegelian Dialectic of Defenestration," sung by Great Con members Sara Huelskoetter '09 and Katherine Parent '09. The musical number showcased several authors read in the program, as well as amusing incidents occurring during their years in Great Con, such as the time when Associate Professor of Philosophy Jeanine Grenberg tried to hit a wasp with her copy of Dantes "Inferno" and ended up breaking the window, accidentally throwing her book outside in the process.
Overall, the evening celebrated a group of students who have bonded over the "great" authors of the Western tradition. "I didnt like everything that we read, but Im so glad that I had this experience," Moench said. "I cant imagine a better crew to go on this voyage with."