2012-05-09 / Schools

Putnam Valley Alumna Makes Phi Beta Kappa

By Annie Chesnut

Hannah Schmidt in Italy. 
Photo Provided Hannah Schmidt in Italy. Photo Provided Hannah Schmidt, of Putnam Valley, received some great news recently. The college senior was just named a member of the prestigious college honor society Phi Beta Kappa.

Hannah, who was also the Valedictorian of the Putnam Valley High School class of 2008, was finishing up finals week at SUNY Geneseo, near Rochester, when we chatted with her by phone last week, just after she finished a deejay stint at the college radio station.

Smart, gregarious, and always a hard worker, Hannah is completing a double major in English Literature and Art History. Her 45-page honors thesis, which she was turning in the day we spoke, concerns Botticelli’s illuminations of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Not surprisingly, Hannah’s academic focus has been on Medieval and Renaissance art and literature. Her plan is to someday work in museums—either at the curatorial or educational level, she said, and part of that plan includes making these periods “accessible.”

“I want to teach people things but don’t have the patience to be a professor,” she added, laughing.

As part of her honors project, she hosted a multimedia presentation on what she calls “the Divine Comedy experience.” The event included matted prints of Botticelli’s illuminations accompanied by textual references from Dante’s masterwork.

After graduation on May 12, Hannah said she’s coming home to Putnam Valley for a year. She was accepted into the Master’s degree program at the University of St. Andrew’s, in Scotland, but oversees tuition is high, and there’s no financial aid for graduate programs, so she needs to wait a while. While she’s home saving, Hannah will be ghost writing a book, working with her dad, who is an editor at Scientific American, and “working on my golf swing.”

Hannah described herself as “enormously happy” with her college experience in general. President of the college English Club, she just completed her last official act when she released the latest edition of Geneseo’s literary magazine. She admitted to finding this time sad: “There are all these ‘lasts’ coming up.”

Induction to Phi Beta Kappa is based both on a numerical standard (grades) and on recommendations from professors. Hannah said she felt that coming from “s small [and comparatively unknown] school like Geneseo,” the Phi Beta Kappa acknowledgement serves as a kind of “affirmation.”

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