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Alisharan, Lee win Pyne Honor Prize

Culminating diverse academic and extracurricular careers, psychology major Shalani Alisharan '98 and English major Julia Lee '98 received this year's M. Taylor Pyne Honor Prize at Saturday's alumni luncheon.

The Pyne Prize is awarded annually to one or more seniors who have demonstrated "excellence in scholarship, character, and effective support of the best interests of Princeton University," said President Shapiro as he presented the awards to Alisharan and Lee.


Attaining straight A's in her work in cognitive neuroscience, Alisharan decided to switch from the premedical path to neuroscience last summer. Although accepted by Johns Hopkins Medical School, Alisharan said she will defer that opportunity to fulfill a scholarship she received to study at Oxford's Worcester College.

Emotional speeches

Approaching the podium in tears, Alisharan said, "I just want to express to everybody how significant this is to me because it clarifies a lot of things about myself."

Alisharan explained that the award represented years of hard work in the face of "feeling different" as a Jamaican living in British Columbia.

"This University challenged me to reevaluate myself," she said. "Changing my mind at this late date has been so terrifying for me," Alisharan said.

Lee has earned straight A's in the English department and also will receive a certificate in European cultural studies. Lee's thesis will focus on the metaphors of electricity in George Eliot's "Middlemarch," a topic she explored in a junior paper as well.

Lee's passion for writing and the arts led her to establish weekly "salons," at which students and professors read and engage in discussions of the arts.


"She has electrified this campus with her love of learning," Shapiro said.

In her acceptance speech, Lee said, "When I met Shalani, I felt it was particularly triumphant, because we are both women of color and we wouldn't have been here as recently as 25 years ago."

"I want to thank my mother and father, who came here 30 years ago and sacrificed everything for me and my sister (Sharon), who is class of 2000. So this is their moment," Lee said.

Busy women

Lee and Alisharan's accomplishments have not been confined to the classroom. Alisharan said she runs a Community House tutoring and mentoring project with underprivileged children and has choreographed campus dance shows. "It's beyond my wildest expectations," said Robert Alisharan, Shalani's father. "Education is the key to everything. You can have as much money as you want and someone can take it away from you, but they can't take the education from you," he said.

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Lee is a Resident Adviser in Forbes College, has performed recitals as a pianist, is a member of Expressions dance company and hosts a Thursday morning classical show on WPRB.

"I think every teacher hopes that once every so often, she'll have a student like Julia," said Lee's adviser, Professor Deborah Nord.

"She's a human battery."