Taishi Nakase ’21 and Lucy Wang ’21 have been selected as valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for the Class of 2021, according to a University announcement.
University faculty accepted the two nominations by the Faculty Committee on Examinations and Standing during a faculty meeting on April 26.
Nakase, a first-generation college student from Melbourne, Australia, is concentrating in operations research and financial engineering. He plans to attend medical school but will first pursue a master of science in modeling for global health at Oxford University, according to the press release.
During his time at the University, Nakase was twice awarded the Shapiro Prize for Academic Excellence and was the recipient of the Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award. He is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society.
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Nakase encouraged first-years and sophomores to follow their interests even if they may change and shared an anecdote of his own.
“Spend your time pursuing work that interests you and don’t be afraid to change course even if it means that you feel a little behind others,“ he wrote. “I came to Princeton thinking that I would go into finance, but I changed course part way through my sophomore year and decided that I wanted to pursue medicine. This meant that I was far behind others in terms of pre-requisites, but it certainly worth the time and effort as I am exactly where I want to be right now.”
In the University’s statement, Nakase expressed gratitude for his time at Princeton.
“Last spring, amidst devastating loss and the upheaval of our studies and life, I came to reflect on how important the conversations with friends, whether in dining halls or in in-person discussions, were to our college life,” Nakase said in the press release.
“Hence, I am very grateful for the work of the University to bring us all together once again for this year’s Commencement on campus,” he continued. “To celebrate the joys and triumphs of our time at Princeton, especially our perseverance through the disruptions of this past year, with our classmates is truly special and a privilege for all of us who called Princeton home for the last four years.”
In an email to the ‘Prince,’ he also thanked his family and Princetonians, both on-campus and far away, who helped him along his journey as an undergraduate.
He acknowledged the support of Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering William Massey ’77, who worked to accommodate the 14-hour time difference Nakase experienced during remote learning; Michael Eichelberger, who made “the daunting pre-med landscape... seem manageable and even exciting;” and Ed Rogers ’87 who extended opportunities in finance.
In his email to the ‘Prince,’ Nakase added, “When I was overwhelmed with the weight of my studies and work, my fellow classmates were there to comfort me. Tigers really do help one another. It is this ethic of comradery that makes me proud to call myself a tiger too.”
Wang, a chemistry concentrator from Marietta, Ga., is pursuing a certificate in classics with a focus on Ancient Roman language and culture. Traditionally, the salutatory oration is delivered in Latin.
After graduating, Wang will attend the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and then plans to pursue a medical career.
Wang was awarded the Shapiro Prize and the Johnson & Johnson Pre-Professional Healthcare Scholarship, and she was a co-editor of the Princeton Undergraduate Research Journal. She also served as a peer academic adviser (PAA) in Mathey College and peer adviser for the Health Professions Advising Office.
When asked what advice she would share with first-years and sophomores, Wang told the ‘Prince’ what she tells her advisees as their PAA: “explore fearlessly.”
“I think it only takes that one class, one mentor, or one experience to pursue something that we might not even have thought of when we first came to Princeton,” she wrote in an email to the ‘Prince.’ “Take the leap, and go for it.”
Wang acknowledged all the work that went into making an in-person Commencement possible for graduating seniors.
“Although it is a joyous time to celebrate our achievements with our family, friends and faculty mentors, it is also important to remember that this Commencement is not just about us,” Wang told the University. “This Commencement is possible only because of the efforts of healthcare professionals, essential workers, vaccine research scientists, and all the other people who have worked tirelessly and oftentimes thanklessly to keep our community safe and healthy.”
In her email to the ‘Prince,’ Wang also thanked those who supported her both at and before Princeton.
“This distinction could not have been possible without the support of my parents, who’ve traversed oceans and continents to give me the upbringing I’ve been privileged to receive,” she wrote.
“Many thanks to my high school Latin teacher Mr. Alan Farnsworth, who inspired me to pursue Classics in college,” she continued. “And infinite thanks to the faculty mentors I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to meet at Princeton as well as to my friends who have been a constant source of support during my four years at the University.”
Nakase and Wang will speak at the in-person Commencement ceremony on May 16, held outdoors at Princeton Stadium. All seniors and degree recipients, regardless of whether they live on or near campus, are invited to attend and may bring up to two guests.
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include additional comments from Nakase.