Andrew Topham, biochemistry senior, was named a Scholar of the College. (Samantha Gillis/Collegian photographer)

By Lenita Krejci
Staff reporter

They may have the same GPA, but Anna Stevens, music education senior, and Andrew Topham, biochemistry senior, are two very different people. While both of this year’s Scholars of the College strive to do well in their studies and achieve excellence, they live in two very different worlds.

The scholar of the college is the senior with the highest grade point average. The name is announced at the beginning of every school year at the matriculation convocation. The selection is made from full-time students who are enrolled in campus-based programs, have earned 85 or more hours (at least 30 of which are graded hours earned at Southwestern), have not earned a degree and have not previously been named to the honor.

In the event that several students rank equally, as was the case this year, all share the honor.

Andy Sheppard, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, said, “They generally tend to share similar qualities. It’s usually not a big surprise, they are usually very extraordinarily good students who are very driven.” Sheppard said, “To be the scholar of Southwestern College is really to embody a love of learning for its own sake and to prepare to serve the common good. It’s better than being smart. It’s the heir of knowledge and a continuator of it in service to others.”

This description seems to fit this year’s scholars as both expressed a love of learning. Stevens has a passion for music, while Topham loves to run. Is that a key to their success?

Anna Stevens, music education senior, is one of the two Scholars of the College. Stevens plans on getting her master's after graduation. (Lea Shores/Collegian photographer)

Stevens said, “I think that most of all, having to schedule and stick to practicing my music has taught me more discipline and diligence than anything.”

While Topham said, “I think runners tend to be good students, but there are definitely exceptions, which there always are. Good students might be attracted to running maybe, kind of a running culture ordeal.”

Free time is not a huge part of the lives of either of these students. Topham said that he did not have a lot of free time.

Stevens said that her planner is pretty full from the time she wakes up to the time she goes to bed.

So what is hardest class they have ever taken?

Topham said, “Organic chemistry. It is unlike any other subject I have studied, and I studied for organic unlike any other class.”

So is their intelligence something natural, or something that they had to work at?

Topham said, “I think I study a normal amount, but I guess that it’s not super hard either. I study best in the mornings and early evenings. I try to study in the library but it tends to put me to sleep. Deets Lobby is also a great place.”

Stevens said, “Probably the main word to describe me in that sense more than just naturally ‘smart’ would be that I am diligent. I schedule my time and no matter what, I have always set everything extra or unnecessary aside to do well with my studies.”

Perhaps their replies can be summed up in their ACT test scores. Topham scored a 33 on his ACT, while Stevens scored a 24. Stevens said, “This goes to show that diligence and effort can outweigh a test score.”

Stevens has to be attentive in what she does. She has had Chronic Lyme Disease since she was 12. “I have always tried to keep Lyme Disease a secret before, because I wanted to feel like I could keep up with everyone else. I thought that if no one noticed, I had done my job well,” said Stevens. “But lately, reality has set in and I have become more open about sharing this with others. Dealing with this, I believe, has taught me diligence and compassion more than I could have ever hoped to grasp. It is just a way of life and adaptation. As individuals, we should not allow hindrances to become an excuse.”

Stevens quoted Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

After graduation both intend to continue their love of learning. Stevens said, “I am going to look into getting my Master’s degree at SC. I am just beginning to gather info about the program. I want to get my Master’s and would love to get it here at Southwestern. My main interest is sacred/gospel music and using it for the Lord wherever He leads me. So right now I am just looking at my options and praying about it.”

Topham said, “Graduate school in chemistry is currently at the top of my list.”

Lenita Krejci is a senior majoring in speech and theatre education. You may e-mail her at lenita.krejci@sckans.edu.