Of the nearly 3.3 million graduating high school seniors this year, Ryan Thornton has been named one of 141 Presidential Scholars nationwide.
The Presidential Scholars program was established in 1964 by executive order of the president to recognize some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating seniors. The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by President Barack Obama, selected Ryan based on his academic success, recommendations and essays, as well as evidence of community service, leadership and commitment to high ideals. The program honors one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and from U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large and 20 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Ryan is a worthy recipient, according to his principal Chris Front. "He is an engaged, enthusiastic and curious young man with a wide range of academic interests," says Front. "Ryan feels as at home in the chemistry lab as in a classroom discussion about literature."
In addition to being an outstanding student, Ryan is a state-level competitor in both tennis and bassoon. He was a key member of the Burroughs tennis team, which last year took third place in the Class 1 state team tournament, and he and his doubles partner, Zale Shah, took fourth in the state individual tournament. Ryan plays bassoon in the Senior Orchestra, and recently participated in the State Solo and Ensemble Festival, where he performed with an ensemble that earned the highest rating of 1 (exemplary).
Ryan has also been involved in the robotics program and the model United Nations at Burroughs. Last year, he was part of the robotics team that took third place in the World competition, and this year, he and another senior, Charles Sansone, organized a second robotics team, which in its inaugural year was one of only a handful of first-year participants to advance to the super-regional level of competition. In January 2014 and 2015, he participated in The Hague International Model United Nations program. This January, he traveled with the group to Qatar, where he served on the International Court of Justice and as one of seven judges to hand down a decision about the legality of Japan's whaling practices in the South Pacific.
As part of the Presidential Scholars program, Ryan was asked to identify the teacher who most influenced his path. He chose his chemistry teacher and former advisor Sandra Mueller. For Mueller, who will retire at the end of the school year, being singled out as a distinguished teacher was a nice culmination to a long teaching career, 26 of them at Burroughs. She says she has gotten to know Ryan well in the past few years and that he epitomizes the qualities that the Presidential Scholars program seeks to recognize. "Ryan is a remarkable individual,” she says. “I love to watch his mind work. He has an analytical mind, but he loves literature. He is respectful, not a self promoter, and he watches out for his peers. Ryan is a gentleman."
Ryan is Burroughs' tenth Presidential Scholar. Others are Gretchen Barrow North ’69, Bob Esther ’87, James Grove ’88, Alp Aker ’91, Sarah Jost Fouke ’92, Jan Moolsintong ’95, Julie Goran ’96, Katherine Wiltenburg Todrys ’99 and Veronica Sudekum ’02.
The Presidential Scholar Award and the Presidential Scholars Program Teacher Recognition Award will be presented to Ryan and Mueller at ceremonies in Washington, D.C., in June.