2017 co-valedictorians
May 16, 2017


The following is a release amending the May 4, 2017 media release sent by Saint Martin’s University about the University’s valedictorians and salutatorian. It contains information about the University’s third co-valedictorian, Tessa Blackstad, a student who has earned a 4.0 grade point average at Saint Martin’s University. She just learned she qualifies for graduation, and thus, has become the Class of 2017’s third co-valedictorian. We are sending an amended release to reflect Tessa’s honors. We apologize for the confusion an amended release causes our media colleagues.

LACEY, Wash. – Saint Martin’s University is pleased to announce its co-valedictorians and salutatorian for the Class of 2017.

Co-valedictorians are Tessa Blackwell of Shelton, Hope Chamberlain of Port Angeles, and Taylor Gersch of Sherwood, Ore., all of whom have a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Salutatorian Hannah Wesselman, of Spokane, will graduate with a 3.99 grade point average.

Co-valedictorian Tessa Blackstad
Co-valedictorian Tessa Blackstad is graduating summa cum laude (with highest honors) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. She also has earned an English Language Learners endorsement and a minor in Japanese. She will study at the Canadian Institute of Linguistics this summer, and after completing her studies, plans to return to Japan as a teacher. In 2015, she completed a three-month teaching assistant internship at an English immersion school in Sendai, Japan. She is exploring a future in Bible translation. At Saint Martin’s, Blackstad worked as a technical services assistant at O’Grady Library prior to accepting a third-grade teaching position at Mason County Christian School during her final year at the University.

While a student, she was chosen for membership in the Society of Fellows, Saint Martin’s honor society, and was a presenter at 2016’s Scholars’ Day, an event showcasing the best student projects and research done each year. Blackstad was a member of the University’s Future Educators Club and was active in the Conversation Partners Program operated by the Office of International Programs and Development. She and her family have served as a host family to several of the University’s international students. She also teaches financial literacy to grade school students though a program with Junior Achievement.

Co-valedictorian Hope Chamberlain
Co-valedictorian Hope Chamberlain is graduating summa cum laude (with highest honor) with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and theatre arts. She also has a minor in music. She will pursue a Master of Arts Degree in teaching at the University of Portland through the Portland Alliance for Catholic Education Program and will be student teaching in Salt Lake City, Utah.

At Saint Martin’s, Chamberlain is a member of the second cohort of Benedictine Scholars, a leadership/scholarship program in which those selected serve as ambassadors of the University’s Benedictine values. As a Benedictine Scholar, she has participated in many projects, most recently in restoration of Saint Martin’s outdoor Stations of the Cross and the Year of Faith survey project. Chamberlain performed in several plays and twice directed plays with both the music and theatre arts departments. She served as a student ambassador with the Office of Admissions for three years and as a resident assistant with the Office of Housing and Residence Life for two. She also has participated in several campus organizations and activities, including Society of Fellows; Sigma Tau Delta English honorary; Polyphony, an a Capella club; Saints for Life; Sisters of Scholastica Catholic women’s group; Saint Martin’s Chorale; and the Campus Ministry Student Liturgy Coir, where she served as cantor.

Co-valedictorian Taylor Gersch
Co-valedictorian Taylor Gersch is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing. She is working on her Master of Business Administration Degree at Saint Martin’s and intends to complete it this fall, after which she plans to teach English in Italy. In fall 2018, she plans to enter law school. As an undergraduate, she completed internships at Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Medical Informatics in Portland and at the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in Olympia.

As a Saint Martin’s student, Gersch has participated in the Society of Fellows and as a member and former undergraduate president of Delta Mu Delta business honor society. She was district and regional scholarship winner of the Jane M. Klausman Award through the Zonta Club of Olympia. As a member of the Saint Martin’s women’s soccer team, Gersch was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District Team and the NSCAA America All-Conference Team. She also earned the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Faculty Athletic Representative Scholar-Athlete Award and the CoSIDA Academic All-American Award. She was a staff writer for The Belltower, the University’s student newspaper, and has worked as a graduate assistant for Associate Prof. of Business Don Conant, Ph.D.

Salutatorian Hannah Wesselman
Salutatorian Hannah Wesselman will graduate summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science Degree in biology. After graduation, she will study abroad in Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland. While she has been accepted to two Ph.D. programs and a master’s program in molecular biosciences, she will be deferring graduate school for a year to serve as a fellow with the nonprofit Pittsburgh Urban Leadership and Service Experience (PULSE). The program enables select university graduates to live and work in community while giving volunteer service at their choice of the Pennsylvania city’s non-profits.

While at Saint Martin’s, Hannah has been a mentor and a community coordinator in the University’s Norcia Leadership Community and has participated in numerous service immersion projects. She also worked for the Center for Student Learning, Writing and Advising, Disability Support Services and the offices of Campus Life, Campus Ministry and Diversity and Service Initiatives. She is a member of Beta Beta Beta biology honorary; the Saint Martin’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi national honor society; the Society of Fellows; and the University’s Biology Club and Chemistry Club. 

The Saint Martin’s University 2017 Commencement ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 20, at Marcus Pavilion on the University’s Lacey campus, 5300 Pacific Ave SE. Tickets are required for attendance; doors will open at 9 a.m. For more information on 2017 Commencement, please go to www.stmartin.edu/commencement.

Saint Martin’s University is an independent, four-year, coeducational university located on a wooded campus of more than 300 acres in Lacey, Washing­ton. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of Saint Benedict, the University is one of 14 Benedic­tine colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University prepares students for successful lives through its 25 majors and seven graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business, education, nursing and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes more than 1,243 undergraduate students and 277 graduate students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its Lacey campus, and 350 more students to its extended campus at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

For additional information:

Cindy Tayag
360-438-4356; ctayag@stmartin.edu

Genevieve Chan
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
360-438-4332; gchan@stmartin.edu