May 4, 2021

Purdue’s top students to be recognized during 2021 commencement

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University on Tuesday (May 5) announced the recipients of some of its highest awards for the academic year.

The university’s top female student is Alexandra “Sasha” Kipnis from the College of Science, and the top male student is Zachary A. Marshall from the College of Engineering, Polytechnic Institute and the Honors College.

kipnis-s Alexandra “Sasha” Kipnis, Purdue University’s 2021 Flora Roberts Award recipient. (Photo provided)
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Kipnis, of Santa Clara, California, who majored in computer science, has received the 2021 Flora Roberts Award. She is in the machine intelligence track and has a minor in statistics with certificates in entrepreneurship and Learning Beyond the Classroom. Throughout her time at Purdue, Kipnis has sought to address fairness and accessibility issues for women in the technology industry. She served as president of the Computer Science Women’s Network and was a member of Mentors for Aspiring Girls in Computing.

The Flora Roberts Award is presented annually to an outstanding senior woman for her scholarship, leadership, character and service to the university community. The award is made possible through a bequest from Flora Roberts, a member of the Purdue class of 1887. The recipient receives a $2,000 award, medallion and inscription of her name on the award marker on Purdue Mall.


marshall-z Zachary A. Marshall, Purdue University’s 2021 G.A. Ross Award recipient. (Photo provided)
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Marshall, of Orland Park, Illinois, majored in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and aerospace financial analysis. He is the 2021 recipient of the G.A. Ross Award. He says jokingly that he has to be careful on campus not to walk into a pole because he spends so much time looking up at aircraft. Marshall has completed research in Purdue’s Advanced Aviation Institute for Research – Center of Research Excellence and served as president of Purdue’s chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He says that his time at Purdue helped him “learn how to learn” as he prepares to jump into the industry.

The G.A. Ross Award is presented annually to an outstanding senior man who has demonstrated high standards of academic achievement, outstanding leadership and strength of character, and has made a contribution to Purdue. The award is made possible through a gift from G.A. Ross, a 1916 Purdue graduate. The recipient receives a $2,000 award, medallion and inscription of his name on the award marker on Purdue Mall.

Kipnis and Marshall, along with the following student award recipients, will be recognized during the May 2021 commencement ceremonies.

The France A. Córdova Award for Leadership in Action was presented to Johnnie C. Cheng, of Taipei, Taiwan, who majored in animal sciences with a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine in the College of Agriculture; and Assata M. Gilmore of Chicago, Illinois, who majored in finance in the School of Management. This award honors graduating students who have demonstrated exceptional leadership during their time at Purdue. The students must have held successful leadership roles, working in partnership with staff and faculty to move the university forward, while maintaining a minimum 3.0 grade-point average. The award winners receive a certificate, a cash award and inscription of their name on a plaque.

The Martin C. Jischke Outstanding International Student of the Year Award was presented to Kaustub Parvir Anand of Mumbai, India, who majored in physics in the College of Science and the Honors College. Established by Martin C. Jischke, President emeritus, the award honors an international Purdue student who has attained a minimum 3.0 grade-point average, demonstrated leadership qualities, achieved academic accomplishments through further research, publications or presentations and participated in service projects. The recipient receives a cash award along with inscription of their name on a plaque in Schleman Hall.

The Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts was given to Kasia Crain of Plainfield, Indiana, who majored in law and society and political science in the College of Liberal Arts; Alexandra E. Davis of Carmel, Indiana, who majored in visual communication design in the College of Liberal Arts; Isabella Matthews of Indianapolis, who majored in political science and global studies in the College of Liberal Arts and the Honors College; and Caroline Pomeroy of Purcellville, Virginia, who majored in aviation management in Purdue Polytechnic Institute. The prize is given to outstanding seniors who have demonstrated excellence and the highest standards of proficiency in the visual or performing arts. This award was endowed by the late Louis Sudler, a Chicago businessman and supporter of the arts. The recipients receive $1,000 and a certificate.

The six students who received the Charles O. McGaughey Leadership Awards are:

  • Anna M. Adamsson of South Bend, Indiana, who majored in global studies in the College of Liberal Arts and the Honors College.
  • Christine I. Bent of San Diego, who is majoring in neurobiology and physiology in the College of Science and the Honors College.
  • Ogechukwu Blessing Ezenwa of West Lafayette, Indiana, who is majoring in biochemistry in the College of Agriculture.
  • Logan S. Faircloth of Fishers, Indiana, who is majoring in political science and law and society in the College of Liberal Arts.
  • Jayla G. Langford of Louisville, who majored in mathematics in the College of Science.
  • Danielle M. Rothchild of Carmel, Indiana, who majored in public relations and strategic communication in the College of Liberal Arts.

McGaughey, a 1939 Purdue graduate, established the awards to honor students for leadership potential. To be eligible for these awards, students must have completed a minimum of two years of full-time study at Purdue and achieved at least a 3.0 graduation index. Recipients are selected on the basis of their contributions to Purdue and the community. Each honoree receives $3,345 as an acknowledgement of their superior leadership abilities, scholarship and appreciation of basic American values.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at

Writer: Kelsey Lefever 

Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496,, @mo_oates

Source: Chris Pass,  

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Note to journalists: Images of the Flora Roberts and G.A. Ross award winners are available on Google Drive. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines. Journalists interested in attending Purdue’s in-person commencements on May15-16 can contact Matthew Oates at to arrange for credentials.

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