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Mercy, Roecker named winners of 2023 Herfurth-Kubly Awards

May 9, 2023 By Doug Erickson
Twelve people are pictured looking at the camera, front row seated and back row standing.

Twelve graduating seniors competed this year for two Theodore Herfurth and Teddy Kubly Awards for Comprehensive Undergraduate Excellence. Pictured in the front row, left to right, Olivia Van Hammond, Hanna Noughani, Eliza Lindley, Meg Mercy (winner) and Alexis Kwak. Standing in the back row, left to right Max Langmack, Maxwell Unger, Clarence Harley, Cole Roecker (winner), Lazaro Vergara, Robert Hall and Abdullah Marei. Photo by Kristen Koenig/Media Solutions

University of Wisconsin–Madison graduating seniors Meg Mercy and Cole Roecker have been named 2023 winners of Theodore Herfurth and Teddy Kubly Awards for Comprehensive Undergraduate Excellence, among the oldest and most prestigious honors on campus.

The awards are given annually to two seniors who have made the most effective use of their time at UW–Madison. Each winner receives $4,000. Theodore Herfurth, a member of the class of 1894, established the first award in 1928. A second award was added in 1943.

A committee comprised of faculty and staff, a former award recipient and a representative of the donor’s family selects recipients based on high academic achievement, effective communication skills, leadership in extra-curricular activities and financial self-support (such as scholarships and employment).

Students must be nominated by a member of the faculty or academic staff and invited to apply. Of the 256 students nominated this year, 12 were selected as finalists and invited to a dinner with the selection committee. After dinner, each finalist gave two speeches, one prepared and one impromptu. At the end of the evening, the committee selected Mercy and Roecker as this year’s recipients.

A photo of Meg Mercy standing next to a metal sunburst chair outdoors at Union South.

Meg Mercy

Mercy, of Madison, graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in social work, 19 years after first beginning her studies at UW–Madison. Mercy spent the intervening years researching issues around interpersonal violence and advocating for changes in how local law enforcement agencies and the Dane County court system respond to violence.

She is an author, editor and filmmaker and the founder of the Holism for All program, which connects low-income individuals with reduced-cost doulas, bodywork and other trauma therapies. She also is the founder of Dane Resources, a website aimed at increasing the accessibility of Dane County resources and assistance programs for people in need.

Mercy will spend this summer beginning to study for her doctor of medicine degree at the Medical College of Wisconsin and enjoying the sun with her two teenaged daughters.

A portrait photo of Cole Roecker standing outdoors.

Cole Roecker

Roecker, of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in history, English and French, with a certificate in European studies and honors in history. While an undergraduate, he founded a student chapter of the Audubon Society and completed a senior honors thesis titled, “The Illusion of Ecological Restoration: A History of Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge and the Trouble with ‘Restoring’ Land,” for which he received the History Department’s Davis/Gerstein Undergraduate Research Award.

Roecker also contributed to a National Science Foundation project combatting catastrophic flooding throughout the Driftless region of Wisconsin, providing historical research and context to ongoing ecological restoration and communication engagement efforts. He served as a student representative on several university committees, including the University Academic Planning Council.

Following graduation, Roecker will teach English in France, working with underserved students at the high school level. He intends to pursue a doctorate in history or literature upon completion of his teaching post.

The following students were finalists: Robert Hall (genetics and history with honors); Clarence Harley (economics honors, mathematics and political science with honors in the liberal arts); Alexis Kwak (political science, international studies and Chinese); Max Langmack (neurobiology with comprehensive honors, with certificates in business, entrepreneurship and leadership); Eliza Lindley (environmental sciences and life sciences communication, with a certificate in sustainability); Abdullah Marei (psychology with honors); Hanna Noughani (oboe performance and neurobiology with honors); Maxwell Unger (chemistry with honors, with a certificate in physics); Olivia Van Hammond (global health, with certificates in health policy and gender and women’s studies); Lazaro Vergara (genetics and human development and family studies, with a certificate in Chican@/Latin@ studies).

A member of the Herfurth family has been involved with the awards since their establishment. Beth Kubly, granddaughter of Theodore Herfurth and daughter of Teddy Herfurth Kubly, currently serves on the selection committee.

“Although in 1928 when the awards were founded the University of Wisconsin was already known for its prize-winning research and innovations in many areas of education, I sometimes wonder if my grandfather wouldn’t be completely astounded at the myriad opportunities available to the undergraduate students of today and by how deeply the 21st-century award-winners engage in what the university offers them,” Beth Kubly says.