Student and Faculty Accomplishments Winter 2020


Luke Triplett ’20

Luke Triplett ’20 tied for third place in the U.S. Open chess tournament in August. The field was extremely strong, including 17 Grandmasters and eight International Masters. As evidence of just how tremendous his performance was, Triplett was the only player in the top 19 without a “GM” or “IM” beside his name.

“By measure of who Luke played, this is by far the best result of any Durham Academy chess player ever — it’s not even close,” DA chess coach Craig Jones said. “… In Luke’s last five rounds, he was paired ‘way up,’ [meaning he played people with much higher rankings than himself] and scored four wins and a draw. This is just so difficult to pull off — a once-in-a-lifetime type of result. Luke’s result skyrockets him to North Carolina’s No. 2 ranking among all 12th-graders and to the second-highest rating ever achieved at Durham Academy!”

Photo by Karen Triplett



Bonnie Wang Named NC Foreign Language Teacher of the Year

If you've had the pleasure of encountering Upper School Chinese teacher Bonnie Wang, you won’t be surprised to learn that she has been selected as the Foreign Language Association of North Carolina (FLANC) K–12 Teacher of the Year. Bonnie was honored at FLANC’s conference in October. Wang has been at Durham Academy since 2015, and has taught Chinese 1, 2, 3, 4 and AP Chinese. She also has worked to introduce Chinese culture to the Upper School.

Photo by Constanza de Radcliffe 



Saia Rampersaud ’25

Saia Rampersaud ’25 is among just 10 golfers from around the country in her division to punch her ticket to play in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National on April 5. The tournament will be televised on the Golf Channel the weekend prior to the Masters Tournament.

Rampersaud competed in the Drive, Chip and Putt competition — a free youth golf development initiative that aims to help younger generations begin their lifelong connection with golf — throughout the summer. The field started with thousands of golfers playing in local qualifiers, with a fraction advancing through sub-regional and regional competitions to make it to the finals.

Photo by Avni Chhabra Rampersaud 



Dennis Cullen Inducted Into NCISAA Hall of Fame

The legendary Dennis Cullen was inducted into the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame on July 22. Cullen — who retired in June after 42 years teaching Upper School math — served as head coach of DA’s cross-country and track teams from 1976–2015. He is among the most respected and successful high school track and cross-country coaches in North Carolina history. He won 39 state championships in boys and girls track and cross-country, and he continues to be involved in the programs.

Many thanks to Cullen’s family, friends and the DA alumni who shared their memories about him in a tribute video screened at the induction ceremony.

Watch the video

Photo by Michael Branscom 



Logan Beard ’21

Logan Beard ’21 has seen his graphic designs come alive. Beard merged his love of art and athletics — he plays lacrosse for DA — in a summer internship with N.C. State University athletics’ communications and brand management team. His biggest project was creating digital graphics for the N.C. State women’s volleyball team, including pre-game graphics and in-game score updates. He also has designed digital graphics for the University of Georgia men’s club lacrosse team and the University of Oregon men’s club lacrosse team. Beard’s interest in graphic design goes back to the summer after sixth grade, when he began to experiment with graphics and design using his iPhone, and it quickly became a hobby.

Artwork by Logan Beard ’21 


13 Seniors are National Merit Semifinalists

Thirteen seniors have been named semifinalists in the 64th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. They are Vikram Agrawal, Adam Astrachan, Annie Brooks, Christopher Chaves, Tate Eppinger, Damilola Gbadamosi, Mac Hays, Adriana Kim, Aram Lindroth, Carl May, Will Norry, Julia Villani and Shan Wang.

Semifinalists were chosen by virtue of their performance on the 2018 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Of the 1.5 million juniors in more than 21,000 high schools who took the qualifying test, approximately 16,000 students were recognized as semifinalists, representing less than 1% of all U.S. high school seniors, and including the highest-scoring entrants in each state. About 90% of students from the semifinalist pool are expected to advance to the finalist level and will be notified of that designation in February.


Advocating for Juvenile Diabetes Research

Ella Virkler ’20 knows what it’s like to walk the halls of Congress. She was among 160 students from across the nation who were selected by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to advocate for Type 1 diabetes research in Washington, D.C., last summer. Virkler and her fellow delegates (who were selected after submitting essays to JDRF) sought support for the Special Diabetes Program as well as the lowering of insulin costs for consumers.

All of the advocates went through two days of training before sitting in on a hearing at which these issues were discussed, and afterward Virkler met with representatives of Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield’s (D-NC) offices.

Photo by Laura Horton Virkler ’91 



Catie Powers ’24, Riley Kim '24 and Claire Hong ’24 Win Girls Make Games Grand Prize

Congratulations to DA’s members of Team Atlantis — Catie Powers ’24, Riley Kim '24 and Claire Hong ’24 [not pictured] — who took home the grand prize in Girls Make Games’ Demo Day in August. Girls Make Games (GMG) holds summer camps for girl gamers all over the country, including one at Research Triangle High School. The top five teams from all GMG camps are invited to pitch their games to a panel of video game industry leaders at Sony Playstation’s headquarters in San Mateo, California. Team Atlantis will launch a Kickstarter to get their winning entry, “What They Don’t Sea,” published. In the game, you play a marine researcher with the Rachel Carson Research Organization who has been sent to collect samples of a special kelp for an alternative energy project.

Watch a demo of “What They Don’t Sea”

Photo courtesy of Girls Make Games