Courtesy Huntington North valedictorian Audrey Marjamaa, right, poses with her mom, Sara, valedictorian at Columbia City Joint High School in 1985, and her grandmother Thelma Geist, valedictorian at Washington Center School in 1944.
Sunday, June 10, 2018 1:00 am
3 generations of valedictorians
Huntington grad follows mother, grandma to top
ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette
Audrey Marjamaa is first in her class at Huntington North High School, but she's third in her family.
Her mother and maternal grandmother preceded with valedictorian honors.
Sara Marjamaa, 51, was Columbia City Joint High School's valedictorian in 1985. Her mother, Thelma Geist, was the top student in 1944 at Washington Center School in Whitley County.
“It's pretty cool how we can connect to each other through the generations,” said the teen, who graduated as co-valedictorian June 3.
She shared the distinction with Rileigh Johnson.
The family has talked about the unique academic accomplishment, said Sara Marjamaa, her mother.
“I'm sure it has happened,” the older Marjamaa said, “but it's probably pretty unusual.”
Geist's class rank became a joke in the family, Sara Marjamaa said.
“My dad used to always say, 'My wife was the smartest one in the class, and I was the dumbest,'” Sara Marjamaa said, noting her mother's graduating class was very small.
Geist, 91, worked at General Electric during World War II before helping her husband run some well-known businesses in Columbia City, including Sportsman's Point, Geist Oil Co. and Service Station and Geist Outdoor Equipment. She now lives at Peabody Retirement Community in North Manchester.
Sara Marjamaa, a physical therapist and director of rehabilitation at Lutheran Hospital, said her path to the top “wasn't nearly as strategic as it is now” with weighted classes. Such courses let students earn extra points toward their GPAs for advanced classes. It was more straightforward when she was a student, she said, recalling she and a few others were in the running for No. 1.
“I was lucky enough to end up at the top,” she said.
Audrey Marjamaa, 18, began working toward becoming valedictorian about her sophomore year, she said. The weighted classes interested her.
“I figured I might as well take a shot at it,” she said.
Rankings became more defined her junior year, making each class matter, she said. She occasionally entertained doubts about securing the No. 1 spot but accepted “it was what it was.”
The teen – whose older sister ranked among the top 10 in her class – didn't take the valedictorian goal lightly, said her father, Kevin Marjamaa. He remembers her making plans and calculations to determine what she needed to do.
“She definitely wanted to be at the top,” he said. “She liked the idea of it.”
Audrey Marjamaa, a karate brown belt, was involved with multiple activities, including marching band and Academic Super Bowl. She will continue her education at Butler University, studying either biochemistry or biomedical engineering, before attending medical school. She plans to become a surgeon.