Sophia Freund Prize Recognizes Those Better Than the Best

Economist Speaks Japanese; Computer Scientist Plays Violin; Gell, Brown Tie for Highest Grade Point Average in Class of '97

Harvard students are often told they're the best. Two members of the class of 1997 were recently told they're better than that.

Aaron B. Brown '97 of Winthrop House and Farmington Hills, Mich, received letters last week officially naming htem co-winners of the Sophia Freund Prize.

The prize is awarded to the student graduating summa cum laude with the highest GPA, according to Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68.

This is the first tie since 1984.

The day before Commencement, Gell was on his way to get a haircut when his Winthrop House senior tutor gave him unofficial notice that he was a winner of the Freund Prize.

"The barber got a really big tip that day," Gell said.

Gell, who is also a former Crimson executive, said he was "really surprised" by the news.

"I kept thinking that it couldn't be me--there are too many smarter people all around me," he said. "I was completely stunned. I'm kind of like Mr. Magoo. A lot of things sorta happen to me, and I'm oblivious."

Gell said he always tries to ensure himself time for study and for relaxation. "A little bit of planning goes a really long way." he noted.

Although he is a self-proclaimed "planaholic," Gell said he "never really focused on becoming valedictorian."

Gell said earning the Freund Prize is not completely based on merit.

"It's partially pure luck," he said. "It may be the difference between having a T.F. at 10 a.m. rather than at 9."Humility--according to those who have worked with him--is a Jeffrey Gell trademark.

Gell's instructors and colleagues were not as quick to dimiss his many achievements.

"He is the best undergraduate I've seen in years," said Kestenbaum Professor of Labor and Industry James L. Medoff, who noted that Gell was "at the very top" of his two large lecture classes.

"I would have enjoyed working with Jeff on a book," Medoff said. "I could have learned a lot."