Honoring undergraduate excellence

Dean Butler and Zachary Humphreys holding gonfalon at commencement 2023.

The College of Arts and Sciences honored Zachary Humphreys, an aspiring lawyer and public official, as bearer of its gonfalon in the fall 2022 commencement ceremony at WSU Pullman.

Humphreys, who majored in political science on the pre-law track, carried the college’s shield-shaped banner in the event celebrating December graduates.

Selection as a college gonfalon bearer is a prestigious recognition awarded to a graduating senior with a record of outstanding achievement.

From Monroe, Washington, Humphreys, 21, graduated summa cum laude, with a grade-point average of 3.9 and was named to the WSU President’s Honor Roll for four consecutive semesters.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in only two and a half years by earning college credits while still in high school, gaining advanced placement, and taking 18 hours of coursework each of his five semesters at WSU. Based on his academic success in high school, he was named a WSU Distinguished Regents Scholar and received a scholarship for the full cost of his tuition and fees.

But while Humphreys’s collegiate journey was relatively brief, it was neither typical nor easy.

For his first semester, in fall 2020, all of his classes were hosted remotely because of pandemic restrictions. Then, early into his second semester, his mother was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer.

Wanting to spend as much time as possible with his family, he switched to all-online coursework.

“There was a lot of pressure and a lot of stress,” Humphreys said, “but the time I got to spend with my mom was absolutely invaluable.”

In the months before and after his mother’s death in November 2021, he felt “pushed spiritually and academically,” he said. “I had to really, really stay focused and master my work, not get distracted, and balance social life and emotional life and school. Miraculously, I still managed to graduate summa cum laude—I worked my butt off.”

Prioritizing his studies, Humphreys developed knowledge and interest in U.S. government and the Constitution, other national governments, electoral processes, policy development, and criminal justice systems. He credits WSU Global Campus with being well organized and providing a positive college experience with “wonderful professors and great communication.”

“Even though it was virtual, it was very personal, and having a nice, organized workspace took a lot of stress away,” he said.

One of his political science instructors, Fidaa Jabbouri, commended Humphreys for consistently coming to class prepared to discuss lessons and sharing thought-provoking perspectives. A paper he wrote for the course was so outstanding—”and reflected his conscientious character”—that Jabbouri used it as an example for future students.

“In short, Zach is a great role model for his peers,” his teacher said.

Humphreys has worked as a volunteer at the City of Monroe Municipal Court, helping staff and judges locate and organize case files. He serves as an inspirational speaker for young adults at Cascade Community Church where he also teaches a children’s Sunday school class.

Asked for advice to give fellow Cougs, Humphreys said: “You can go through incredibly unique, horrible, and amazing experiences…and if you want to accomplish your wildest dreams, you’re capable of it, but you have to put in the work, the time and effort, and you can do it!”

Photo: Zach Humphreys, right, stands with Todd Bulter, CAS dean, next to the college’s gonfalon at WSU’s fall 2022 Commencement in Pullman.

By J. Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences