Carson High grad wins UNR’s highest honor |

Carson High grad wins UNR’s highest honor

Teri Vance

After graduating co-valedictorian of Carson High School’s class of 2006, Sophia Raphael Cardinal set a goal of maintaining her perfect “A” average in college.

“I already had that good track record,” she reasoned. “I wanted to keep it going.”

Although it was a difficult undertaking – she switched her major to accounting from biochemistry as a sophomore – she achieved her objective.

The 22-year-old graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno on Saturday with a 4.0 grade-point average.

In fact, she was the senior with the highest grade-point average, earning her the coveted Herz Medal, the university’s oldest and most prestigious award.

She didn’t know she was being honored until it was announced during the commencement ceremony.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I wasn’t going for the highest G.P.A., I was just going for a 4.0 for myself. I didn’t think I even had a shot at it.”

She had been recognized a week earlier by the university and its alumni association as a Senior Scholar, which honors the top graduating seniors from each college.

She chose professor Cynthia Birk as her mentor.

“Professor Birk started my passion for debits and credits and prompted me to major in accounting,” she said.

The daughter of Joe Raphael and Patty Shinault, both of Carson City, Cardinal plans to make her home in Reno with her husband, Andrew.

She accepted a full-time position in a Reno accounting firm and plans to take the Certified Public Accountant exam. She is optimistic about her chances of passing.

“I know how to study,” she said. “I know what my techniques are.”

Birk expects Cardinal will be successful with the exam and in her career.

“Sophia is a very talented student and she really involves herself in the subject matter,” Birk said. “She is also very focused. She sets goals and is able to attain them. She is not just finishing her bachelor’s degree, but she is finishing with 150 credits, so she will be able to sit for the CPA exam in Nevada. I am very confident that she will complete that goal soon.”

The Herz Gold Medal was established in 1910 by brothers Richard, Carl and Otto Herz when the University was only 36 years old.

Cardinal said she is honored to be among its recipients.

“There were a lot of times I felt overwhelmed with school and the pressures of making a 4.0,” she said. “Receiving this award made it all worth it. I’m very grateful. This is a big deal to me.”