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Message of Best wishes at the start of the new year

September 11, 2018


Welcome to the start of the new academic year at Middlebury College. It was great to see so many of you at the Garden Party this past weekend. At that event, as well as at so many others in these first few weeks of September, I noticed a palpable sense of enthusiasm and anticipation. 

First, I want to express my appreciation for our staff, who did a remarkable job preparing campus for the start of this academic year. We had considerable activity at Middlebury all summer, including at Bread Loaf, at the Language Schools, and with about 130 undergraduates who were conducting on-campus research with faculty. I am especially grateful for the academic, buildings and grounds, and dining staff who kept services flourishing all summer and who turned things around so quickly to welcome our undergraduate students and faculty back this week.

It is my pleasure to extend a special welcome to our newest community members, including 47 new faculty members across 30 disciplines and 637 members of the Class of 2022. Our new students represent 46 states and 28 countries, and were chosen from the largest applicant pool in Middlebury College history.

There is much to look forward to on campus this fall, starting with the Clifford Symposium, September 20–22. This year, the symposium will focus on Toni Morrison’s book of essays, The Origin of Others, which incoming students have read in preparation for their orientation and the symposium. In workshops, lectures, performances, readings, and a student forum, we’ll explore such questions as “What is the nature of the stranger?”

We have several other anticipated highlights this autumn. The Museum of Art’s major fall exhibition, Wondrous Worlds: Art and Islam through Time and Place, opens on September 14 and runs through December 2. On October 3, Victor Phillip Muñoz, the University of Notre Dame’s Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion & Public Life, will present “Did the American Founders Intend to Separate Church from State?”  On October 25, a discussion titled “The Courts in the Age of Trump” will feature two of the nation’s leading legal scholars, Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and James Fleming, the Honorable Paul J. Liacos Professor of Law at Boston University School of Law.

A construction update: we broke ground over the summer on the 24,000-square-foot temporary building, located behind Johnson Memorial Building, that will be the new home for our Computer Science Department. It also will be the temporary home for a succession of academic departments in the coming years as we embark on a longer-term project to renovate, upgrade, and make accessible some of our most notable buildings across campus. The building, which we expect will serve Middlebury for the next 10 to 20 years, will provide much-needed classrooms, faculty offices, research labs, lounges, and study spaces. We expect to finish construction by next June.

Please note that we’ve made an important change to how students can be seen at the Parton Health Center. We have put an RN “triage line” in place so that students who are sick or injured can receive medical advice and schedule same-day appointments over the phone rather than having to be evaluated at the clinic. We hope that this change will allow our students to get the most appropriate level of care as quickly as possible.

Over the past three years, we have made great strides together in building an extraordinary student experience. The Envisioning Middlebury strategic planning process has created a new framework that is shaping our foundational work as well as our priorities and initiatives for the future. Interest in Middlebury continues to grow, as evidenced by the record number of applications we received last fall.

This work is all possible because of the determined, engaged optimism that is at the heart of Middlebury. In all the work you do, you embody the Middlebury values that I like to name: integrity, rigor, connectedness, curiosity, and openness.

In that spirit, I also want to note that we start our semester on the anniversary of September 11, a harrowing day in our country’s history. I hope you will pause during the day to remember those whom we lost. The vibrancy of our educational pursuits is a way of honoring their memory and legacy.

I look forward to enjoying a successful academic year together with you all. 


Laurie L. Patton


Office of the President

Old Chapel
9 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753