Laurie L. Patton became the 17th president of Middlebury on July 1, 2015.
Patton is an authority on South Asian history, culture, and religion. She is the author or editor of nine books and more than 50 articles in the field and has translated the classical Sanskrit text, The Bhagavad Gita. In addition, she has published two books of poetry. Patton has lectured widely on interfaith issues and religion and public life, and she has consulted with White House offices on faith-based initiatives, as well as on civic engagement. She has held two Fulbright Fellowships (in Israel and India) and has held visiting appointments at the University of Tel Aviv, Hebrew University, and Deccan College (India).
Patton earned her BA from Harvard University in 1983 and her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1991. In May 2014, she was named the Alumna of the Year at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Patton joined Middlebury after serving for four years as dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and as the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion. At Duke, she oversaw 36 academic departments and programs in arts and sciences for the school, which has 5,200 undergraduate students and 640 faculty members. Trinity College awards 80 percent of Duke’s bachelor degrees. Patton supervised the work of divisional deans, the dean of academic affairs, and senior associate deans. Patton also oversaw Trinity’s $435 million commitment to the “Duke Forward” campaign.
With her arts and sciences leadership team, Patton developed Duke’s first university-wide course: an annual offering based on a common theme that is open to all students and taught by faculty from all the schools. She sponsored the creation of the first and only global advising program in the country and opened a college-wide forum in public scholarship. She also established a grant fund to encourage collaboration and course development by faculty, including online innovations; launched an initiative to further the work of women and minorities in the STEM fields; and co-convened a committee to think through liberal arts in China, particularly focused on programs at Duke Kunshan University.
From 1996 to 2011, Patton served on the faculty and administration at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and the inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the Office of the Provost. While at Emory, Patton served as chair of the religion department from 2000 to 2007, founded and co-convened the Religions and the Human Spirit Strategic Plan, and received the Emory Williams Award, Emory’s most prestigious honor for teaching, in 2005. From 2008–11, she served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion. Patton began her career at Bard College, where she was assistant professor of Asian religions from 1991 to 1996 and taught courses in ancient and contemporary India, comparative mythology, and theory of religions.
Patton is a native New Englander. She grew up in Danvers, Massachusetts, the daughter of a cardiovascular surgeon and a social worker and public relations specialist. The youngest of three children, she graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall in 1979. Patton credits her parents’ strong commitment to civic engagement for her lifelong interest in social issues.
Patton and her husband, Shalom Goldman, the Pardon Tillinghast Professor of History, Philosophy, and Religion in the Department of Religion at Middlebury College, reside in the President’s House at 3 South Street.