Highlights of the Summer: A Centennial Year

Students, faculty, and staff members gather for a centennial portrait on the steps of Mead Chapel this summer. Centennial celebrations were held in Madrid, New York, and Vermont.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The Middlebury School of Spanish celebrated its 100th anniversary last July with a week of music, discussions, and art exhibits. The event-filled celebration attracted a number of former students and faculty members, as well as several special guests.

Even King Felipe VI of Spain recognized the significance of the anniversary by issuing a proclamation congratulating the School of Spanish on its centennial and recognizing the close ties between the Middlebury School of Spanish and many great figures of Spanish thought and letters.

Guarnaccia Lecture Features Mexican Journalist

Highlights of the week included the annual Guarnaccia Lecture [password: guarnaccia2017] by Mexican journalist and author Elena Poniatowska. The lecture was delivered in Spanish to an audience of more than 300, including Mexico’s consul general, Emilio Rabasa Gamboa. Poniatowska talked about the terrible consequences visited upon her country by the war on drugs, due in part to the corruption and complicity of the Mexican government. Later in the summer, Poniatowska returned to Middlebury to speak at the Language Schools’ commencement exercises, during which she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.

With its powerful blend of rigorous academic study and varied cocurricular activities, the School of Spanish continues to offer one of the world’s premier language-immersion programs.

A roundtable discussion featured a group of distinguished guests whose connections with the school span many decades. The participants were Laura Garcia-Lorca, daughter of Francisco García-Lorca, who directed the school from 1954 to 1963; Samuel Guarnaccia ’67, whose father, Samuel ’30, was dean of the school from 1947 to 1969; Tana Centeno Thompson, daughter of Juan Centeno, director from 1931 to 1949; Soledad Fox Maura, head of the Department of Romance Languages and the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Williams College; and Roberto Véguez, professor emeritus of Spanish at Middlebury, associate director of the School of Spanish, and author of a recently published history of the school: En las montañas de Vermont: Los exiliados en la Escuela Española de Middlebury College. (An English version of Véguez’s book has been posted online.)

Other notable events during the celebration included a performance by the Juanito Pascual Flamenco Trio; a concert with pianist Paco Alvarez and soprano Leticia Hernández; an exhibit of posters created for the School of Spanish by painter Alfredo Ramón, who was an instructor at the school for many years; a poetry festival; and an exhibit of photographs reflecting the history of the school.

A Haven for Scholars, Artists, Writers—and Exiles

The School of Spanish was founded in the summer of 1917 with 63 students and with Julián Moreno-Lacalle, an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, as its first director. It was the third of Middlebury’s 11 Language Schools to be established, following the German School and the French School. It has flourished since its opening, and had 306 students last summer.

From 1937 until the mid-1960s, prominent exiles from the Spanish Civil War and dictatorships in Spanish America came to teach at the School of Spanish, including Nobel Prize winners Gabriela Mistral (1931) and Octavio Paz (1945). Middlebury became known as a haven for many of the foremost Spanish intellectuals and literary figures of the day.

As Spanish has become an increasingly important language in the United States and the world, the School of Spanish has steadily expanded its offerings and enrollment. It is still a summer home for some of the foremost teachers, scholars, and artists in the Spanish-speaking world, and with its powerful blend of rigorous academic study and varied cocurricular activities, it continues to offer one of the world’s premier language-immersion programs.

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