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Stonyfield CEO Gary Hirshberg

Commencement 2009: Seven to receive honorary degrees on May 24

May 19, 2009

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Gary Hirshberg, president and CE-Yo, as he likes to be called, of Stonyfield Farm, will deliver the commencement address at the Middlebury College graduation ceremony on May 24. Hirshberg will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Betty and David Jones, John and Bonnie McCardell, Frank Sesno and Clara Yu will also receive honorary degrees.

  • Where and when is commencement? What should I wear? What other events are on the weekend schedule?

    Get answers to these questions and more at the Commencement 2009 Web site.
"Hirshberg is an inspiring example of someone who has been a creative and innovative force in today's socially conscious business world," said Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz. "He is a successful risk-taker and living proof that one can not only survive but succeed in our capitalist system while also behaving honorably, ethically and with due concern for the larger society and the need to give back. It is important that our graduating students, and indeed all of us, have the opportunity to learn from examples such as his that it is possible to be successful in the for-profit sector without compromising one's core values."

For more than 26 years, Hirshberg has overseen the phenomenal success of Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm, from its infancy as a seven-cow organic farming school in 1983 to its current $340 million in annual sales. With a compounded annual growth rate of more than 24 percent for the last 18 years, Stonyfield has consistently produced high quality products using innovative marketing techniques that blend the company's social, environmental, and financial missions.

Hirshberg joined Stonyfield Farm just a few months after its start in 1983. Initially, he directed the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was launched. Previously, in addition to serving as a trustee of the farming school, Hirshberg had served as executive director of The New Alchemy Institute - a research and education center dedicated to organic farming, aquaculture and renewable energy.

A New Hampshire native, Hirshberg was one of the first graduates of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. He has won numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership, including Global Green USA's 1999 "Green Cross Millennium Award for Corporate Environmental Leadership." In 1998, he was named "Business Leader of the Year" by Business NH Magazine and "New Hampshire's 1998 Small Business Person of the Year" by the United States Small Business Administration. In 2001, Stonyfield Farm entered into a partnership with Groupe Danone, and in 2005, Hirshberg was named managing director of Stonyfield Europe, a joint venture between the two firms with brands in Canada, Ireland and France.

Hirshberg serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards including Applegate Farms, the Dannon Company, Honest Tea, Peak Organic Brewing Company, Sambazon, Climate Counts and the Danone Communities Fund, and has received six honorary doctorates. He is the chairman and co-founder of O'Naturals, a natural fast food restaurant company, and the author of "Stirring It Up: How to Make Money and Save the World" (2008). He also served on the advisory panel for Newsweek magazine's Global Environmental Leadership Conference.

The college will award six other individuals with honorary degrees as well.

Betty Ashbury Jones will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. She is a current trustee and former vice chair of the Middlebury College board, and has been an active participant in the growth and vision of the college during her years of service. Her term expires this year. She is an alumna of the Middlebury Language Schools, where she earned a master's in French in 1986 and received her cane as a graduate of the French School at the 2005 Language Schools Commencement. In 1999, she established the Betty A. Jones M.A. '86 Language Schools Financial Aid Fund as part of the Bicentennial Campaign. Income from the fund provides financial aid to graduate students attending the Language Schools. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, she attended the University of Louisville and later taught French there for many years. Jones and her husband David have five children and 11 grandchildren.

David Allen Jones will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Jones, a current trustee of the Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS), was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Louisville, where he studied accounting on a Naval ROTC scholarship. He earned a law degree at Yale University and worked in a law firm in Louisville for a short time. In 1961, he founded Humana, Inc., which today is one of the nation's largest publicly traded health care companies. He served as chief executive officer of Humana for 37 years and board chair for 44 years before retiring in 2005. He is a director of Glenview Trust Co., and a retired director of Abbott Laboratories and several other companies. As a trustee at Monterey, he has been a strong advocate for the academic excellence initiative and, with his wife Betty, established a $3 million challenge grant to support those efforts. He holds honorary doctorates from the Chicago Medical School, the University of Louisville, Transylvania University and the Claremont Graduate School.

John Malcolm McCardell Jr. will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. McCardell was the 15th president of Middlebury College, from 1992 to 2004. As president, he led a successful capital campaign that exceeded its $200 million goal, and oversaw the addition of several significant facilities to the Middlebury campus, including the 220,000-square-foot science center, which the board of trustees later named The John M. McCardell Jr. Bicentennial Hall. An endowed professorship also bears his name, and the John and Bonnie McCardell Scholarship annually supports students from the South who attend the college. In June 2004 he returned to the classroom as college professor. A 1971 graduate of Washington and Lee University, he did graduate work at Johns Hopkins and Harvard before joining the history department at Middlebury in 1976. In addition to teaching, he has been dean for academic development and planning, dean of the faculty, provost and vice president for academic affairs and acting president. In 2001, he was named "Vermonter of the Year" by the Burlington Free Press. He served as chairman of the Division III Presidents' Council of the NCAA in 2003 and led a successful and comprehensive division-wide reform effort. In 2006, he founded Choose Responsibility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage the public in informed and dispassionate debate over the effects of the 21-year-old drinking age. McCardell and his wife Bonnie live in Cornwall and have two sons.

Bonnie Greenwald McCardell will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. McCardell has always played an active in the Middlebury community - from her early work in special education to past leadership in helping to found the Child Care Fund of Vermont. In 1984, she became the co-director of the Mary Johnson Children's Center, which continues to serve a diverse group of children. One of many passions is her strong commitment to highlighting the nationwide need for quality childcare and education. Her work on Middlebury College's "Page 1" literacy campaign during the 2000 Bicentennial Celebration resulted in the donation of more than 22,000 books to various literacy programs and organizations across the country. During her husband's tenure as president, she helped establish the annual Middlebury College Public Service Leadership Awards. In 2004, the college established the Bonnie McCardell Public Service Award, which is given to a student who best exemplifies outreach in support of youth during the middle and high school years. She is an avid and spirited fan at local sports events, and a dedicated volunteer for organizations such as the United Way of Addison County, which she co-chaired with her husband in 2005. In 2004, she and her husband received an Honorary Alumni Plaque Award from the college to highlight their many years and multiple dimensions of kind and generous service.

Frank Wright Sesno will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. A graduate of the class of 1977, Sesno was a term trustee of Middlebury from 1994-2004. He began his journalistic career at Middlebury's own WRMC radio. After graduating, he worked as news director for a radio station in Springfield before joining the staff of the Associated Press Radio Network, where he advanced rapidly to serve as national, White House and then overseas correspondent. In 1984, he joined Cable News Network (CNN) and over the next 17 years served as White House correspondent during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He later hosted CNN's Sunday interview show, "Late Edition with Frank Sesno" and then became senior vice president and Washington bureau chief. He coordinated coverage of the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the 2000 presidential election, and the government's response to the September 11 attacks. He has consistently helped Middlebury students obtain internships at CNN and other organizations in Washington. As a member of the board, he served on the Student Affairs and Buildings and Grounds Committees. He is currently the director of George Washington University's School of Media and Public Policy and also teaches courses in documentary filmmaking and journalistic ethics. Prior to that he was a professor of public policy and communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. His wife Kathleen is also a graduate of the class of 1977. Their son Matthew is a graduate of Middlebury's class of 2006 and their son Christopher is a member of the class of 2009.

Clara Yu, who recently retired as president of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, will receive an honorary Doctor of Education degree. Yu joined the Middlebury College faculty in 1987 as an assistant professor of Chinese language and literature. After receiving tenure in 1993, she was appointed vice president for languages and director of the Summer Language Schools. In that capacity, she restructured the operation of Middlebury's Language Schools and Schools Abroad and designed a rigorous three-year program that became the prototype of Middlebury's highly acclaimed international studies major. In 1996, Yu founded the Center for Educational Technology (CET) at Middlebury and oversaw the successful completion of a five-year initiative to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of language instruction through the use of technology. In 2001, she founded the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE), which serves as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration for 81 liberal arts colleges. In 2006, she was inaugurated as the 12th president of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a position in which she helped write a new chapter in Middlebury's leadership in global education. She retired from that position in 2008. She received her bachelor of arts from the National Taiwan University and her master's and doctorate from the University of Illinois. Before joining the Middlebury faculty, she taught at Dartmouth College and the University of Maryland, and served as an artificial intelligence consultant in the Washington, D.C., area.

The Middlebury College commencement will be held outdoors regardless of the weather on the main quadrangle behind Voter Hall on College Street (Route 125) at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 24. More than 5,000 family and friends are expected to attend. 

For more information, contact Commencement and Events Planning Coordinator Kathleen Knippler at or 802-443-5393.