Middlebury

Language Schools award master's and doctoral degrees

August 15, 2011

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.— The Middlebury Language Schools conferred 137 master's degrees and two doctoral degrees at its 97th commencement on August 12 in Mead Chapel.

The 16th president of Middlebury College, Ronald D. Liebowitz, and the directors of the Language Schools presented the Master of Arts degrees in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Mediterranean Studies, Russian, and Spanish, and Doctor of Modern Languages degrees to the two candidates who completed advanced study in two foreign languages.

Max Marmor delivers the commencement address
Max Marmor delivered the commencement address. Read the text of his speech.

Max Marmor, the president of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, delivered the commencement address and said his foundation has “long admired the Kathryn W. Davis Fellowships for Peace, which have meant so much to Middlebury and to the world.  We Americans, alas, are not a nation of linguists. And a deep strain of American exceptionalism sometimes leads us to regard this as a virtue.

“Yet in our better moments, we know that we should be meeting the world half-way more frequently than we tend to do.  I hope the Kress Fellowships at Middlebury will make at least a modest contribution to that cause.” The Kress Fellowships for Language Study enable outstanding graduate students of art history to attend the French, German, Italian or Spanish Schools. Based on merit, the fellowships cover the cost of a summer’s tuition, room and board to the Language Schools.

Marmor explained, “We at Kress can’t claim to be advancing the cause of world peace.  But we do seek through this and other funding programs to foster true dialogue across nations and cultures.”

After his address, the College conferred academic degrees upon its newest graduates and an Honorary Doctor of Arts upon Marmor in recognition of his outstanding career as an art historian and librarian.

Marmor served in senior positions with the UCLA Art Library, the Avery Library at Columbia University and the NYU Institute of Fine Arts Library. From 1994 to 2001 he was director of the Yale Arts Library, and from 2001 until his appointment with Kress in 2007 he was director of collection development and a member of the ARTstor digital initiative group at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

President Liebowitz opened the ceremony by examining the history of Middlebury College and by acknowledging the contributions of five people in particular: Gamaliel Painter, one of the founding fathers of both the town and the college; Lilian Stroebe, who started the first language school at Middlebury, the German School, in 1915; Professor Stephen A. Freeman, who served the college and the Language Schools from 1925 to 1963; Betty Ashbury Jones, graduate of the French School, supporter of the Language Schools and trustee emerita of the college; and Kathryn Wasserman Davis, the 104-year-old philanthropist and renowned champion of international peace.

He said, “The sustained pursuit of foreign language study and culture, and an awareness of the fact that through such study we break down multiple barriers and increase intercultural understanding, has become a great distinguishing characteristic of this institution. The Language Schools have been a large part of this special claim that we at Middlebury College treasure and honor.”

Doctor of Modern Languages recipients Norma E. George and Michael D.S. Herrera
Doctor of Modern Languages recipients Norma E. George and Michael D.S. Herrera

Michael E. Geisler, vice president for Language Schools, Schools Abroad and Graduate Programs, welcomed all to the ceremony. "This year over 1,500 students attended the Middlebury Language Schools here in Vermont and at our second site in California," he said, "with almost 1,000 of them coming not to earn a degree, but just to study language. To learn to talk like people from another culture, joke like people from another culture and even argue as people argue like people from another culture.

"In doing so each and every one of them, just as our graduates have done tonight, risks not just failure or embarrassment but far more. [Language Schools students] risk their identity; they risk their sense of self. . . . In no other academic discipline that I can think of do you put the very core of your being on the line, for yourself and for the world as you know it. For having the courage to do that, I salute you."

After two musical interludes presented by students and the presentation of awards for distinguished study in the four languages for which the college does not award graduate degrees (Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Portuguese), the ceremony concluded with the singing of "Gamaliel Painter's Cane," led by François Clemmons, the Twilight Artist in Residence.

Then the graduates and guests then rose and marched into the Vermont night, led by marshals Jacobo Sefamí and Antonio Vitti, directors of the Spanish and Italian Schools, respectively, as Emory Fanning, professor emeritus of music, played the recessional on the grand Mead Chapel organ.