MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury welcomed a record number of alumni and guests to reunion weekend June 10-12. With 2,123 people in attendance, the alumni of class years ending in 1 and 6 represented seven-and-a-half decades of Middlebury College graduates, returning to connect with old friends and enjoy a weekend full of reminiscing.
Members of the 50th reunion class arrived on Thursday, attending events around campus throughout the afternoon before joining President Laurie Patton at the president’s house for a reception and dinner. Patton offered an appreciative greeting to the class of ’66, who had earlier presented the College with a class reunion gift of $2,097,422. “You all came together to support my presidency’s top priority – financial aid,” she said. “You’ve established a class scholarship fund that will still be helping talented young men and women to attend Middlebury 100 years from now and beyond.”
Patton also thanked 50th reunion co-chairs Tom Easton and Prue Frey Heikkinen who she said were “instrumental in the planning and success of this reunion.”
Throughout the day on Friday, alumni checked in at class headquarters around campus and jumped into myriad activities, including tours of the Solar Decathlon Houses, Virtue Field House at Peterson Athletics Complex, and the College’s organic farm. Alumni also viewed an exhibit of the photography of Paul Strand at the College museum, a Special Collections talk by director and curator Rebekah Irwin, and an update on Middlebury’s land conservation efforts by Dean of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay and Director of Sustainability Integration Jack Byrne.
The 50th reunion class was well represented with 39 percent of all living alumni in attendance. Class members came together at a panel discussion to reflect on their lives and the extraordinary changes they’ve experienced in a half century.
Alumni traveled from as far away as India and Australia and as near as Middlebury to join the fun. The fifth reunion class earned the McCullough Cup for highest percentage of returning classmates; 44 percent returned for their first reunion.
Saturday offered many outdoor activities for early risers, including the traditional 5K fun run and a birding walk. Later in the morning, Peace Corps/Vista Volunteers from the 50th reunion class met for conversation, as did a veterans’ gathering led by the class of 1966 that was open to all veterans.
On Saturday morning in Wilson Hall, the Middlebury Alumni Association Board presented its annual Alumni Achievement Award to Carolyn Kroll Reidy ’71, who had returned for her 45th reunion. Since 2008 Reidy has been president and CEO of Simon & Schuster Inc., after joining the company in 1992 and holding various executive positions. Prior to that, she worked at Avon Books and Random House, where she began her career in 1976.
Later in the afternoon, alumni from 15 classes, representing 75 years of Middlebury history, paraded up the hill and packed Mead Chapel for reunion convocation, one of the weekend’s most beloved traditions. Four members of the Class of 1941 – celebrating their 75th reunion – were in attendance, two of whom made the trek up the hill to Mead Chapel.
The capacity crowd cheered and rapped Gamaliel Painter canes as the Class of 1966, celebrating its 50th reunion, made its way down the center aisle. Cheers turned to a roar when alumni from the oldest class entered the chapel, accompanied by Patton. Two members of the class of 1971 – Hector Griswold Jr. and Joan M. Kerrigan – received the Alumni Plaque award for outstanding service to Middlebury.
In her convocation remarks, Patton reflected on the many professional and service achievements of the 50th reunion class. “When you graduated 50 years ago, America had changed dramatically from the country it was when you were freshmen,” said Patton. But many of you still believed in the ideals that President Kennedy put forth in his inaugural address, and you asked what you could do for your country.
“What you did was serve. Some of you went into the military after college, others into the Peace Corps, and some into other kinds of government service. You became teachers, doctors, scientists, and business people. You have been active in public service. You have traveled widely, made friends, and helped to build new connections with other countries and cultures. And you have been generous with your time and your money in supporting Middlebury and the students who came after you.”
As an uncharacteristically cool June day turned to evening, alumni from all reunion classes gathered for dinner, dancing, and fireworks at the sprawling tents, organized by class year, behind the Mahaney Center for the Arts. The Grift, a Middlebury favorite featuring three alumni in its line-up, provided music for the evening.
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