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Isabel Wilkerson's 2010 book, "The Warmth of Other Suns," won numerous prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Isabel Wilkerson to Give Middlebury College Commencement Address

May 21, 2018

  Isabel Wilkerson, author of the bestselling The Warmth of Other Suns and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, will deliver the 2018 Middlebury College Commencement address on Sunday, May 27.


Sunday, May 27

10 a.m., Main Quad

Full Schedule

Watch Online

National Humanities medalist, Wilkerson spent 15 years working on her book, interviewing more than 1,200 people to tell one of the greatest underreported stories of the 20th century, that of the Great Migration. From 1915 to 1970, six million African-Americans fled the Jim Crow South in what became one of the largest internal migrations in United States history and one that permanently changed the social landscape of the country.

Published in 2010, The Warmth of Other Suns won numerous prizes, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. Wilkerson’s book was also named to more than 30 best-of-the-year lists, including the New York Times’ 10 Best Books of the Year and Amazon’s 5 Best Books of the Year.

Wilkerson won the Pulitzer Prize for her work as Chicago bureau chief of the New York Times in 1994, making her the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first African American to win for individual reporting.

She has also taught at a number of universities, including Emory, Princeton, and Columbia. 

Jeanne A. Brink
Elaine Ostroff
Velcheru Narayana Rao
William P. Stritzler

“Isabel Wilkerson is a masterful writer and storyteller,” said Middlebury President Laurie Patton. “She brought attention to an important but overlooked episode in American history with her skillful use of fascinating personal narratives. Her book also contributes to an understanding of racism that exists in the U.S. today.

“It is an honor to have Isabel as our commencement speaker,” added Patton. “Her wisdom and her talent as an author and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will offer inspiration to our seniors as they begin new challenges following their graduation from Middlebury.”

Wilkerson will receive an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at the commencement ceremony.

Middlebury also will honor four other distinguished men and women with honorary degrees this year:

Jeanne A. Brink is an Abenaki artist and activist. She conducts workshops and programs on Western Abenaki storytelling, history, language, culture, basket making, oral tradition, dance, games, and current issues throughout Vermont and New England. Tracing her Abenaki heritage back to the early 1700s, she continues the tradition of Western Abenaki ash splint and sweetgrass fancy basketry as a master basket maker. Brink has served on the Vermont Commission for Native American Affairs, the Lake Champlain Basin Program Cultural Heritage and Recreation Advisory Committee, and many other local organizations. She is the author of several books about Abenaki art and language. 

Elaine Ostroff is a longtime advocate, author, coach, and champion of universal design, the practice of creating environments and products that are usable by most people, regardless of their age or ability, and that secure civil rights, dignity, and opportunity for all people, particularly those with disabilities. In 1978 she cofounded the Adaptive Environments Center, (AEC) now the Institute for Human Centered Design (IHCD), where she serves on the board of directors. She created the nationwide Universal Design Education Project (UDEP) in 1990 and the national Access to Design Professions Project in 1999. She is coauthor of Building a World Fit for People: Designers with Disabilities at Work and is senior editor of the Universal Design Handbook.

Velcheru Narayana Rao, a professor and author, taught Telugu and Indian literatures for 38 years at University of Wisconsin–Madison. He also taught at the University of Chicago and was the Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Professor in Telugu Culture, Literature, and History at Emory University. He has written more than 15 books, many of them in collaboration with David Shulman and Sanjay Subrahmanyam, including Textures of Time: Writing History in South India, and How Urvasi Was Won, a translation of Vikramorvasiyam, a five-act Sanskrit play by the ancient Indian poet Kalidasa. 

William P. Stritzler is the managing director and owner of Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Vermont. Stritzler, a 1960 graduate of Middlebury College, began his career at Wells Fargo, where he was a vice president of the bank and president of the data processing subsidiary. He then joined AT&T, where he was a corporate vice president for new ventures and vice president of marketing for the company’s U.S. operations. He became Smugglers’ Notch Resort managing director in 1987 and purchased the company in 1996. Stritzler was named the 2016 Vermont Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and has served on the boards of many local and statewide organizations in Vermont. 

The Middlebury College Commencement ceremony will take place on the main quadrangle at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. More than 5,000 family members and friends are expected to attend.



KUDOS to you MIdd for your commitment to continuously bringing diversity, in all its forms, to that amazing campus! When our son Stephan Koenigsberger('16) chose Midd as the ONLY college he was interested in applying to or attending, I have to admit that we were at first, quite worried. Our main concern was how he would fit in...then we thought about whether he would GET in. Needless to say both of those things happened and he not only survived but thrived and, thorough swimming, made his own mark. Thanks to our son, we as a family discovered and benefitted greatly
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from his four years at MIDD. We love you MIDD and all the wonderful educators who walk the many halls of that brilliant educational institution. Continued success and congrats to the class of 2018! Deborah Koenigsberger
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by Deborah Koenigs... (not verified)

A diverse group of recipients, also. That will also add to the graduation, itself. Congratulations to the Class of 2018, also. Best, Todd Miller, member of the class of 1983; -

by Todd Miller (not verified)

Congratulations Middlebury for an outstanding graduation ceremony. From the beginning to the end, every speaker and presentation was all inspiring. Your institution In it's unique service mindedness to others through preparing leaders for tomorrow challenges light the way to a promising tomorrow. Dr. Patton continue your mission as a visionary leader of our beloved Middlebury. Dr. Patton, City Manager. Portsmouth, VA.

by Dr. Lydia Petti... (not verified)

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