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Fran Magruder ’20 was among many in her class who posted photos of themselves celebrating their graduation from the College on May 24.

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Middlebury Celebrates Class of 2020, Names Honorary Degree Recipients

May 27, 2020


MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – From across the country and around the globe, members of the Middlebury College Class of 2020 gathered virtually on Sunday, May 24, for the Senior Celebration, an event that honored their accomplishments as graduates and provided a preview of their in-person graduation to take place sometime next year.

“Today we celebrate your hard work and the wonderful memories and the lifelong friendships that you have forged that will most certainly last your whole lives long,” said Laurie Patton, Middlebury president, in her greeting to the graduating class. 

The event was streamed at 2 p.m. and began with an invocation by Mark Orten, chaplain of the College and dean of spiritual and religious life, followed by Patton’s remarks. Provost Jeff Cason and Dean of the College Baishakhi Taylor congratulated the seniors, and Student Government Association (SGA) President Varsha Vijayakumar ’20 and SGA class officers offered their greetings as well. The celebration also included a video montage of the seniors and Patton’s conferral of the degrees. 

Patton told the graduates that she looked forward to celebrating with them at an in-person Commencement next year. She announced that their speaker would be Jason Collins—retired NBA player, human rights activist, one of the first major athletes to come out as openly gay, and recipient of numerous honors. Collins made a brief appearance at the virtual celebration too and asked graduates to see the current difficult times as an opportunity for them to demonstrate leadership and creativity because “society needs you, the world needs you.” 

Patton also told the class that Collins and four others would receive honorary degrees at the in-person ceremony:

Jason Collins, a retired NBA star and human rights activist, has received numerous honors—including from the Matthew Shepard Foundation and the National Civil Rights Museum—for “making a difference” in the lives of others.

Judge Allison Burroughs ’83 is a former assistant United States attorney who investigated and prosecuted organized crime and drug cases as well as sophisticated white collar and financial and computer crimes.

Marta Casals Istomin is a renowned musician known for her work as a cellist and her dedication to musical education. For more than a decade, she was the artistic director of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. She then became the director of the Evian Music Festival before serving as the president of the Manhattan School of Music for 13 years.

Ernie Parizeau is an enthusiastic proponent of experiential education and entrepreneurship, and professor of the practice at Middlebury. He has been a successful partner to multiple entrepreneurs and leaders, helping them develop successful organizations, and was an early-stage investor in the software, semiconductor, electronics, communications, healthcare, education, and retail industries.

Kim Collins Parizeau ’79 is a former chair of the Middlebury Board of Trustees. During her 16 years on the board, Parizeau helped lead several significant transitions at Middlebury, including the acquisition of the Middlebury Institute and the adoption of Energy2028. She is currently on the board of an organization dedicated to educational equity for college-bound students in overlooked communities.

The event ended with a creative Zoom-style rendition of the alma mater, “Walls of Ivy,” that highlighted video of many individual alumni singing as their voices harmoniously blended together.