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College Honors Two Citizens for Public Service

June 7, 2013

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz presented the Bonnie and John McCardell Citizen’s Awards for outstanding community service to Addison County residents Joanne Corbett and Donald M. Keeler Jr. on June 4 at a dinner on the college campus.

Dating back to the college’s bicentennial year of 2000, the college has honored local citizens for exemplary community service, volunteerism and engagement in community issues. Nominations come from members of the community, and a committee of college faculty and staff makes the final selections.

All of the recipients of the Citizens’ Award receive a pewter medallion struck at Danforth Pewterers of Middlebury.

Joanne Corbett has devoted the majority of her professional life to providing eldercare to the people of Addison County. A graduate of Harvard College with a master’s degree in social work from Boston College, Corbett was a social worker in Minnesota in the late 1970s and early 1980s before moving to Vermont in 1984. She worked for the Vermont Department of Health and the Childcare Resource Center of Burlington, prior to accepting the post of executive director of Elderly Services of Addison County in 1990.

Under Corbett’s leadership for the past 23 years, Elderly Services Inc. has offered adult day care through Project Independence in addition to eldercare counseling, geriatric care management, outreach programs in aging education, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, individual and family care counseling, and lifelong learning through its ESI College.

Project Independence—the innovative afternoon and evening program for seniors with a six-days-per-week schedule of activities, events and meals—has emerged as “the standard by which we measure all other adult day care programs in Vermont,” according to the Vermont Department of Aging and Disabilities. To carry Project Independence into the 21st century, Corbett spearheaded the effort to raise five million dollars to design and build a modern center to house all of its services.

In presenting the McCardell Citizen’s Award to her, President Liebowitz said Corbett understands the challenges of aging and geriatric mental health, and stands as a national leader for best practices in eldercare.

President Liebowitz (center) congratulates Donald Keeler and Joanne Corbett

For more than 43 years, Donald M. Keeler Jr. has devoted himself to law enforcement in his native Addison County. Currently the sheriff of the Addison County Sheriff’s Department, Keeler was a deputy sheriff in the department from 1970 to 1988, and first sergeant from 1988 to 2012. Upon the death of the late Sheriff James B. Coons in 2012, Keeler answered the call of Governor Peter Shumlin to assume the post of acting sheriff and was later elected sheriff by the voters of the county.

An expert in the safe care and use of police firearms, Keeler has served as a firearms instructor at the Vermont Police Academy since 1988, and was for 15 years a member of the Use of Force and Firearms Committee of the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council.

In equal measure it was Keeler’s work outside of law enforcement that spurred Middlebury College to confer upon him the McCardell Citizen’s Award. Because in addition to his vocation with the sheriff’s department, the Middlebury Union High School graduate (Class of 1960) served 12 years on the Middlebury Select Board, 10 years on the community’s school boards, and numerous terms on the town’s public safety committee, public works committee, development review board and sports commission.

President Liebowitz commended Keeler as “a big man with a big heart who responds passionately and quickly to the needs of the people,” and he thanked Keeler for always giving back to the community.

This year’s recipients of the McCardell’s Citizen’s Awards join the 54 other area residents who have been so honored since the college’s bicentennial.

Past and present recipients of the college's Citizen's Awards gathered for a group photograph at the annual dinner.