MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – As nearly 2,000 Middlebury alumni spanning 75 years arrived on campus for Reunion 2015, the campus buzzed with a festive atmosphere. Tents were set, parties planned, and the usual packed schedule of events from Middlebury’s Office of Alumni and Parent Programs helped reunite old friends for a weekend of joyful reminiscing.
The 50th and 25th reunion classes arrived on Thursday. Alumni from the Class of 1965 enjoyed a celebratory dinner with President Ron Liebowitz and his wife Jessica at the president’s residence. The Class of 1990, meanwhile, enjoyed a welcome gathering at 51 Main at the Bridge.
Throughout the day on Friday, alumni checked in at class headquarters around campus and jumped into a range of activities, from the annual college admissions workshop to tours of the Solar Decathlon Houses, the new Virtue Field House at Peterson Athletics Complex, and a photography exhibit of African American history at the Museum of Art. Alumni also got inside looks at some important student programs at Middlebury, including the Sustainability Office, Spirituality and Religion, and, on Saturday, the critical role that alumni can play in helping students plan their future.
The Class of 1965 was well represented at Reunion with 49 percent of all living alumni in attendance. They traveled from as far away as Australia and as near as Middlebury. Class members came together at a panel discussion to reflect on their lives and the extraordinary changes they’ve experienced in a half century. These ranged from a veteran’s story of Vietnam to an alumna’s experience as an executive forging a career path in the early days of the women's movement.
Friday evening wrapped up with class dinner receptions followed by disco dancing (Class of ’80) and two “Mini Moth” storytelling events sponsored by the classes of 1975 and 1995.
Saturday, a gloriously clear and sunny June day, offered lots of outdoor activity for early risers, including a 5K fun run, bike ride, golf, organic farm tours, and a hike to Silver Lake. President Ron Liebowitz, in his final Middlebury Reunion as president, hosted his annual question and answer session with alumni at Wilson Hall. “There’s nothing better than to be on a college campus and I’ve been here 31 years,” said Liebowitz. “Every day there’s a surprise encounter with students that gives you incredible optimism, despite all these challenges that they face and we face, both as an institution and a society.”
Across Old Chapel Road in the Axinn Center, Professor Emeritus Russ Leng ’60 and Provost Susan Baldridge talked about the development of a recent online course called "Years of Upheaval" that was offered free to Middlebury alumni. Leng and Baldridge also discussed trends in online learning and how Middlebury can leverage its strengths in the online realm.
Later in the morning, the Middlebury Alumni Association Board presented the 2015 Alumni Achievement Awards to Polly Hallett Kawalek ’75 and Curtis G. Viebranz ’75. Kawalek, who majored in economics at Middlebury, had a 25-year career with Quaker Foods, which culminated with her running the entire Quaker Foods portfolio following the company’s acquisition by PepsiCo in 2001. Viebranz, who double majored in political science and Spanish, is the former president of HBO International, and CEO of the Internet ad targeting company TACODA. He is currently president and CEO of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Jeff Lindsay (Jeffry Freundlich ’75), author and creator of the wildly popular Showtime series Dexter, was a featured speaker on Saturday afternoon at Dana Auditorium. With the comic timing of a seasoned performer, Lindsay recounted the circuitous and often frustrating career path and seemingly endless list of book agents that led him to the creation of Dexter. He said he owes a lot of his success to the teaching and mentorship of Professor Emeritus John Elder.
Prior to the traditional Reunion class parade to Mead Chapel, alumni and families gathered in the sunshine next to Davis Family Library to enjoy locally made gourmet ice cream from LuLu of Bristol, Vermont. Alumni from 14 classes, representing 70 years of Middlebury history, followed the parade up the hill and packed the chapel for convocation. The crowd cheered and thumped Gamaliel Painter canes as the Class of 1965, celebrating its 50th reunion, made its way down the center aisle. Cheers turned to a roar when two alumnae from the oldest class present—Elaine King Dandh ’45 and Anna Macwilliams Neville ’45—entered the chapel escorted by the president.
At Convocation, President Liebowitz abandoned the usual state-of-the-college address to speak, as he said, from the heart. Liebowitz reflected on the loyalty and passion alumni feel for the College and the strengths of the bonds that unite them. He looked back on his 31 years as a member of the college community and ahead to an exciting future.
The oldest graduate, R.C. Anderson from the Class of 1940, was not able to attend Convocation, but he did share stories on Friday with other members of the post 50th-reunion classes during a story circle facilitated by the Vermont Folklife Center. And although Anderson was the only member of the class to return to Middlebury, he made sure his class was well represented by collecting letters from and photos of all living members of the class on a memory board.
"Each year we are amazed by the devotion of our alumni who return for Reunion," said Meg Storey Groves ’85, associate vice president for alumni relations and annual giving, who was celebrating her own 30th reunion. "Their connection to this place and to one another across generations reminds us how lucky we are to be a part of Middlebury."
As the beautiful spring day wrapped up, alumni from all reunion classes gathered at the sprawling tents behind the Mahaney Center for the Arts for dinner, dancing, and fireworks.
2015 reunion recognition awards
Gold Key Award
Post-50th Reunion class with highest percentage of giving participation
Class of 1955—66% participation
Parton Family Award
Reunion class, other than the 25th or 50th, with the greatest increase in participation
Class of 1940—37% participation (25% last year)
Armand N. LaFlamme ’37 Cup
Reunion class, other than the post-50th, with highest giving participation
Class of 1965—72% participation
Gordon C. Perine ’49 Award
Reunion class, other than the 25th and 50th, with the greatest increase in the total class gift
Class of 1975—$1,621,615 (an increase of $1,321,621)
Raymond A. Ablondi ’52 Cup
Reunion class with the largest total class gift
Class of 1990—$2,463,200
Governor McCullough Reunion Trophy
Reunion class with the highest percentage of classmates returning for Reunion
Class of 1965—49% in attendance
Cane Society Representative Award
Reunion year Cane Society representatives who have gone above and beyond
Sue Heyer Byers and Bruce Byers, Class of 1955
Jean Seeler-Gifford ’60 Outstanding Class Correspondent Award
Class correspondent who has gone above and beyond
Beth Prasse Seeley, Class of 1970
With reporting by Stephen Diehl, Photos by Todd Balfour, May Mantell, Yeager "Teddy" Anderson ’13.5, and Jennifer Kiewit
Post a new comment
We hope to create a lively discussion and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. We may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.
Your comment will be visible after it has been approved by our comment moderators.