October 27, 1999

New Book Recounts History of Middlebury College -- "The College on the Hill: A Browser's History for the Bicentennial," by Middlebury College Lecturer David Bain, Now Available

How did Middlebury College evolve from its first day of operation on Nov. 4, 1800--with seven students and a 27-year-old former Yale tutor, Jeremiah Atwater, presiding as president--into a national college of approximately 2,200 students from over 70 countries and 50 states?

A new, richly illustrated book, "The College on the Hill: A Browser's History for the Bicentennial" by David Haward Bain, is a fresh account of Middlebury College's history. The book introduces the reader to the numerous individuals who shaped the College, describes the evolution of the campus, and traces the close connections between the College and the town of Middlebury--without which the College would not exist.

The oversized volume is 464 pages long with more than 600 photos. Middlebury College is publishing "The College on the Hill" in celebration of its Bicentennial in November of the year 2000.

"The College on the Hill" draws on many sources, including the vast repositories of the College archives. Bain pairs photographs with excerpts from the archival materials--correspondence, records, publications, and other items. These sources also provided much information for the capsule biographies of College graduates, faculty, and administrators that appear throughout, contributing to the book's personal point of view.

Bain recounts the struggles of early Middlebury presidents, such as Henry Davis, who was president from 1810 to 1817, and Benjamin Labaree, who was president from 1840 to 1866, to keep the financially precarious College afloat. Under Labaree, enrollments were so depressed and money so scarce that, "…in 1847, serious negotiations over merging with the University of Vermont broke down when Middlebury officials refused to discuss relocating to Burlington."

The book also includes profiles of notable alumni, from retired Senator Stafford of Vermont to the late Ron Brown, who was the nation's secretary of commerce at the time of his death. As a student at Middlebury, Brown broke racial barriers when he joined the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon; his fellow fraternity members accepted expulsion from the national organization rather than bar Brown, an African-American, from joining the Middlebury College chapter.

"The College on the Hill" includes many of the major milestones that have defined student life at Middlebury College, from the dropping of the classical Greek requirement in 1875 and the decision to admit women in 1883 to the founding of the Mountain Club in 1931 and visits to campus by such notable figures as statesman William Jennings Bryan in 1921 and bandleader Glenn Miller in 1938.

From the beginning, when town business and civic leaders joined together to found an institution of higher learning, the College's history and fate were inextricably intertwined with the town of Middlebury. During the early, lean years, it was the townspeople whose donations ensured the College's survival. "The College on the Hill" gives the reader a glimpse into Middlebury's history, recalling such aspects of the past as the wooden bridge that once spanned Otter Creek, the fire of 1875, and the townspeople who provided room and board to students prior to the existence of dormitories.

David Bain is a writer, editor, reviewer, and member of the Middlebury College English department. He has been associated with the College's Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in varying capacities since 1980. He is the author of another new book, "Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad," which will be published in November 1999 by Viking, and will be a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club. His previous books include "Whose Woods These Are: A History of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference" (1993); "Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines" (1984, 1986), which received a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award; and "Aftershocks" (1980, 1986). His short work has appeared in publications ranging from Smithsonian, Prairie Schooner, and TV Guide to Glamour, The New York Times Book Review, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Orwell, Vt., with his wife, Mary Smyth Duffy, and their two children.

"The College on the Hill" is available for sale at the Middlebury College Store. To place an order, call the College Store at 802-443-3036. The price is $29.95 through Dec. 31, 1999, and $35.00 thereafter. There will be a $5.00 fee for shipping and handling charges. The book is published by Middlebury College Press (9" x 12"; 464 pp; over 600 photos).

For more information, contact the public affairs office at 802-443-5198.