July 2, 1999

Middlebury College Plans Year-Long Bicentennial Celebration -- Public Invited to Attend Events Ranging from a Concert by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis to a Parade

Beginning in October 1999, Middlebury College will launch a year-long series of Bicentennial celebration events that will culminate in November 2000, the actual 200-year anniversary of the school's founding.

"We've spent the last two years planning what promises to be one of the most exciting times in the College's history," said Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr.

"Staff, faculty, students, and representatives from the town have pulled together to organize a celebration that symbolizes all aspects of the College's history and founding. Middlebury has long been known historically as the town's College. The Bicentennial is as much the town's celebration as it is the College's," added McCardell.

The College's origins began with a journey in September 1798 by Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale College, as he traveled by horseback from New Haven, Conn., to Middlebury, Vt. Dwight passed through the town of Middlebury and while there discussed establishing a new college with town leaders, who were considering the possibility of amending the charter they received for the Addison County Grammar School to include post secondary or collegiate education. They conferred with Dwight to determine the feasibility of establishing a college at Middlebury to provide a convenient location for higher education. With Dwight's counsel and encouragement, Middlebury College was founded in 1800.

The Bicentennial activities planned for the coming year encompass a broad spectrum of interests and types of events, from all aspects of the arts to several symposia that will feature nationally recognized speakers who will discuss a wide range of topics. The College will also commemorate its founding with the publication of a new College history, the dedication of the new academic building Bicentennial Hall, and a series of events that involve the town-from a parade to a community reception.

According to Nick Clifford, co-chair of the Bicentennial Planning Commission and college professor emeritus of history, "Our 200-year anniversary has provided us with the chance to look back at Middlebury's history and forward to the College's future. The events that we've planned will create opportunities to debate issues that are important to education and society as a whole, as well as celebrate the rich cultural offerings that have become an integral part of life at Middlebury."

Angelo S. Lynn, publisher of the Addison County Independent and a member of the Bicentennial Steering Committee, believes that, "This celebration is an opportunity for local residents to learn about historical connections they might have to the College that they didn't know about before these activities, and to get better acquainted with the College, which plays such a large role in this community."

Kicking off a string of events will be the Clifford Symposium, titled "What is Life?," featuring as keynote speakers paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University and medical ethicist James F. Childress of the University of Virginia. It will take place on Oct. 14-15 in conjunction with the dedication of Bicentennial Hall, a new academic building that will be used primarily to house the science departments.

Other symposia to be held on campus in honor of the Bicentennial include "Commitment to the World: Integration and Disintegration in the 21st Century," which will focus on international studies; "Celebrating Athletics and the Liberal Arts;" and "Biographical Truths: Literary Fact, Historical Fiction." Another such gathering, "Perspectives on World Affairs," will take place at the New York Public Library in March 2000.

Commenting on the plans for cultural activities that celebrate the Bicentennial, Director of the Middlebury College Center for the Arts Susan Stockton said, "The cultural offerings this season will feature some of the best from the music, theatre, dance, and visual arts world. The Bicentennial celebration has presented us with an opportunity to feature extraordinary international visiting artists as well as highlight the successful work of our alumni. Alumni events such as a musical gala, a juried exhibition of visual artists, and a theatrical season including alumni actors, a director, and a playwright will acknowledge the wealth of artistic talents among this segment of the College community."

One feature of the cultural festivities will be a performance by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis on April 29, 2000. In a program entitled "For Dancers Only," the orchestra's music will encourage the audience to dance and swing in a cabaret-style atmosphere.

Theatre productions will range from "Our Town" to "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Hamlet." Taking place off campus at New York City's Cunningham Studio will be the New York appearance of the Dance Company of Middlebury, which will be in residence there during one week in March 2000. The dance company will premiere an evening-length piece choreographed by Peter Schmitz of the Middlebury dance program. The piece has been commissioned by the College especially for the Bicentennial and will make its advance appearance in Middlebury.

The Bicentennial celebration will conclude with a series of events during Founders' Week from Nov. 1-5, 2000. Since the College was officially chartered on Nov. 1, the activities will begin on that day-Founder's Day-with a town and College parade, ceremonies for local schools, and a community reception in the evening.

The culminating activities will include a concert-the first performance of a choral piece commissioned by the College-a convocation, a symposium, a dinner and a ball, and an ecumenical chapel service. The festivities will also feature a performance of "Middlebury the Musical," a play by David Stameshkin, a former member of the history department and the author of a two-volume history of Middlebury College. The musical is an irreverent and comic version of the College's founding.

The symposium, "Higher Education, the Market and the Media," will be held on Nov. 4, 2000, and will focus on the role of higher education in a world increasingly shaped by market forces and new kinds of access to information. Discussions will address such issues as how colleges meet the needs of students as consumers or customers, the role of distance learning, and how receptivity to education has been changed by exposure to television, movies, and the internet.

In addition to these events, alumni groups are working on a Bicentennial service project named Page One. The project is devoted to education in literacy both in Vermont and across the country.

David Bain of the English department has written a new illustrated history of Middlebury, "The College on the Hill," to be published in October 1999.

President McCardell believes that the Bicentennial comes at a time when the College is thriving as never before. "Middlebury enjoys a reputation, nationally and internationally, for strong programs throughout the liberal arts. The Bicentennial celebration focuses our attention on the history and values that have brought us to this point," said McCardell.

For further information, the Middlebury College web site has an up-to-date listing of Bicentennial celebration events at, or contact Ingrid Punderson, associate director of alumni and parent programs, at 802-443-2276.