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In Memoriam: Frederic W. Allen

April 11, 2016

Middlebury notes the death of Frederic W. Allen of Shelburne, Vt., the former chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court who served as a member of the Middlebury Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1998. He died on April 9, 2016, at the age of 89.

A respected jurist, attorney, trustee, husband, father, and World War II veteran, “Fred” Allen received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Middlebury College at the 2003 Commencement.

“In 12 years as chief justice, you restored the prestige of the Supreme Court among both public and bar in Vermont. Under your leadership the Court [ruled] that the quality of a public school student’s education should not depend on the property wealth of his or her town,” his honorary degree citation stated. 

With Allen as chief justice the court also determined that the Vermont state constitution could be used to provide protection for individual liberties even if the U.S. Supreme Court read the federal constitution in a more restricted way.

Born in Burlington in 1926, Allen earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University (Ohio) and a degree in law from Boston University. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946, and entered the practice of law in Burlington in 1951.

As a Middlebury College trustee, he served on the conference and educational affairs committees, chaired the honorary degree committee, and from 1992-1993 chaired a special committee that revised the by-laws of the College.

William H. Kieffer III, a Middlebury trustee emeritus and member of the Class of 1964 served as a trustee with Allen. “Fred was perceptive, engaging, a source of legal guidance for the board and the administration, and he remained a legal resource for us for many years,” said Kieffer. “Fred also served as a resource as we planned and celebrated the Bicentennial of the College in 2000, especially as we celebrated the relationship between the college and the State of Vermont.”

Another trustee emeritus, Nancy Furlong ’75, said Allen “was a lifelong Vermonter and as such was very unassuming. He was a prestigious attorney and chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, but never took himself too seriously. His quiet way, quick wit, and self-deprecating humor was legendary. And he was greatly admired in the legal community for his sound and compassionate judgment.”

A member of the American, Vermont, and Chittenden County Bar Associations, Allen served as an alderman for the City of Burlington and as a trustee of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington and the Bennett C. Douglass School for students with special needs. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Vermont Law School.  

Justice Allen is survived by his wife, Karen McAndrew Esq.; children Kathryn, Martha, Zachariah ’03, and Spencer; three granddaughters; and six great grandchildren. 

There will be a reception in memory of Frederic Allen on Friday, April 15, from 4 to 7 p.m. at All Souls Interfaith Gathering, 291 Bostwick Farms Road in Shelburne. All are welcome to attend.

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