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Graduates Celebrate at Bread Loaf School of English Commencement

August 11, 2014

RIPTON Vt. – Bread Loaf School of English Director Emily Bartels opened the school’s 95th Commencement exercises on August 9 with words of gratitude for the graduates: “Thank you for helping us see better and think differently.” This culmination of years of academic work and collaboration, Bartels observed, was also a celebration of the Class of 2014’s ongoing connection to Bread Loaf.

The connection of the Bread Loaf community was a thread carried throughout the ceremonies at the Burgess Meredith Theater on Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus, in which 47 students received Master of Arts degrees.

College trustee Caroline McBride, who had been a Middlebury classmate of Bread Loaf faculty member Sam Swope, led the academic procession. Senior class co-presidents Sara Griesbach and Alexander Manshel presented the senior class gift, a donation to the Alexander Twilight 1823 Scholarship Fund, as a token of the graduates’ commitment to the support of students who value diversity in education and have worked to improve diversity among the student body at Bread Loaf.

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Sandy LeGault places a Master's hood on Amy Rose Lafty.

Seniors selected the former director of admissions, Sandy LeGault, MA English ’87, who has been affiliated with Bread Loaf for 32 years, to present the master’s hood to each graduate. The graduates also chose beloved Bread Loaf faculty member Michael Wood to deliver their Commencement Address. Wood is the Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University.

Wood, who has written books on Nabakov, Buñuel, Kafka, and García Márquez, is the author, most recently, of The Road to Delphi (Picador, 2004) and Literature and the Taste of Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2005). At Bread Loaf, he has taught courses since 1977 on literary theory, Latin American fiction, Joyce, Proust, Mann, the European novel, and contemporary British poetry. In his address, Wood used a T.S. Eliot quote to explore the meaning of meaning, to question whether experience might be a laboratory for experimentation, and to suggest that some failures are great triumphs. See video of the Commencement.

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President Liebowitz introduces the honorary degree recipient, Oskar Eustis.

Remarking that the Bread Loaf Commencement exercises had been the first event he led after assuming the Middlebury College presidency in 2004, Ronald D. Liebowitz conferred 47 Master of Arts degrees to the graduates, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree to Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City. Eustis, who taught courses in theater at Bread Loaf from 1997 through 2000, and again in 2002-2003, has a deep and abiding connection to the community and was praised by Liebowitz as an innovator of theater’s form and function.

Graduates recessed to a thunderous standing ovation from family, friends, classmates, and Bread Loaf staff. Immediately afterwards, a celebration in the Barn featured piano music performed by Mark Wright, who has returned every summer since his own Bread Loaf graduation in 1989 to applaud graduates on their achievements. As the class of 2014 prepared to leave the mountain, Wright served as a reminder that the Commencement exercises are just the beginning of an ongoing connection to Bread Loaf.

Earlier that evening, at Bread Loaf’s Oxford campus, 24 students received their master’s degrees in a ceremony at the Chapel of Lincoln College. On July 26, 15 students received their MAs at Bread Loaf’s New Mexico campus, for a total of 86 masters awarded during the 2014 session across the Bread Loaf School of English’s three locations.

Established in 1920, the Bread Loaf School of English is one of Middlebury’s summer residential graduate programs, offering courses in literature and the related fields of literacy and pedagogy, creative writing, and theater arts. Students, mostly K-12 English or language arts teachers, come from across the United States and beyond for one or more summers of intensive continuing education. Students may also elect to pursue an MA or MLitt. degree in English. Faculty come from eminent universities in the U.S. and U.K. to teach and learn with the student body, this year at campus sites in New Mexico, England, and Vermont.

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Faculty members in the academic procession (from left): John Fyler, Jennifer Wicke, Jonathan Freedman, Michael Wood, Robert Stepto, Rae Paris (partially hidden), Douglas Jones, and Django Paris.

Reported by Dana Olsen, with photos by Todd Balfour

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