Middlebury

February Celebration 2009.5

Remarks by President Ronald Liebowitz
January 30, 2010, Mead Memorial Chapel

Good morning. It's a pleasure to welcome to Mead Chapel all who have come to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2009.5. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today—to help see 101 of you off—as you make your way from college to your next exciting challenge.

Whatever that next venture may be (for those of you who are indeed leaving), you should feel a sense of great accomplishment for all you have achieved while you were here. You should also carry with you great confidence because your time here has prepared you well to meet just about any challenge these dynamic times place before you. I will elaborate a bit on this message in a few minutes, but I want first to give you and your guests here today a brief profile of your class-the class of 2009.5.

* * * * *

There are 101 seniors in today's celebrating class. As I reported last evening, 79 of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs.

There are 47 men and 54 women in your class. Thirteen of you came from—GUESS which state was tops: Massachusetts. Ten came from New York, nine from Vermont, eight from California, and six from New Hampshire. Your class included eight international students, from Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, Korea, Latvia, Palestine, and Sweden.

Eleven of you majored in English—the most popular major—with Geography, International Studies, Political Science, and History rounding out the top five majors. Twenty-four of you majored in more than one subject.

More than half of you—53 out of 101—studied abroad, and 82 of you studied a foreign language.

And your academic accomplishments were, well ... Febulous! Included in your class are:

  • three nominees for Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, which provide grants to graduating seniors for a year of independent study and travel outside the United States;
  • a nominee for the Keasbey Scholarship, which supports two years of graduate work at one of four British Universities; and
  • a nominee for the Churchill Scholarship, awarded to outstanding students with "a capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering, or mathematics."

A number of you distinguished yourselves in scientific studies. Members of this class were selected to give presentations:

  • before the American Chemical Society;
  • at a renewable energy conference in Las Vegas;
  • before the Geological Society of America;
  • and at the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

And two of your classmates had their off-Broadway debuts last summer as actors in the Potomac Theatre Company's highly lauded production of The Europeans at Atlantic Stage 2 in New York.

 

Many in your class have demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteerism and community service. It would be hard to gauge the full extent of your service to the local community and beyond, but here are just a few examples:

  • You played key roles in the MiddVote effort that helped to register a record number of students before last year's national election.
  • You volunteered as mentors to students in many area schools and in the Upward Bound program.
  • You volunteered for service at local organizations like Charter House (a transitional-housing shelter), WomenSafe (which helps abused women and their children), and the United Way.
  • You worked with the student Juntos group, which provides translation, ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring, and other services to area migrant farmers.
  • You used Middlebury Alternative Break trips to work with farmers in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
  • And you worked on multiple initiatives promoting carbon reduction, alternative energy development, and local food production.

 

Also among you are athletes who have helped Middlebury capture four NESCAC titles and two NCAA championships.

In addition to all of those accomplishments, you are leaving Middlebury an ongoing legacy in MiddBlog, which was created by one of your classmates. About 20,000 people consult MiddBlog every month to find out what's happening, take the alternative college tour—or hear about the administration's latest mishap or lapse in judgment.

Individually and collectively, you have accomplished much in four short years, and we are tremendously proud of you. All of us here today salute you. Congratulations.

* * * * *

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they liked the least, the vast majority would choose February. Said Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, "The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February."

February is the year's "dark predawn"--it's cold and quiet. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which says something about your character. It suggests that you are optimists—a little nonconformist, willing to take risks ... eager, as poet Robert Frost wrote, "to take the road less traveled by."

Those are important characteristics that I think you share with your College. One thing that's always marked Middlebury since its founding is a willingness to do things differently ... to innovate ... to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement of about 400 in the year it was proposed by Gamaliel Painter and some fellow townspeople, has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country largely because like you, it has done things a bit out of the ordinary.

You have many reasons to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, I know we will make you even prouder. Today, we are here to celebrate you and your accomplishments, and to convey all of our warm congratulations and let you know how proud we—the entire College community—are of you.

* * * * *

As you leave Middlebury, it is fitting to ask yourself what it is you will remember most about your time here, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your life post-Middlebury.

As a geographer, I would like to think your answer would be the place itself—the physical environment—that will exert the greatest and most durable influence on you. Who can argue with Wallace Stevens, who wrote, "His soil is man's intelligence." We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that truly matter are carried forever in our hearts and our brains.

The natural beauty that surrounds us here is likely to be one of the things you will remember most about Middlebury. I am sure that many of you have experienced some unexpected moments of joy as you walked to class on one of those spectacular autumn days when the vibrant foliage on the mountains stood out sharply against the blue sky; or walked on that pristine white carpet each morning during J-Term, left by the light snow that seems to fall each night; or seen the multiple shades of green that burst across the landscape in the spring—even if spring most often doesn't show itself until you are about to leave for summer break. And of course, there are the breath-taking views of both the Adirondacks and Green Mountains from the College's Snow Bowl ... soon to be experienced in a slightly different way later this morning. (Freezing, for one!)

These simple things have inspired a sense of adventure and creativity in generations of students who have studied at Middlebury, along with remarkably strong feelings of attachment. I hope you will take with you an appreciation for this corner of the natural world, now firmly rooted in your hearts, wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires.

But when one speaks of "place," one must include the human as well as the physical characteristics of that particular place when considering its overall impact on one's personal development and life.

And when you think back on your Middlebury years, I am sure you'll find that your memories of this place are, more than anything else, linked to its people—your friends, your professors, your teammates, your coaches, staff members, and your acquaintances in town.

Seated around you today are 100 fellow Febs—the real and the converted—many of whom are very likely to be your friends for life. Through the years, they will celebrate your achievements, reach out to you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and always remain close to you.

Friendships like these, which began in the cold and bluster of a Middlebury February, are often intense, especially when they develop in a community that is small and relatively isolated, and where there are few distractions to compete for one's social and intellectual energies. Your time here has helped you develop the kind of relationships that is hard to replicate in any other environment. It has also given you an appreciation for the strength of community, which will no doubt influence how you interrelate with others throughout your lives—in a more personal, caring, and actively engaged manner.

One of the great advantages of attending a small, residential College is the opportunity to work with faculty and staff outside the traditional classroom to make a difference in the life and direction of the institution. And many of you have, and on multiple projects. To cite just one example: the College has undertaken a number of initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment—establishing a campus-wide recycling and composting program, buying local foods, following sustainable building practices, lowering the thermostats in buildings during the heating season, installing a new biomass facility that has reduced our dependency on high-carbon-yielding oil by 50 percent, and committing, nearly three years ago, to be carbon neutral by the year 2016. These ideas and the energy and commitment to see them through came largely from Middlebury students, and have been supported enthusiastically by faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

Beyond the benefits that accrue to the College for this kind of engagement, these initiatives, and many others that involve student volunteer work at and around the College, are perfect examples of how a liberal arts education should work, and why a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life: We ask you to learn about a broad range of subjects in a formal classroom setting, and then we challenge you to use what you learned to make a difference outside that classroom.

Crucial to your successes has been an engaged and dedicated faculty. Collectively, your professors represent one of the true gifts you received during the past four years. Great teachers inspire you by their intense and passionate interest in their fields, which, in turn, motivates you to engage material in a more personal way and to go beyond the standard learning of facts so that you can make important connections and understand the larger world around you.

The true value of your liberal arts education is that it prepares you to live in a rapidly changing world that is likely to get more complex and less predictable in the coming years. The great American patriot and president, John Adams, who played many roles in his long life, said, "There are two types of education, both crucial: One teaches us how to make a living, and the other how to live."

But learning how to live—how to be active and productive citizens and draw satisfaction from life itself—will be different for you than it was for your parents' generation, and even different from those who sat where you are now sitting just a few years ago. The social changes associated with globalization, and now the backlash or reaction to them, will require you to marshal all the skills you have learned at Middlebury to navigate an exciting, but uncertain future.

Over the past two decades, globalization has made the world feel smaller ... brought closer together through the lowering of political, social, financial, and, to some degree, cultural barriers. Transactions now occur as if New York and Hong Kong were neighboring municipalities, and competition for jobs and other opportunities is no longer determined by where people grow up, where they live, or what citizenship they hold. The local has become the global, and global the local. What is happening in China, Europe, and Latin America, or just about anywhere in the world, affects us in this country, even in rural Vermont, as much as or more than what is going on in many parts of the United States.

Though the processes that have led to the so-called "flattening" of the world over the past two decades have not come to a halt, the recent world-wide recession, has added multiple levels of complexity to the already significant changes brought on by globalization. They have resulted in problems whose solutions no two economists can seem to agree on. And no one can tell us why economists did not see this train wreck coming.

The failure of our financial institutions and its impact on the global economy reflect the high level of interdependence and interconnectedness among the world's national economies. Yet, despite this interconnectedness, we have seen separate, often divergent and non-coordinated policies implemented to deal with the financial crisis in many of the world's largest economies: in the U.S., U.K, France, Germany, Japan, and China. We see, and now must adjust to, the power of the individual nation-state to exercise its sovereignty in an attempt to protect its own population, economy, and failed businesses by implementing stimulus packages and rescue plans as if it were 1910 instead of 2010—as if interdependence across national boundaries did not exist.

We must also confront the inefficiencies in our democratic system of governance, or perhaps admit to, and address, the overly politicized nature of our legislative system when it comes to addressing national problems. One need only parse President Obama's state-of-the-union address from earlier this week to see how soon a political mandate could dissipate as goodwill and hope give way to self-interest and fear of compromise. One might note the difference in effectiveness between China's and India's economic stimulus programs, on the one hand, and ours and Europe's, on the other. To be fair, China's and India's economies are centrally planned, and therefore the leadership of those states can direct and dictate the allocation of resources and make investment decisions with little or at least far less concern about domestic politics, political parties, lobbyists, or voter sentiment. Still, the dominance of self-interest and the lack of unity among our political leaders in the face of the country's greatest financial challenge in 80 years, raises serious questions for your generation about our country's changing role in the world—questions we couldn't even imagine just 10 years ago, when the U.S. was the unparalleled and singular economic, military, and political superpower on earth.

You will soon be part of this wider world-a hyper-connected world that is experiencing the after-effects of being perhaps too connected, too soon, and seeing the balance of political and economic power shift before our eyes. Each of you will have to play an important role in that wider, evolving world. And though it is perhaps daunting to think about your next chapter, and how you will participate in all that is going on beyond the hills of Vermont, you should, as I noted earlier, take comfort in the fact that you are well prepared to jump right in. Because of your strong liberal arts background, and your deep appreciation for the power of relationships and community that was honed right here, you are in a great position to make a contribution that matters.

One must be optimistic—at least I am optimistic—because you are part of a generation that, collectively, is pragmatic: far more than any generation I have seen in my 25 years here at Middlebury, you believe in volunteerism, and have shown your desire to get involved.

As you leave this chapter of your lives to become consequential players in solving the large challenges before our country, the best advice I might offer you is rooted in the lessons our faculty conveyed to you by example during your time here: learning is a life-long endeavor ... it never ends. Just as the professors with whom you studied learn more and more each year through their research and teaching, you, too, will learn more and more as you research your way through life's journey.

As you put your intelligence, creativity, and compassion to work for the common good, you will be most effective if you exercise humility. You may think you have all the right answers and have learned how to engage people of all walks of life, but make sure to leave space for the reality that you have lots to learn, and indeed will learn a great amount from others.

Your Middlebury days as students may have come to an end, but may all that you have learned and experienced here serve you well throughout your lives.

We hope your fond memories of your time at this College will remain with you, and that your bond to the College will be forever strong.

And most of all, we hope that over the course of the four years you have spent in this special place, you have learned, in John Adams' words, both, how to make a living, and how to live.

We wish you well, and look forward to welcoming you back to campus often.

Thank you.

February Celebration Address 2008.5

President Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered this address on January 31, 2009.

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to welcome, once again, all who have come to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2008.5 to Mead Chapel. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today—to help see many of you off—as you make your way from college to the next phase of your life.

Whatever the next phase may be for those of you who are indeed leaving, you should feel a sense of great accomplishment for all you have achieved in the past four years. You should also carry with you a great font of confidence because your time here has prepared you well to meet virtually any challenge these dynamic, and near-unprecedented times place before you. I will elaborate a bit on this message in a few minutes, but I want first to give you and your guests here today a brief profile of the class of 2008.5.

There are 123 in today’s celebrating class. Ninety-two (92) of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs, meaning there are 31 “regs” among you who have either accelerated or slowed down your studies to become “Febs”—a label that, many of us have learned, is as proudly worn by the Feb converts as it is by those who actually began their studies in February.

English was the most popular major in your class—10 of you majored in English, with geography, history, economics, and psychology rounding out the five most popular fields of study. Nineteen of you majored in a foreign language; 31 of you studied abroad, and several more went overseas before you began your studies at Middlebury.

More of you call Massachusetts home than any other state, followed by New York, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut. Five of you have identified yourselves as international students, one each from Burma, Jamaica, Palestine, Kenya, and Turkey, and five more claim an attachment of one sort or another with Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, and Singapore.

As I mentioned last evening, the creative spirit of the Class of 2008.5 was evident to us from the very beginning. One of your classmates won the annual Beucher Concerto Competition the first week he set foot on campus.

Some of your classmates have played leading roles in theatre productions, including “Twelfth Night,” “Talking with Cinders,” and “The Heidi Chronicles,” and one had a significant role with the Potomac Theatre Project in New York this past summer. Another conducted the Middlebury College Orchestra performance of “Finlandia” this fall.

Nine of you participated in the annual student research symposium, and one Feb won the 2008 Doll Award from the Vermont Geological Society for the best student paper presentation. Another won an “Excellence in the Visual Arts” Award from the Friends of the Art Museum last spring, recognizing her significant contributions to the visual arts community. And one of your Feb classmates will take her training in art history abroad, after winning a competitive internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Not bad!

In athletics, too, you have excelled. Members of your class played on 20 varsity and club sports teams during their time at Middlebury. One of your classmates won the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association’s Guy Tedesco Award, awarded to the New England College Player of the Year.

Many in your class demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteerism and community service. Two of the 10 Public Service Leadership Awards presented this past spring by the Alliance for Civic Engagement went to members of the Class of 2008.5, and one of your classmates received the seventh annual Vermont Student Citizen Award for his efforts at the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes.

It would be hard to gauge the full extent of your service to the local community and beyond. Some of you have served on the local fire department and rescue squad, collaborated with environmental community partner Ecologia on corporate social responsibility, or led the Middlebury Alternative Break Trip for leader service to Zion National Park. Still others were active with the Roosevelt Institution, the national network of campus-based student think tanks, or served as an inspirational speaker for College for Every Student, a nonprofit that promotes early college awareness for at-risk students. And two students from the class of 2008.5 were Shepherd Poverty Alliance interns, which engaged them in work with children in Baltimore’s inner city and in social services in Virginia.

We are enormously proud of you. All of us here today salute you for your accomplishments. Congratulations.

* * * * *

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they liked the least, the vast majority would choose February. As Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, said, “The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”

February is the year’s dark predawn—it’s cold and quiet. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which says something about your character. It suggests that you are optimists—maybe a little nonconformist, willing to take risks … eager, as poet Robert Frost wrote, “to take the road less traveled by.”

Those are important characteristics that I think you share with your College. One thing that’s always marked Middlebury since its founding is a willingness to do things differently … to innovate … to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country—indeed in the world—largely because, like you, it has done things a bit out of the ordinary.

You have many reasons to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, I know we will make you even prouder. I am equally confident that all of you will continue to make your College—and parents—proud.

* * * * *

As you leave Middlebury, it is fitting to ask yourself what it is you will remember most about your time here, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your life post-Middlebury.

As a geographer, I would like to think it will be the place itself—the physical environment—that will exert the greatest and most durable influence on you. I agree with Wallace Stevens, who wrote: “His soil is man’s intelligence.” And it is hard to argue with Stevens: We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that truly matter are carried in our hearts as well as our brains forever.

The natural beauty that surrounds us here is likely to be one of the things you will remember most about Middlebury. I am sure that many of you have experienced some unexpected moments of joy as you walked to class on one of those spectacular autumn days when the vibrant foliage on the mountains stands out sharply against the blue sky; or walking on that pristine white carpet across campus each morning during J-Term, left by the light snow that seems to fall each night; or seeing the multiple shades of green that burst across the landscape in the spring—even if spring doesn’t show itself until you are packing to leave for summer break. And of course, there are the breathtaking views of both the Adirondacks and Green Mountains from the College’s Snow Bowl … soon to be experienced in a slightly different way this afternoon.

These simple things have inspired a sense of adventure and creativity in generations of students who have studied at Middlebury, along with remarkably strong feelings of attachment. I hope you will take with you an appreciation for this corner of the natural world wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires, and retain your ties to this College.

But when one speaks of “place,” one needs to include the human as well as the physical characteristics of that particular place when considering its overall impact on one’s life.

And when you think back on your Middlebury years, I am sure you’ll find that your memories of this place are, more than anything else, linked to its people—your friends, your professors, your teammates, your coaches, staff members, and your acquaintances in town.

Seated around you today are 122 fellow Febs—the real and the converted—many of whom are very likely to be your friends for life. Through the years, they will celebrate your achievements, reach out to you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and always remain close to you.

Friendships like these, which began in the cold and bluster of a Middlebury February, are often intense, especially when they develop in a community that is small and relatively isolated, and where there are few distractions to compete for one’s social and intellectual energies. Your four years here have helped you develop the kind of relationships that is hard to replicate in another environment. They have also given you an appreciation for the strength of community, which will influence how you engage and interrelate with others throughout your lives: in a more personal, caring, and actively engaged manner.

One of the great advantages of attending a small, residential College is the opportunity to work with faculty and staff outside the traditional classroom to make a difference in the life and direction of the institution. And many of you have, on multiple projects. To cite just one example: the College has undertaken many initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment—buying local foods, following sustainable building practices, purchasing local materials, lowering the thermostats in buildings during the heating season, installing a new biomass facility that will reduce our dependency on high-carbon-yielding oil by 50 percent, and committing, now 20 months ago, to be carbon neutral by the year 2016. These ideas and the energy and commitment to see them through came largely from Middlebury students, and have been supported enthusiastically by faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

Beyond the benefits that accrue to the College for this kind of engagement, these initiatives, and many others that involve student volunteer work at and around the College, are perfect examples of how a liberal arts education should work, and why a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life: we ask you to learn about a broad range of subjects in a formal classroom setting and then we challenge you to use what you learned to make a difference outside that classroom.

Crucial to our and your success is an engaged and dedicated faculty. Collectively, your professors represent one of the true gifts of your four years at this College. Great teachers inspire you by their intense and passionate interest in their fields, which, in turn, motivates you to engage material in a more personal way and to go beyond the standard learning of facts so that you can make important connections and understand the larger world around you.

The value of your liberal arts education is that it prepares you to live in a rapidly changing world that is likely to get more complex and less predictable in the coming years. The great American patriot and President John Adams, who played many roles in his long life, said, “There are two types of education, both crucial: one teaches us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”

But learning how to live—how to be active and productive citizens and draw satisfaction from life itself, will be different for you than it was for your parents’ generation, and even different from those who sat where you are now sitting just one year ago. The processes of globalization, and now the backlash or reaction to globalization, will require you to marshal all the skills you have learned at Middlebury to navigate an exciting, but uncertain future.

Over the past 20 years, globalization made the world feel smaller, brought closer together through the lowering of political, social, financial, and, to some degree, cultural barriers. Transactions occurred as if New York and Hong Kong were neighboring municipalities, and competition for jobs and other opportunities was no longer determined by where people grew up, where they lived, or what citizenship they held. The local had become the global, and global the local. What was happening in China, Europe, and Latin America, or just about anywhere in the world, affected us in this country, even in rural Vermont, as much as what was going on in many parts of the United States.

Though the processes that led to the so-called “flattening of the world” over the past two decades have not come to a halt, the worldwide financial meltdown of the past eight months has added multiple levels of complexity to the already significant changes brought on by globalization. They have resulted in problems whose solutions no two economists can seem to agree on, let alone explain why nobody, including all the economists, could see this train wreck coming.

The failure of our financial institutions and its impact on the global economy reflect the high level of interdependence and interconnectedness among the world’s national economies. Yet, despite this interconnectedness, we see separate and even divergent strategies and policies being implemented to deal with the financial crisis in many of the world’s largest economies: the U.S., U.K, France, Germany, Japan, and China. We see, and now must adjust to, or re-adjust to, the power of the individual nation-state to exercise its sovereignty and protect its own population, economy, and failed businesses by implementing stimulus packages and rescue plans as if it were 1909 instead of 2009.

You will soon be part of this wider world—a hyper-connected world now experiencing the aftereffects of being perhaps too connected too soon and facing the most challenging economic circumstances in almost a century. At the same time, each of you will have an opportunity to play an important role in that wider world.

And though it is perhaps daunting to think about your next chapter and how you will participate in all that is going on beyond the hills of Vermont, you should, as I noted earlier, take comfort in the fact that you are well prepared to jump right in. Because of your strong liberal arts background, and your deep appreciation for the power of relationships and community that was honed right here, you are in a great position to make a contribution that matters.

And you of course are not alone. President Obama, in his inspiring inaugural address, asked all of us to be part of the solution to the mega-challenges we face as a nation. One can’t help but feel optimistic that those challenges will be met, not only because such a wide swath of the political spectrum is willing to give support to our new leadership in Washington … or because of that new leadership’s commitment to bring together the disparate elements of our country and the world community. One must be optimistic, too, because you are part of a generation that, collectively, is pragmatic, believes in volunteerism, and has shown its desire to get involved. And I am confident that you, in particular, will make a difference.

The best advice I could offer as you answer our new president’s call to be consequential players in solving the large challenges before our country is rooted in the lessons our faculty conveyed to you by example during the past four years: learning is a lifelong endeavor ... it never ends. Just as the professors with whom you studied learn more and more each year through their research and teaching, you, too, will learn more and more as you research your way through life’s journey.

As you put your intelligence, creativity, and good will to work for the common good, remember to exercise humility. You may think you have all the right answers and know how to engage people of all walks of life, but make sure to leave space for the reality that you have lots to learn, and can—indeed will—learn a great amount from others.

Your Middlebury days as students may have come to an end, but may all you have learned and experienced here serve you well throughout your lives.

We hope your fond memories of the days here stay with you, and that your bond to the College remains forever strong.

And most of all, we hope that over the course of your four years in this special place, you have learned, in Adams’ words, how to make a living, and how to live.

We wish you well, and look forward to welcoming you back to campus often.

Thank you.

February Celebration Address 2006.5

President Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered this address on February 3, 2007.

I am delighted to welcome all the guests who have come today to help us celebrate the achievements of the 115 or so soon-to-be alumni of this College. I am honored to have the opportunity to address you, the class of 2006.5, as each of you makes your way from Middlebury to the next phase of your life. Whatever that next phase may be, you should know, as I surely do, that your time here has prepared you well to meet virtually any challenge these dynamic times throw your way. More on that in a few moments, but first I wanted to give you a quick summary of who you are, collectively - aside, of course, from being the brightest, best looking, and most engaged class in the 207 history of Middlebury College!

There are 115 of you in today's celebrating class. 89 of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs, meaning there are 26 "regs" who have either accelerated or slowed down their studies to become Febs. Thirty-two of you double-majored, and more of you majored in English than any other discipline, with Economics, Environmental Studies, International Studies, and Political Science rounding out the most popular five fields of study.

Fifty eight of you studied abroad-that is 50 percent of the group- and several more went abroad between your high school graduation and beginning your studies at Middlebury. More of you call Massachusetts home than any other state, with Vermont, New York, and California close behind, and six of you are international students.

But much more than mere numbers, you represent an incredibly talented group-as talented as any Feb group on record-and all of us here today salute you for your accomplishments. Congratulations.

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they like the least, I think the vast majority would choose February. As Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, said, "The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February." February is the year's dark pre-dawn-it's cold and quiet and too soon to be up and doing. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which must say something about your character. It suggests that you are, at the least, optimists-maybe a little nonconformist, innovative...eager, as poet Robert Frost says, "to take the road less traveled by."

Those are characteristics that I think you share with your College. Something that's always marked Middlebury is a willingness to do things differently, to innovate, to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. That has worked well for us. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country. You have good reason to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, we will make you even prouder.

When you leave Middlebury, what will you remember most, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your future life? As a geographer, I suspect you'll find that it is the place itself that exerts the greatest and most durable influence. I agree with Wallace Stevens, who wrote: "His soil is man's intelligence." We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that matter are carried in our hearts forever.

By "place," I should add, I mean, as geographers do, the human as well as the physical characteristics of a location. When you think back on your Middlebury years, you'll find that your memories of this place are inextricably linked to its people-your professors, your friends, your teammates ...

Look around you. Here in this chapel are 115 friends who will, in a sense, always be with you. Through the years they will celebrate your achievements, help you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and somehow always remain close, even when you are widely separated by time and space. Those friendships began in the cold and bluster of your first winter at Middlebury. Friendships grow strong in this climate and place; relationships are often more intense in a community that is small and somewhat sequestered, where there are fewer distractions to dissipate your social and intellectual energies.

The scale and relative isolation of this town and campus have enabled you to participate more fully in the life of the college and the wide range of academic and extracurricular activities it offers. Together with faculty and staff, you have created a vibrant community, where people are encouraged to develop their talents, explore their interests, and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

When you live in a small community, you learn quickly that your actions have a great impact on the people around you, for better or worse. You have opportunities to see how your acts of consideration and thoughtfulness benefit others. And if you act without regard for the needs of others, you cannot walk away from the consequences, because you will see your classmates every day-at breakfast, in class, at the field house, at dinner. I hope this kind of built-in accountability, largely on account of the scale and type of campus this is, has helped you to develop a moral compass that will guide you in the years to come.

Another crucial characteristic of this place is perhaps the most obvious one-the natural beauty that surrounds us. I am sure that all of you have experienced many moments of joy and excitement, just walking to class on a crisp autumn day when the mountains stand out sharply against the cobalt sky, or watching through a window as a winter storm blankets the campus, or observing the first spring flowers burst into bloom-even if spring comes later than you ever imagined and just before you are headed away from campus following your spring semester final exams. These things constantly urge us to get out and explore and engage the world around us. They have inspired wonder, creativity, and a sense of adventure in generations of students. I know you will take that appreciation for the natural world with you wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires.

This environment has been important in shaping the college's development, too. I believe that it has inspired a culture of openness, enthusiasm, intellectual risk-taking, and innovation. To cite just one example, consider Middlebury's role as an environmental leader. In 1965, five Middlebury faculty members from five different disciplines established the first environmental studies major in the nation-before the environmental movement hit college campuses and before interdisciplinary study was in vogue. They viewed the region's forests, fields, lakes, and geologic outcroppings as an ideal heaven-sent laboratory for student and faculty research. They also recognized the threats to that environment, so they created a new way for Middlebury students to engage in the study of their natural surroundings.

Today Middlebury is modeling what it means to take responsibility for one's local community. The College has undertaken many initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment-buying local foods, following sustainable building practices and purchasing local materials and furniture, lowering the temperature in buildings, investigating new technologies like biodiesel and wood-fired heating systems. These ideas and the energy to see them through came from engaged Middlebury staff, faculty, and students, including many of you here today.

All these are perfect examples of how education should work. We ask you to learn about the world around you and then challenge you to use your learning to make a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson once complained, "We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing."

Well, that's not how we do it here. We never wanted to shut you up, literally or metaphorically, and I am confident that you are coming out of Middlebury with much more than a bellyful of words. For that, we thank your professors

One of the great gifts of your four years at this College has been the opportunity to get to know faculty members as committed and caring advisers. Great teachers inspire you by their passionate interest in their fields, enabling you to engage material in a more personal way and to go well beyond the standard lecture. Working with faculty members who are truly committed to teaching gave you the opportunity to delve deeply into your academic subject matter and to find mentors in subjects or pursuits that particularly interested you.

Your professors forced you to learn how to reason effectively and to express your ideas clearly in writing and in speech. They pushed you to articulate your own opinions and to understand the roots of your convictions. They taught you to see across disciplinary boundaries and to understand that there are few absolutes. They prepared you to apply your knowledge, your analytical ability, your curiosity, and your passion to the many issues you will confront in our complex and fractured world. In sharing their own knowledge and their expertise in how to address, address again, and address many more times, unanswered questions and unresolved problems, they taught you perhaps the most valuable lesson of all: learning is a journey that takes your entire life.

That, of course, is one of the great values of a liberal arts education. It readies you to live in a rapidly changing world and deal with anything that life throws your way. The great American patriot and president John Adams, who played many roles in his 90 years, said, "There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living. And the other how to live."

That is what I wish for all of you. That from your Middlebury education you will take with you skills you can apply in virtually any profession tomorrow or in 15 years...but more important, still, is that, from your Middlebury experience, you will have learned how to live....

Finally, this morning, I'd like to comment on the value of being a Feb at Middlebury. Starting your education at mid-year, you took advantage of the time to undertake something valuable, and perhaps even remarkable, before you arrived on campus. Your experiences were as varied as you are. One Feb traveled for two months in a dugout canoe seeking handicrafts and artifacts along the Sepik River in Papua, New Guinea. Others of you trained as emergency medical technicians, attended university in another country, or tested your survival skills in the American wilderness. Some of you held your first full-time, non-summer jobs. Those experiences, no doubt, affected your time at Middlebury and will serve you well time and again in your lives.

Finding your own place at Middlebury is a little more difficult for Febs than for students starting in September. Febs have to jump with both feet into a relatively closed community that is already well into the rhythm of the academic year. A contingent only 121 strong when you began, you found yourselves in the midst of 586 peers who had already spent five months getting to know each other and the campus. You survived that, of course-in fact, you thrived on it. That challenge prompts Febs to bond quickly with one another and to develop the kind of exceptional friendships one can hardly help but notice while attending events like today.

Many curveballs will be thrown at you over the course of what I hope will be a long and fulfilling life. But your four years at Middlebury have given you a powerful array of skills, knowledge, values, and, I am confident, wisdom. It is impossible not to be confident that, just as you successfully parachuted into Middlebury in the dead of winter and the middle of the academic year, you will be successful in parachuting into life beyond this special campus and community.

All of you will soon be facing large and exciting changes. Who will you be, what will you be doing, what will you know five or ten years from now? It will be a thrill-for you and for us-to find out. The next time we see you-perhaps at a reunion in the not-to-distant future-you will be different. So I would like to leave you with an appropriate reflection on change and fulfillment by Robert Frost:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

As you go forth, know that you are ready to face whatever the passing of time may bring and to find fulfillment in it.

Know, too, that, as poet Mordecai Marcus has observed from this poem, Frost, like William Butler Yeats "thinks that man is in love and loves what vanishes." Your Middlebury days may have now vanished, but may your love for those vanished days remain with you and serve you well throughout your lives.

Thank you and best wishes.

February Celebration 2009.5

Remarks by President Ronald Liebowitz
January 30, 2010, Mead Memorial Chapel

Good morning. It's a pleasure to welcome to Mead Chapel all who have come to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2009.5. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today—to help see 101 of you off—as you make your way from college to your next exciting challenge.

Whatever that next venture may be (for those of you who are indeed leaving), you should feel a sense of great accomplishment for all you have achieved while you were here. You should also carry with you great confidence because your time here has prepared you well to meet just about any challenge these dynamic times place before you. I will elaborate a bit on this message in a few minutes, but I want first to give you and your guests here today a brief profile of your class-the class of 2009.5.

* * * * *

There are 101 seniors in today's celebrating class. As I reported last evening, 79 of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs.

There are 47 men and 54 women in your class. Thirteen of you came from—GUESS which state was tops: Massachusetts. Ten came from New York, nine from Vermont, eight from California, and six from New Hampshire. Your class included eight international students, from Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Jamaica, Korea, Latvia, Palestine, and Sweden.

Eleven of you majored in English—the most popular major—with Geography, International Studies, Political Science, and History rounding out the top five majors. Twenty-four of you majored in more than one subject.

More than half of you—53 out of 101—studied abroad, and 82 of you studied a foreign language.

And your academic accomplishments were, well ... Febulous! Included in your class are:

  • three nominees for Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, which provide grants to graduating seniors for a year of independent study and travel outside the United States;
  • a nominee for the Keasbey Scholarship, which supports two years of graduate work at one of four British Universities; and
  • a nominee for the Churchill Scholarship, awarded to outstanding students with "a capacity to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the sciences, engineering, or mathematics."

A number of you distinguished yourselves in scientific studies. Members of this class were selected to give presentations:

  • before the American Chemical Society;
  • at a renewable energy conference in Las Vegas;
  • before the Geological Society of America;
  • and at the International Association of Great Lakes Research.

And two of your classmates had their off-Broadway debuts last summer as actors in the Potomac Theatre Company's highly lauded production of The Europeans at Atlantic Stage 2 in New York.

 

Many in your class have demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteerism and community service. It would be hard to gauge the full extent of your service to the local community and beyond, but here are just a few examples:

  • You played key roles in the MiddVote effort that helped to register a record number of students before last year's national election.
  • You volunteered as mentors to students in many area schools and in the Upward Bound program.
  • You volunteered for service at local organizations like Charter House (a transitional-housing shelter), WomenSafe (which helps abused women and their children), and the United Way.
  • You worked with the student Juntos group, which provides translation, ESL (English as a Second Language) tutoring, and other services to area migrant farmers.
  • You used Middlebury Alternative Break trips to work with farmers in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
  • And you worked on multiple initiatives promoting carbon reduction, alternative energy development, and local food production.

 

Also among you are athletes who have helped Middlebury capture four NESCAC titles and two NCAA championships.

In addition to all of those accomplishments, you are leaving Middlebury an ongoing legacy in MiddBlog, which was created by one of your classmates. About 20,000 people consult MiddBlog every month to find out what's happening, take the alternative college tour—or hear about the administration's latest mishap or lapse in judgment.

Individually and collectively, you have accomplished much in four short years, and we are tremendously proud of you. All of us here today salute you. Congratulations.

* * * * *

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they liked the least, the vast majority would choose February. Said Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, "The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February."

February is the year's "dark predawn"--it's cold and quiet. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which says something about your character. It suggests that you are optimists—a little nonconformist, willing to take risks ... eager, as poet Robert Frost wrote, "to take the road less traveled by."

Those are important characteristics that I think you share with your College. One thing that's always marked Middlebury since its founding is a willingness to do things differently ... to innovate ... to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement of about 400 in the year it was proposed by Gamaliel Painter and some fellow townspeople, has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country largely because like you, it has done things a bit out of the ordinary.

You have many reasons to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, I know we will make you even prouder. Today, we are here to celebrate you and your accomplishments, and to convey all of our warm congratulations and let you know how proud we—the entire College community—are of you.

* * * * *

As you leave Middlebury, it is fitting to ask yourself what it is you will remember most about your time here, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your life post-Middlebury.

As a geographer, I would like to think your answer would be the place itself—the physical environment—that will exert the greatest and most durable influence on you. Who can argue with Wallace Stevens, who wrote, "His soil is man's intelligence." We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that truly matter are carried forever in our hearts and our brains.

The natural beauty that surrounds us here is likely to be one of the things you will remember most about Middlebury. I am sure that many of you have experienced some unexpected moments of joy as you walked to class on one of those spectacular autumn days when the vibrant foliage on the mountains stood out sharply against the blue sky; or walked on that pristine white carpet each morning during J-Term, left by the light snow that seems to fall each night; or seen the multiple shades of green that burst across the landscape in the spring—even if spring most often doesn't show itself until you are about to leave for summer break. And of course, there are the breath-taking views of both the Adirondacks and Green Mountains from the College's Snow Bowl ... soon to be experienced in a slightly different way later this morning. (Freezing, for one!)

These simple things have inspired a sense of adventure and creativity in generations of students who have studied at Middlebury, along with remarkably strong feelings of attachment. I hope you will take with you an appreciation for this corner of the natural world, now firmly rooted in your hearts, wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires.

But when one speaks of "place," one must include the human as well as the physical characteristics of that particular place when considering its overall impact on one's personal development and life.

And when you think back on your Middlebury years, I am sure you'll find that your memories of this place are, more than anything else, linked to its people—your friends, your professors, your teammates, your coaches, staff members, and your acquaintances in town.

Seated around you today are 100 fellow Febs—the real and the converted—many of whom are very likely to be your friends for life. Through the years, they will celebrate your achievements, reach out to you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and always remain close to you.

Friendships like these, which began in the cold and bluster of a Middlebury February, are often intense, especially when they develop in a community that is small and relatively isolated, and where there are few distractions to compete for one's social and intellectual energies. Your time here has helped you develop the kind of relationships that is hard to replicate in any other environment. It has also given you an appreciation for the strength of community, which will no doubt influence how you interrelate with others throughout your lives—in a more personal, caring, and actively engaged manner.

One of the great advantages of attending a small, residential College is the opportunity to work with faculty and staff outside the traditional classroom to make a difference in the life and direction of the institution. And many of you have, and on multiple projects. To cite just one example: the College has undertaken a number of initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment—establishing a campus-wide recycling and composting program, buying local foods, following sustainable building practices, lowering the thermostats in buildings during the heating season, installing a new biomass facility that has reduced our dependency on high-carbon-yielding oil by 50 percent, and committing, nearly three years ago, to be carbon neutral by the year 2016. These ideas and the energy and commitment to see them through came largely from Middlebury students, and have been supported enthusiastically by faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

Beyond the benefits that accrue to the College for this kind of engagement, these initiatives, and many others that involve student volunteer work at and around the College, are perfect examples of how a liberal arts education should work, and why a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life: We ask you to learn about a broad range of subjects in a formal classroom setting, and then we challenge you to use what you learned to make a difference outside that classroom.

Crucial to your successes has been an engaged and dedicated faculty. Collectively, your professors represent one of the true gifts you received during the past four years. Great teachers inspire you by their intense and passionate interest in their fields, which, in turn, motivates you to engage material in a more personal way and to go beyond the standard learning of facts so that you can make important connections and understand the larger world around you.

The true value of your liberal arts education is that it prepares you to live in a rapidly changing world that is likely to get more complex and less predictable in the coming years. The great American patriot and president, John Adams, who played many roles in his long life, said, "There are two types of education, both crucial: One teaches us how to make a living, and the other how to live."

But learning how to live—how to be active and productive citizens and draw satisfaction from life itself—will be different for you than it was for your parents' generation, and even different from those who sat where you are now sitting just a few years ago. The social changes associated with globalization, and now the backlash or reaction to them, will require you to marshal all the skills you have learned at Middlebury to navigate an exciting, but uncertain future.

Over the past two decades, globalization has made the world feel smaller ... brought closer together through the lowering of political, social, financial, and, to some degree, cultural barriers. Transactions now occur as if New York and Hong Kong were neighboring municipalities, and competition for jobs and other opportunities is no longer determined by where people grow up, where they live, or what citizenship they hold. The local has become the global, and global the local. What is happening in China, Europe, and Latin America, or just about anywhere in the world, affects us in this country, even in rural Vermont, as much as or more than what is going on in many parts of the United States.

Though the processes that have led to the so-called "flattening" of the world over the past two decades have not come to a halt, the recent world-wide recession, has added multiple levels of complexity to the already significant changes brought on by globalization. They have resulted in problems whose solutions no two economists can seem to agree on. And no one can tell us why economists did not see this train wreck coming.

The failure of our financial institutions and its impact on the global economy reflect the high level of interdependence and interconnectedness among the world's national economies. Yet, despite this interconnectedness, we have seen separate, often divergent and non-coordinated policies implemented to deal with the financial crisis in many of the world's largest economies: in the U.S., U.K, France, Germany, Japan, and China. We see, and now must adjust to, the power of the individual nation-state to exercise its sovereignty in an attempt to protect its own population, economy, and failed businesses by implementing stimulus packages and rescue plans as if it were 1910 instead of 2010—as if interdependence across national boundaries did not exist.

We must also confront the inefficiencies in our democratic system of governance, or perhaps admit to, and address, the overly politicized nature of our legislative system when it comes to addressing national problems. One need only parse President Obama's state-of-the-union address from earlier this week to see how soon a political mandate could dissipate as goodwill and hope give way to self-interest and fear of compromise. One might note the difference in effectiveness between China's and India's economic stimulus programs, on the one hand, and ours and Europe's, on the other. To be fair, China's and India's economies are centrally planned, and therefore the leadership of those states can direct and dictate the allocation of resources and make investment decisions with little or at least far less concern about domestic politics, political parties, lobbyists, or voter sentiment. Still, the dominance of self-interest and the lack of unity among our political leaders in the face of the country's greatest financial challenge in 80 years, raises serious questions for your generation about our country's changing role in the world—questions we couldn't even imagine just 10 years ago, when the U.S. was the unparalleled and singular economic, military, and political superpower on earth.

You will soon be part of this wider world-a hyper-connected world that is experiencing the after-effects of being perhaps too connected, too soon, and seeing the balance of political and economic power shift before our eyes. Each of you will have to play an important role in that wider, evolving world. And though it is perhaps daunting to think about your next chapter, and how you will participate in all that is going on beyond the hills of Vermont, you should, as I noted earlier, take comfort in the fact that you are well prepared to jump right in. Because of your strong liberal arts background, and your deep appreciation for the power of relationships and community that was honed right here, you are in a great position to make a contribution that matters.

One must be optimistic—at least I am optimistic—because you are part of a generation that, collectively, is pragmatic: far more than any generation I have seen in my 25 years here at Middlebury, you believe in volunteerism, and have shown your desire to get involved.

As you leave this chapter of your lives to become consequential players in solving the large challenges before our country, the best advice I might offer you is rooted in the lessons our faculty conveyed to you by example during your time here: learning is a life-long endeavor ... it never ends. Just as the professors with whom you studied learn more and more each year through their research and teaching, you, too, will learn more and more as you research your way through life's journey.

As you put your intelligence, creativity, and compassion to work for the common good, you will be most effective if you exercise humility. You may think you have all the right answers and have learned how to engage people of all walks of life, but make sure to leave space for the reality that you have lots to learn, and indeed will learn a great amount from others.

Your Middlebury days as students may have come to an end, but may all that you have learned and experienced here serve you well throughout your lives.

We hope your fond memories of your time at this College will remain with you, and that your bond to the College will be forever strong.

And most of all, we hope that over the course of the four years you have spent in this special place, you have learned, in John Adams' words, both, how to make a living, and how to live.

We wish you well, and look forward to welcoming you back to campus often.

Thank you.

February Celebration Address 2008.5

President Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered this address on January 31, 2009.

Good morning. It’s a pleasure to welcome, once again, all who have come to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2008.5 to Mead Chapel. I am delighted to have the opportunity to address you today—to help see many of you off—as you make your way from college to the next phase of your life.

Whatever the next phase may be for those of you who are indeed leaving, you should feel a sense of great accomplishment for all you have achieved in the past four years. You should also carry with you a great font of confidence because your time here has prepared you well to meet virtually any challenge these dynamic, and near-unprecedented times place before you. I will elaborate a bit on this message in a few minutes, but I want first to give you and your guests here today a brief profile of the class of 2008.5.

There are 123 in today’s celebrating class. Ninety-two (92) of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs, meaning there are 31 “regs” among you who have either accelerated or slowed down your studies to become “Febs”—a label that, many of us have learned, is as proudly worn by the Feb converts as it is by those who actually began their studies in February.

English was the most popular major in your class—10 of you majored in English, with geography, history, economics, and psychology rounding out the five most popular fields of study. Nineteen of you majored in a foreign language; 31 of you studied abroad, and several more went overseas before you began your studies at Middlebury.

More of you call Massachusetts home than any other state, followed by New York, Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut. Five of you have identified yourselves as international students, one each from Burma, Jamaica, Palestine, Kenya, and Turkey, and five more claim an attachment of one sort or another with Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, and Singapore.

As I mentioned last evening, the creative spirit of the Class of 2008.5 was evident to us from the very beginning. One of your classmates won the annual Beucher Concerto Competition the first week he set foot on campus.

Some of your classmates have played leading roles in theatre productions, including “Twelfth Night,” “Talking with Cinders,” and “The Heidi Chronicles,” and one had a significant role with the Potomac Theatre Project in New York this past summer. Another conducted the Middlebury College Orchestra performance of “Finlandia” this fall.

Nine of you participated in the annual student research symposium, and one Feb won the 2008 Doll Award from the Vermont Geological Society for the best student paper presentation. Another won an “Excellence in the Visual Arts” Award from the Friends of the Art Museum last spring, recognizing her significant contributions to the visual arts community. And one of your Feb classmates will take her training in art history abroad, after winning a competitive internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Not bad!

In athletics, too, you have excelled. Members of your class played on 20 varsity and club sports teams during their time at Middlebury. One of your classmates won the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association’s Guy Tedesco Award, awarded to the New England College Player of the Year.

Many in your class demonstrated a strong commitment to volunteerism and community service. Two of the 10 Public Service Leadership Awards presented this past spring by the Alliance for Civic Engagement went to members of the Class of 2008.5, and one of your classmates received the seventh annual Vermont Student Citizen Award for his efforts at the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes.

It would be hard to gauge the full extent of your service to the local community and beyond. Some of you have served on the local fire department and rescue squad, collaborated with environmental community partner Ecologia on corporate social responsibility, or led the Middlebury Alternative Break Trip for leader service to Zion National Park. Still others were active with the Roosevelt Institution, the national network of campus-based student think tanks, or served as an inspirational speaker for College for Every Student, a nonprofit that promotes early college awareness for at-risk students. And two students from the class of 2008.5 were Shepherd Poverty Alliance interns, which engaged them in work with children in Baltimore’s inner city and in social services in Virginia.

We are enormously proud of you. All of us here today salute you for your accomplishments. Congratulations.

* * * * *

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they liked the least, the vast majority would choose February. As Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, said, “The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”

February is the year’s dark predawn—it’s cold and quiet. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which says something about your character. It suggests that you are optimists—maybe a little nonconformist, willing to take risks … eager, as poet Robert Frost wrote, “to take the road less traveled by.”

Those are important characteristics that I think you share with your College. One thing that’s always marked Middlebury since its founding is a willingness to do things differently … to innovate … to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country—indeed in the world—largely because, like you, it has done things a bit out of the ordinary.

You have many reasons to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, I know we will make you even prouder. I am equally confident that all of you will continue to make your College—and parents—proud.

* * * * *

As you leave Middlebury, it is fitting to ask yourself what it is you will remember most about your time here, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your life post-Middlebury.

As a geographer, I would like to think it will be the place itself—the physical environment—that will exert the greatest and most durable influence on you. I agree with Wallace Stevens, who wrote: “His soil is man’s intelligence.” And it is hard to argue with Stevens: We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that truly matter are carried in our hearts as well as our brains forever.

The natural beauty that surrounds us here is likely to be one of the things you will remember most about Middlebury. I am sure that many of you have experienced some unexpected moments of joy as you walked to class on one of those spectacular autumn days when the vibrant foliage on the mountains stands out sharply against the blue sky; or walking on that pristine white carpet across campus each morning during J-Term, left by the light snow that seems to fall each night; or seeing the multiple shades of green that burst across the landscape in the spring—even if spring doesn’t show itself until you are packing to leave for summer break. And of course, there are the breathtaking views of both the Adirondacks and Green Mountains from the College’s Snow Bowl … soon to be experienced in a slightly different way this afternoon.

These simple things have inspired a sense of adventure and creativity in generations of students who have studied at Middlebury, along with remarkably strong feelings of attachment. I hope you will take with you an appreciation for this corner of the natural world wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires, and retain your ties to this College.

But when one speaks of “place,” one needs to include the human as well as the physical characteristics of that particular place when considering its overall impact on one’s life.

And when you think back on your Middlebury years, I am sure you’ll find that your memories of this place are, more than anything else, linked to its people—your friends, your professors, your teammates, your coaches, staff members, and your acquaintances in town.

Seated around you today are 122 fellow Febs—the real and the converted—many of whom are very likely to be your friends for life. Through the years, they will celebrate your achievements, reach out to you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and always remain close to you.

Friendships like these, which began in the cold and bluster of a Middlebury February, are often intense, especially when they develop in a community that is small and relatively isolated, and where there are few distractions to compete for one’s social and intellectual energies. Your four years here have helped you develop the kind of relationships that is hard to replicate in another environment. They have also given you an appreciation for the strength of community, which will influence how you engage and interrelate with others throughout your lives: in a more personal, caring, and actively engaged manner.

One of the great advantages of attending a small, residential College is the opportunity to work with faculty and staff outside the traditional classroom to make a difference in the life and direction of the institution. And many of you have, on multiple projects. To cite just one example: the College has undertaken many initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment—buying local foods, following sustainable building practices, purchasing local materials, lowering the thermostats in buildings during the heating season, installing a new biomass facility that will reduce our dependency on high-carbon-yielding oil by 50 percent, and committing, now 20 months ago, to be carbon neutral by the year 2016. These ideas and the energy and commitment to see them through came largely from Middlebury students, and have been supported enthusiastically by faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

Beyond the benefits that accrue to the College for this kind of engagement, these initiatives, and many others that involve student volunteer work at and around the College, are perfect examples of how a liberal arts education should work, and why a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life: we ask you to learn about a broad range of subjects in a formal classroom setting and then we challenge you to use what you learned to make a difference outside that classroom.

Crucial to our and your success is an engaged and dedicated faculty. Collectively, your professors represent one of the true gifts of your four years at this College. Great teachers inspire you by their intense and passionate interest in their fields, which, in turn, motivates you to engage material in a more personal way and to go beyond the standard learning of facts so that you can make important connections and understand the larger world around you.

The value of your liberal arts education is that it prepares you to live in a rapidly changing world that is likely to get more complex and less predictable in the coming years. The great American patriot and President John Adams, who played many roles in his long life, said, “There are two types of education, both crucial: one teaches us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”

But learning how to live—how to be active and productive citizens and draw satisfaction from life itself, will be different for you than it was for your parents’ generation, and even different from those who sat where you are now sitting just one year ago. The processes of globalization, and now the backlash or reaction to globalization, will require you to marshal all the skills you have learned at Middlebury to navigate an exciting, but uncertain future.

Over the past 20 years, globalization made the world feel smaller, brought closer together through the lowering of political, social, financial, and, to some degree, cultural barriers. Transactions occurred as if New York and Hong Kong were neighboring municipalities, and competition for jobs and other opportunities was no longer determined by where people grew up, where they lived, or what citizenship they held. The local had become the global, and global the local. What was happening in China, Europe, and Latin America, or just about anywhere in the world, affected us in this country, even in rural Vermont, as much as what was going on in many parts of the United States.

Though the processes that led to the so-called “flattening of the world” over the past two decades have not come to a halt, the worldwide financial meltdown of the past eight months has added multiple levels of complexity to the already significant changes brought on by globalization. They have resulted in problems whose solutions no two economists can seem to agree on, let alone explain why nobody, including all the economists, could see this train wreck coming.

The failure of our financial institutions and its impact on the global economy reflect the high level of interdependence and interconnectedness among the world’s national economies. Yet, despite this interconnectedness, we see separate and even divergent strategies and policies being implemented to deal with the financial crisis in many of the world’s largest economies: the U.S., U.K, France, Germany, Japan, and China. We see, and now must adjust to, or re-adjust to, the power of the individual nation-state to exercise its sovereignty and protect its own population, economy, and failed businesses by implementing stimulus packages and rescue plans as if it were 1909 instead of 2009.

You will soon be part of this wider world—a hyper-connected world now experiencing the aftereffects of being perhaps too connected too soon and facing the most challenging economic circumstances in almost a century. At the same time, each of you will have an opportunity to play an important role in that wider world.

And though it is perhaps daunting to think about your next chapter and how you will participate in all that is going on beyond the hills of Vermont, you should, as I noted earlier, take comfort in the fact that you are well prepared to jump right in. Because of your strong liberal arts background, and your deep appreciation for the power of relationships and community that was honed right here, you are in a great position to make a contribution that matters.

And you of course are not alone. President Obama, in his inspiring inaugural address, asked all of us to be part of the solution to the mega-challenges we face as a nation. One can’t help but feel optimistic that those challenges will be met, not only because such a wide swath of the political spectrum is willing to give support to our new leadership in Washington … or because of that new leadership’s commitment to bring together the disparate elements of our country and the world community. One must be optimistic, too, because you are part of a generation that, collectively, is pragmatic, believes in volunteerism, and has shown its desire to get involved. And I am confident that you, in particular, will make a difference.

The best advice I could offer as you answer our new president’s call to be consequential players in solving the large challenges before our country is rooted in the lessons our faculty conveyed to you by example during the past four years: learning is a lifelong endeavor ... it never ends. Just as the professors with whom you studied learn more and more each year through their research and teaching, you, too, will learn more and more as you research your way through life’s journey.

As you put your intelligence, creativity, and good will to work for the common good, remember to exercise humility. You may think you have all the right answers and know how to engage people of all walks of life, but make sure to leave space for the reality that you have lots to learn, and can—indeed will—learn a great amount from others.

Your Middlebury days as students may have come to an end, but may all you have learned and experienced here serve you well throughout your lives.

We hope your fond memories of the days here stay with you, and that your bond to the College remains forever strong.

And most of all, we hope that over the course of your four years in this special place, you have learned, in Adams’ words, how to make a living, and how to live.

We wish you well, and look forward to welcoming you back to campus often.

Thank you.

February Celebration Address 2006.5

President Ronald D. Liebowitz delivered this address on February 3, 2007.

I am delighted to welcome all the guests who have come today to help us celebrate the achievements of the 115 or so soon-to-be alumni of this College. I am honored to have the opportunity to address you, the class of 2006.5, as each of you makes your way from Middlebury to the next phase of your life. Whatever that next phase may be, you should know, as I surely do, that your time here has prepared you well to meet virtually any challenge these dynamic times throw your way. More on that in a few moments, but first I wanted to give you a quick summary of who you are, collectively - aside, of course, from being the brightest, best looking, and most engaged class in the 207 history of Middlebury College!

There are 115 of you in today's celebrating class. 89 of you actually began your Middlebury careers as Febs, meaning there are 26 "regs" who have either accelerated or slowed down their studies to become Febs. Thirty-two of you double-majored, and more of you majored in English than any other discipline, with Economics, Environmental Studies, International Studies, and Political Science rounding out the most popular five fields of study.

Fifty eight of you studied abroad-that is 50 percent of the group- and several more went abroad between your high school graduation and beginning your studies at Middlebury. More of you call Massachusetts home than any other state, with Vermont, New York, and California close behind, and six of you are international students.

But much more than mere numbers, you represent an incredibly talented group-as talented as any Feb group on record-and all of us here today salute you for your accomplishments. Congratulations.

If you took a poll of Vermonters and asked which month they like the least, I think the vast majority would choose February. As Joseph Wood Krutch, one of the great literary naturalists of the early 20th century, said, "The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February." February is the year's dark pre-dawn-it's cold and quiet and too soon to be up and doing. But most of you came to Middlebury in February, which must say something about your character. It suggests that you are, at the least, optimists-maybe a little nonconformist, innovative...eager, as poet Robert Frost says, "to take the road less traveled by."

Those are characteristics that I think you share with your College. Something that's always marked Middlebury is a willingness to do things differently, to innovate, to take a calculated risk in order to accomplish something extraordinary. That has worked well for us. A College that began as an experiment in an out-of-the-way farming settlement has developed into one of the leading liberal arts institutions in the country. You have good reason to be proud to be a Middlebury graduate, and, over time, we will make you even prouder.

When you leave Middlebury, what will you remember most, and what part of your college experience will make the greatest difference in your future life? As a geographer, I suspect you'll find that it is the place itself that exerts the greatest and most durable influence. I agree with Wallace Stevens, who wrote: "His soil is man's intelligence." We learn from our environment, and the places that teach us things that matter are carried in our hearts forever.

By "place," I should add, I mean, as geographers do, the human as well as the physical characteristics of a location. When you think back on your Middlebury years, you'll find that your memories of this place are inextricably linked to its people-your professors, your friends, your teammates ...

Look around you. Here in this chapel are 115 friends who will, in a sense, always be with you. Through the years they will celebrate your achievements, help you when you stumble, share your joys and disappointments, and somehow always remain close, even when you are widely separated by time and space. Those friendships began in the cold and bluster of your first winter at Middlebury. Friendships grow strong in this climate and place; relationships are often more intense in a community that is small and somewhat sequestered, where there are fewer distractions to dissipate your social and intellectual energies.

The scale and relative isolation of this town and campus have enabled you to participate more fully in the life of the college and the wide range of academic and extracurricular activities it offers. Together with faculty and staff, you have created a vibrant community, where people are encouraged to develop their talents, explore their interests, and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

When you live in a small community, you learn quickly that your actions have a great impact on the people around you, for better or worse. You have opportunities to see how your acts of consideration and thoughtfulness benefit others. And if you act without regard for the needs of others, you cannot walk away from the consequences, because you will see your classmates every day-at breakfast, in class, at the field house, at dinner. I hope this kind of built-in accountability, largely on account of the scale and type of campus this is, has helped you to develop a moral compass that will guide you in the years to come.

Another crucial characteristic of this place is perhaps the most obvious one-the natural beauty that surrounds us. I am sure that all of you have experienced many moments of joy and excitement, just walking to class on a crisp autumn day when the mountains stand out sharply against the cobalt sky, or watching through a window as a winter storm blankets the campus, or observing the first spring flowers burst into bloom-even if spring comes later than you ever imagined and just before you are headed away from campus following your spring semester final exams. These things constantly urge us to get out and explore and engage the world around us. They have inspired wonder, creativity, and a sense of adventure in generations of students. I know you will take that appreciation for the natural world with you wherever you go, along with the sense of wonder that it inspires.

This environment has been important in shaping the college's development, too. I believe that it has inspired a culture of openness, enthusiasm, intellectual risk-taking, and innovation. To cite just one example, consider Middlebury's role as an environmental leader. In 1965, five Middlebury faculty members from five different disciplines established the first environmental studies major in the nation-before the environmental movement hit college campuses and before interdisciplinary study was in vogue. They viewed the region's forests, fields, lakes, and geologic outcroppings as an ideal heaven-sent laboratory for student and faculty research. They also recognized the threats to that environment, so they created a new way for Middlebury students to engage in the study of their natural surroundings.

Today Middlebury is modeling what it means to take responsibility for one's local community. The College has undertaken many initiatives to minimize its impact on the environment-buying local foods, following sustainable building practices and purchasing local materials and furniture, lowering the temperature in buildings, investigating new technologies like biodiesel and wood-fired heating systems. These ideas and the energy to see them through came from engaged Middlebury staff, faculty, and students, including many of you here today.

All these are perfect examples of how education should work. We ask you to learn about the world around you and then challenge you to use your learning to make a difference. Ralph Waldo Emerson once complained, "We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing."

Well, that's not how we do it here. We never wanted to shut you up, literally or metaphorically, and I am confident that you are coming out of Middlebury with much more than a bellyful of words. For that, we thank your professors

One of the great gifts of your four years at this College has been the opportunity to get to know faculty members as committed and caring advisers. Great teachers inspire you by their passionate interest in their fields, enabling you to engage material in a more personal way and to go well beyond the standard lecture. Working with faculty members who are truly committed to teaching gave you the opportunity to delve deeply into your academic subject matter and to find mentors in subjects or pursuits that particularly interested you.

Your professors forced you to learn how to reason effectively and to express your ideas clearly in writing and in speech. They pushed you to articulate your own opinions and to understand the roots of your convictions. They taught you to see across disciplinary boundaries and to understand that there are few absolutes. They prepared you to apply your knowledge, your analytical ability, your curiosity, and your passion to the many issues you will confront in our complex and fractured world. In sharing their own knowledge and their expertise in how to address, address again, and address many more times, unanswered questions and unresolved problems, they taught you perhaps the most valuable lesson of all: learning is a journey that takes your entire life.

That, of course, is one of the great values of a liberal arts education. It readies you to live in a rapidly changing world and deal with anything that life throws your way. The great American patriot and president John Adams, who played many roles in his 90 years, said, "There are two types of education. One should teach us how to make a living. And the other how to live."

That is what I wish for all of you. That from your Middlebury education you will take with you skills you can apply in virtually any profession tomorrow or in 15 years...but more important, still, is that, from your Middlebury experience, you will have learned how to live....

Finally, this morning, I'd like to comment on the value of being a Feb at Middlebury. Starting your education at mid-year, you took advantage of the time to undertake something valuable, and perhaps even remarkable, before you arrived on campus. Your experiences were as varied as you are. One Feb traveled for two months in a dugout canoe seeking handicrafts and artifacts along the Sepik River in Papua, New Guinea. Others of you trained as emergency medical technicians, attended university in another country, or tested your survival skills in the American wilderness. Some of you held your first full-time, non-summer jobs. Those experiences, no doubt, affected your time at Middlebury and will serve you well time and again in your lives.

Finding your own place at Middlebury is a little more difficult for Febs than for students starting in September. Febs have to jump with both feet into a relatively closed community that is already well into the rhythm of the academic year. A contingent only 121 strong when you began, you found yourselves in the midst of 586 peers who had already spent five months getting to know each other and the campus. You survived that, of course-in fact, you thrived on it. That challenge prompts Febs to bond quickly with one another and to develop the kind of exceptional friendships one can hardly help but notice while attending events like today.

Many curveballs will be thrown at you over the course of what I hope will be a long and fulfilling life. But your four years at Middlebury have given you a powerful array of skills, knowledge, values, and, I am confident, wisdom. It is impossible not to be confident that, just as you successfully parachuted into Middlebury in the dead of winter and the middle of the academic year, you will be successful in parachuting into life beyond this special campus and community.

All of you will soon be facing large and exciting changes. Who will you be, what will you be doing, what will you know five or ten years from now? It will be a thrill-for you and for us-to find out. The next time we see you-perhaps at a reunion in the not-to-distant future-you will be different. So I would like to leave you with an appropriate reflection on change and fulfillment by Robert Frost:

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

As you go forth, know that you are ready to face whatever the passing of time may bring and to find fulfillment in it.

Know, too, that, as poet Mordecai Marcus has observed from this poem, Frost, like William Butler Yeats "thinks that man is in love and loves what vanishes." Your Middlebury days may have now vanished, but may your love for those vanished days remain with you and serve you well throughout your lives.

Thank you and best wishes.

February Celebration 2014.5
January 3031, 2015

For the final, printable schedule and information for 2014.5's Feb Celebration, please click here.

Due to the very cold weather expected on Saturday, January 31, we strongly encourage both skiers and spectators to dress warmly. Please wear good quality socks, appropriate layers of non-cotton materials, face masks, neck warmers, and warm hats and gloves. Do not have exposed skin.

Discover highlights from last year's 2013.5 Feb Celebration, including videos, a slideshow, and photo galleries that you can download free of charge!

Each winter, the College hosts an unusual, yet traditional Middlebury ceremony for its "Febs." The February Celebration, so-called because most participating students began their Middlebury careers as "Febs" or February first-years, allows all these seniors to make their way down the trails at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, in their caps and gowns. Many ski or snowboard down the mountain, while others walk or snowshoe, as their friends and family below cheer them on. It’s a wonderful sight to behold!

The weekend of the celebration will offer several events on campus for friends, family and the students, who are also welcome to return in May to receive their diplomas during Commencement. The weekend begins on Friday evening with a speaker and reception with hors d’oeuvres and beverages. On Saturday morning, President Liebowitz will address the members of the senior class and their guests in Mead Memorial Chapel. The ski procession at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl will take place following convocation in Mead Chapel. A casual lunch for families will be served back on campus after the ski down.

Immediate family members ski free on the Friday before Feb Celebration but they do pay full price for equipment rentals. The students pay a $5 rental set up fee and they can ski free for one day during the week of Feb Celebration.

A student committee organizes most of the non-official festivities and they will begin their planning sessions in late October. What follows is the schedule for February Celebration 2014.5. Please check back to this website for more details as we get closer to the celebration. If you have any questions, please contact Lyn DeGraff at ldegraff@middlebury.edu

Please note: The Friday night program will be videotaped, as will the Saturday morning speakers. Grad Images will be on hand to take individual photos of each student as he/she receives the Gamaliel Painter cane and shakes hands with the president. They will also have candid pictures at the Snow Bowl and they will be taking a  class picture right after the ski down.  The audio/video pieces will be posted on this Web site and all parents will receive information on how to purchase photos from Grad Images.

If you would like to purchase graduation items, please visit the College Bookstore website.

Students do not receive their actual diplomas at Feb Celebration as grades are not finalized until March. Many students choose to come back in May for Commencement and they can receive diplomas at that time. If they choose not to walk in May, their diplomas will be mailed to them.