June 19, 2020: Acknowledging Juneteenth

June 19, 2020


Dear Members of the Middlebury Community,

We write today with several acknowledgments. First, we want to recognize the historical importance of Juneteenth as a celebration of liberation within the Black community, commemorating the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on June 19, 1865. This is a liberation both too long denied and that should have never been required.

Second, even though Juneteenth has a deep and vibrant history in America, it has been erased both in our culture and in our institutions. On behalf of Middlebury, we write to institutionally acknowledge Juneteenth for the first time, and in doing so take accountability for Middlebury’s participation in the relationship between this kind of erasure and systemic racism. The truths of our histories as well as our present days are both deeply entrenched in racism.

We also write today to reaffirm our commitment to anti-racist practice and to advancing anti-racist initiatives that are concrete and intentional and that will allow us to engage in transformational work on our campuses. The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has been working on a five-year strategic plan, and we are in the process of engaging key stakeholders—including students, staff, and faculty—to ensure that our strategies are anti-racist in both intent and impact.

Finally, as part of that work, I want to share the news that Middlebury has received a $500,000 gift that will help us to advance anti-racist initiatives on all our campuses. While the donor wishes to remain anonymous, we will apply the funds toward addressing systemic racism in keeping with the donor’s previous philanthropic efforts. While the resources, people, and time we need to continue this work are substantial, this fund will position us to implement this work across Middlebury in a sustainable way and to be accountable for its results. We are particularly excited that this gift will allow us to bolster our undergraduate Black Studies Program as it begins its second year. 

We will be reaching out to members of our community to think through potential action items. A deep thank you to all students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have already committed to helping us identify our next steps, and who will take part in the ongoing efforts to put the plan into action. We are greatly looking forward to working with you.


Yours cordially,

Laurie Patton

Miguel Fernandez
Chief Diversity Officer, Middlebury College 

Renee Wells
Educator for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Pushpa Iyer
Chief Diversity Officer, Middlebury Institute


Office of the President

Old Chapel
9 Old Chapel Road
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753