The Franklin family were all on hand to attend the dedication.  From left to right standing: Lindsey ‘07, Churchill ‘71, Janet ‘72, Gordon Halstead, Chip ‘02, and John Franklin. Seated are Virginia Carpenter Halstead ‘43 and Katie ‘05. Photo by Tad Merrick.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - At a dedication ceremony on Friday, May 23, Middlebury College’s environmental center was renamed the Janet Halstead Franklin ‘72 and Churchill G. Franklin ‘71 Environmental Center at Hillcrest. The afternoon event took place in the Orchard, the lecture hall on the first floor of the center. A reception followed the half-hour ceremony.

The dedication included remarks from Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz, who recognized the Franklins for their longtime service and commitment to Middlebury, and noted the importance the environmental center has for the college. “It is a reflection of our determination to incorporate environmental stewardship into every part of our curriculum and all of our practices on campus,” said Liebowitz.

The center was named for the Franklins to honor their support of environmental initiatives and programming at Middlebury.  Inspired by Middlebury students’ engagement in environmental issues and the college’s environmental studies program - the oldest undergraduate environmental studies program in the country - the Franklins created the Franklin Family Fund for Environmental Leadership. The fund has two purposes at the college: to further Middlebury’s commitment to environmental leadership and to provide academic program support. The Franklins’ daughter, Lindsey Franklin, a member of the Middlebury class of 2007, was an environmental studies major. Their son Chip and their daughter Katie are also Middlebury graduates from the classes of 2002 and 2005 respectively.

Observing environmental studies majors and their families who were present, Dean of Environmental Affairs Nan Jenks-Jay said, “I’m sure that means a lot to Mr. and Mrs. Franklin, because students are both the inspiration for and the beneficiaries of their support for our environmental and sustainability programs.” Jenks-Jay also noted the history and popularity of the environmental studies program at Middlebury and the sustainable construction used in the building’s renovation.

Stafford Professor of Public Policy, Political Science and Environmental Studies Chris Klyza commented on the impact of the facility on learning, and senior Katie Flagg expressed appreciation for the buiding from the perspective of a student. The Franklins spoke as well. Referring to his concern for the future and the college’s environmental role, Churchill Franklin said, “Middlebury stands at the crossroads of raising a generation of stewards that will make a difference in saving the planet, and our youth represent our greatest hope to do that.” Janet Franklin recalled that her mother, Virginia Carpenter Halstead, a member of the Middlebury class of 1943, had lived in Hillcrest during her first year as a student.

Churchill Franklin is executive vice president and co-founder of Acadian Asset Management, a Boston-based global investment management firm. He is also a 1971 graduate of Middlebury College. A longtime volunteer for the college, Churchill was elected to Middlebury’s board of trustees in 1989, and served as chair of the board from 2000 to 2004. He became an emeritus trustee in 2005.  

A 1972 graduate of Middlebury, Janet Franklin worked in the college’s office of alumni relations upon her graduation. She has been an active supporter of Middlebury for many years as a fundraiser, host of alumni events, reunion organizer, alumni admissions volunteer and career counselor. In her local community, she has served in a number of volunteer roles, including as a member of the board for the Concord Museum in Massachusetts. She currently works for Skinner, Inc., a Massachusetts-based antiques auction house and appraiser.

Built in 1875, the original Italianate-style Vermont farmhouse, known as Hillcrest, was acquired by the college in 1919 and used as a student residence until the 1980s, at which time it was converted into faculty offices, seminar rooms and student apartments.

Renovations to the building were completed in June 2007 and events during homecoming weekend last October marked the center’s opening. The facility provides a new permanent home for the college’s environmental studies program and office of environmental affairs. More than 50 faculty members teach courses and supervise projects in Middlebury’s environmental studies program.

Rather than construct a new building for its environmental programs, the college created a model of resource and energy efficiency through the adaptive reuse of the original facility. The college sourced numerous materials locally, including slate for floors and roofs, stone for the foundation and stone walls from the town of Panton, granite from Barre and Forest Stewardship

Council certified hardwood trim and flooring from college-owned forests and Vermont Family Forests land. Vermont furniture makers were commissioned to construct office desks, chairs, tables and study carrels made from local sources, most of which were also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

More information about the building and its environmental features is available here.