MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – The conclusion of Middlebury College’s winter term on Feb. 1 signaled the start of a two-day celebration for the 95 seniors who had just completed their undergraduate careers.

The college’s “Febs” — so called because the majority of them started their college careers four years ago in February — will earn their bachelor of arts degrees from Middlebury upon the official completion of their academic requirements on March 1.

Text of President Liebowitz’s remarks
Text of student speaker Ben Orbison’s remarks

The congratulatory weekend for the mid-year graduates began with a gala reception on Feb. 1 hosted by President Ronald D. Liebowitz for the seniors, their families and their friends in the Mahaney Center for the Arts. Guest speaker Jay Parini, the Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing, advised the Feb class to connect with intelligent and well-motivated people throughout their lives, and to always work hard “just as you’ve done over the past four years.”

“Nobody sails through Middlebury without focus, dedication, as well as considerable talent and intelligence,” Parini said. “Now comes the hard part, which is to make something of what you’ve learned here.”

Watch the ski down from a Feb’s eye view:

On the morning of Feb. 2 the “Febs” and their guests gathered in Mead Chapel for the annual February Celebration Ceremony. After the students processed into the chapel in their academic regalia, President Ronald D. Liebowitz addressed the gathering. A member of the Feb class, Ben Orbison, was the student speaker. In addition, Marna Whittington, chair of the board of trustees, and Suzanne Daley, a member of the Class of 1996 and president of the alumni association, handed a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane to each of the seniors.

Orbison, the student speaker, said that “being a Feb” means taking ownership of your own path in life and choosing to be uncommon. “That extra semester forces us to make active decisions instead of passive ones…we chose to get off that academic treadmill and breathe.”

President Ron Liebowitz addresses the midyear graduates in Mead Chapel.
Each graduate receives a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane.
Febs enjoy the lift ride up at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl before the ski down.

There’s a good reason that Febs hold a disproportionate number of leadership positions at Middlebury, Orbison observed. “It’s because when the desire to fit in is denied, we are forced to change, to grow and adapt. We were forced to ask ourselves, ‘What do I want?’ instead of ‘What’s next?’ It’s the same question we are all asking ourselves right now. And as we make those important decisions, let’s…take the lessons we learned when we first got here and apply them to everything we do moving forward.”

It being February in Vermont, most of the gathering next went from Mead Chapel to the Middlebury College Snow Bowl where the celebration climaxed in the traditional “ski down the mountain” in caps and gowns.

Under partly cloudy skies and with temperatures in the teens, members of the Feb class – often referred to as the Class of 2012.5 – skied or snowboarded down the Cameron Trail at high noon. Due to the conditions on the Allen Trail, where the ski down usually takes place, the spectacle was moved to Cameron.

From the most experienced skiers and riders to the rank beginners in the class, the all-inclusive ski down at the Snow Bowl is one of Middlebury’s most cherished traditions, and 2013’s event was no exception.

The classmates had one final opportunity to exchange hugs, say goodbye and wish each other good luck at the family luncheon back on campus in Proctor Dining Hall. Now it’s on to internships, travel, jobs, graduate school, or job-hunting for the Feb class, and every member is invited back in the spring to participate in the formal commencement exercises on May 26, 2013.


Written by Robert Keren

Photos by Todd Balfour