President Patton presents the Citizen’s Award to State Rep. Betty Nuovo.

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton presented the Bonnie and John McCardell Citizen’s Awards for outstanding community service to State Representative Betty A. Nuovo (D-Middlebury) and posthumously to David M. Sears, the Cornwall public servant and voice of Middlebury College athletic teams.

Middlebury honors local citizens for exemplary community service, volunteerism, and engagement with community issues in a tradition that dates to the College’s bicentennial year in 2000. Nominations come from members of the community, and a committee of faculty and staff makes the final selections. All recipients of the Citizen’s Award receive a pewter medallion struck at Danforth Pewterers of Middlebury.

The presentations were made at a celebratory dinner for the current and past recipients of the award on October 5, 2016, at the president’s house at 3 South Street. Betty Nuovo was accompanied by her husband, Victor Nuovo, the Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of Philosophy. The award honoring the late David Sears was presented by President Patton to his wife, Susan, and daughters Megan and Alexandra.

Betty A. Nuovo, a graduate of Bucknell University, was originally a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Michigan. After moving to Vermont in the early 1960s, her interest in politics bloomed, first with the League of Women Voters and later with state government in Montpelier. She studied the law, passed the bar exam in 1974, and was a practicing attorney for 22 years.

Lauded by President Patton as “a groundbreaker who changed the legal and political landscape of Vermont,” Nuovo was one of the first 100 women lawyers in the state who, when she ran for the State House and won in 1980, became the first representative from Addison County to be elected as a Democrat. She has served a total of 30 years in the Vermont House, during which she sponsored the state’s first hate-crime bill and worked tirelessly on behalf of education, water quality, health care, women’s rights, and for the protection of survivors of sexual abuse.

Alexandra (left) and Megan Sears accepted the Citizen’s Award from President Patton on behalf of their father.

David M. Sears, a lifelong resident of Cornwall, passed away suddenly in July 2015 after a medical episode. His absence stunned the region since Sears was a fixture in the Cornwall Fire Department and Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association, and at community gatherings, athletic events, and local eateries. Lovingly called “the voice” for his resonant baritone, Sears was the public address announcer for the College’s men’s ice hockey team and women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams. He also was the radio announcer for the Middlebury Union High School varsity football team and other teams.

A 35-year member of the Cornwall Fire Department who rose to the rank of captain, the 1977 MUHS graduate was selfless in his service to others. He was a member of the Cornwall Selectboard and was in the middle of his second three-year term on the board when he died. In addition to his community service, President Patton honored him for his “copious enthusiasm, devotion, and energy” for his wife and two daughters, who attended the dinner and accepted the Citizen’s Award on his behalf.

This year’s recipients of the McCardell Citizen’s Awards join 62 other area residents who have been so honored by Middlebury College presidents since the College’s bicentennial.

Past and present recipients of the Bonnie and John McCardell Citizen’s Awards for outstanding community service gathered with President Patton at the close of the evening’s program.

– Photography by Todd Balfour