Announcements, News

Laurie L. Patton
President Laurie L. Patton

Middlebury President Laurie L. Patton has announced she will be leaving Middlebury in January 2025 to become president of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Patton took office on July 1, 2015, and has served as the institution’s 17th president, and is the first woman to hold the position since Middlebury’s founding in 1800.

Middlebury is a global educational institution comprising undergraduate and graduate schools and programs in Vermont, California, and dozens of locations around the world: Middlebury College, Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Middlebury Language Schools, Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad, Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, and Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences. Middlebury prepares students to lead engaged, consequential, and creative lives; contribute to their communities; and address the world’s most challenging problems through an immersive curriculum that stresses working across intellectual, geographical, and cultural borders.

In a letter released today, Patton said, “Middlebury is a community I love and admire, and it has become home. Even more, it has taught me a great deal about the work of our democracy and the common good. It seemed right for me to continue that work at a national level with the scholars, artists, writers, lawmakers, and businesspeople who are thought leaders in the Academy and the world.”

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences was created in 1780 by John Adams and John Hancock, among others, to “convene leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world … and cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” Its current membership includes Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and former U.S. presidents. 

Middlebury Board Chair Ted Truscott in a letter to the Middlebury community said that trustees, who are charged with naming the next president, will begin the work of creating a timetable, logistics for the transition, and the composition of the committee to find Patton’s successor. “The most important responsibility of any governing board is to select the right person to lead the institution,” Truscott said. “The search will be an accelerated one and focus on both the continuity of Middlebury values and preeminent qualities of leadership.” He emphasized that the effort will be inclusive and involve stakeholders from across the institution.

About Patton’s new appointment, Truscott said, “This is an extraordinary honor for Laurie—and for Middlebury.”

Message From President Laurie Patton

Dear Members of the Middlebury Community,

I know there are many important conversations taking place on our campus right now, and we remain focused on the critical issues facing us here and in the world. We are hopeful and connected in our work together. 

At the same time, I need to share news that has been developing over the past several months and that is now official. I write today to tell you that in January 2025, I’ll be leaving Middlebury to become president of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. This has been a difficult deliberation for me. Middlebury is a community I love and admire, and it has become home. Even more, it has taught me a great deal about the work of our democracy and the common good. In the end, it seemed right for me to continue that work at a national level with the scholars, artists, writers, lawmakers, and businesspeople who are thought leaders in the Academy and in the world. 

By this January, we will have worked together for almost ten years. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished on behalf of this institution, one of the most extraordinary in America. 

Thanks to our collective efforts, Middlebury is thriving. We have faced challenges we never dreamed of with courage and hope. We’ve overcome everyday obstacles with patience and care for one another. Our faculty has grown, and our curriculum has increased in its offerings. Our students, faculty, and staff are more socio-economically and ethnically diverse than ever before. We’ve seen record numbers of applicants as well as record numbers in fundraising. We have a new academic swing building on Shannon Street and a significant renovation and reimagining of the Johnson Building, a new residence hall for graduate students in Monterey, and a first-year residence hall taking shape on Battell Beach, with more of our buildings accessible according to principles of universal design. Our athletic and artistic communities are flourishing. And we’re one of the top environmental leaders in higher education in the country. We’re also building new traditions—at the Knoll, our Language Schools, our Schools Abroad, at Bread Loaf, and in our programs in Monterey.

Still, what I appreciate most are the less visible and deeper moments: The second when a student understands something in a classroom or lab that changes their life. The alums who return, proud to see a campus whose beauty they recognize but which has also adapted to a new century. Our growing capacity to work and live across ideological, intellectual, and personal differences, providing an example for others of the slow, necessary work of building community. 

I have no words to describe my gratitude for and joy about Middlebury, and who we have become together in the world.

While I’ll be leaving the presidency of Middlebury, we’ll remain in the Middlebury and Addison County community at our house in Shoreham. Shalom will retire in 2025 and will teach at Bread Loaf, and I’ll commute to the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Over the next eight months, I look forward to working with you and the board to solidify our accomplishments and make it possible for others to continue them in their own way. We are indeed growing into what I hoped for at my inauguration: To have more and better arguments, with greater respect, stronger resilience, and deeper wisdom. 

Yours cordially, 

Laurie L. Patton

Letter from Board Chair Ted Truscott

To Middlebury’s Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Parents, and Friends, 

You heard from Laurie today about her plans to assume the presidency of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in January 2025. I want to take this opportunity to communicate with you on behalf of the Board of Trustees.

This is an extraordinary honor for Laurie—and for Middlebury. The Academy was created in 1780 by John Adams and John Hancock, among others, to “convene leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world … and cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” Its current membership includes Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners and former U.S. presidents. Its mission, as Laurie said in her letter, is in so many ways aligned with our own and an extension of Laurie’s leadership here.

We understand how news of this kind can create uncertainty. We’ll be in touch with you in the coming weeks to let you know our timetable and logistics for the transition, as well as the composition of the committee to find Laurie’s successor. 

The search for a new president will be an inclusive effort and involve members from across our entire learning community. We’ll be as transparent as possible about the search process, recognizing there are obvious issues of confidentiality in an effort of this kind. And we’ll communicate with you regularly throughout.

The most important responsibility of any governing board is to select the right person to lead the institution, and we want to assure you this is the highest priority for me and all our trustees. The search will be an accelerated one and will focus on both the continuity of Middlebury values and preeminent qualities of leadership. We will be looking for a new president to build on the achievements of the past decade and take us to new heights. Our conversations and reflections throughout the search process will be steeped in the mission and character of this exceptional place: Our shared commitment to immersive learning; our shared goal of preparing students to lead engaged, consequential, and creative lives; our shared expectation that our students will contribute to their communities and apply their Middlebury educations in a world that needs them.

Because those are the ideals embedded in our mission, those are the principles that will anchor us in our search.

As Laurie said in her letter, she will be fully engaged as president until her departure, so now is not the time for reflecting on Laurie’s tenure at Middlebury. We’ll have ample time for that, which means celebrating the achievements that we all have made together, as a community, during this significant era in Middlebury’s history. For now, we look forward to engaging with you in this most important effort and will be back in touch soon.

With appreciation,

William F. (Ted) Truscott
Board Chair

Middlebury Achievements During the Patton Presidency

Patton’s tenure at Middlebury has been both foundational and transformational. In the nearly 10 years she has led the institution, she and her team worked to strengthen the base of a liberal arts and sciences education. 

Following is a summary of accomplishments:

Access. Under Patton’s leadership, Middlebury’s commitment to access for all who qualify increased significantly, in some cases almost doubling. At the College, the number of first-generation students is now consistently over 20 percent; international students admitted this year are around 14 percent; and domestic students of color are nearly 40 percent. Today, more students are being funded by Middlebury than ever before, with an average of almost 50 percent receiving financial aid. The College’s applicant pool has recently seen its three highest record years of applications. Enrollments in the summer Language Schools also saw three record-high years. 

Academics and Athletics. The College has grown its faculty, gained significant grant and foundation support for research, and substantially increased funding for powerful pedagogical practices like problem-based learning, public humanities at the newly formed Axinn Center for the Humanities, and inclusive pedagogy in the STEM fields. In 2019 the NECHE accreditation committee praised the institution for its leadership in integrating experiential learning in the classroom. Patton also strongly supported Middlebury’s entrepreneurship programs, including the recent endowment of the Elizabeth Robinson ’83 Innovation Hub, and has increased internship funding to $1 million annually. Faculty approved a new Black Studies Program, a statistics major, and a food studies minor. A 13th school, the School of Abenaki, was added to the summer Language Schools, and Middlebury established two new schools abroad, in Puerto Rico and Taiwan. Under Patton’s leadership, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey developed its first online degree programs and has begun a major collaboration with Academic Partnerships to launch more master’s degree offerings online. Her tenure has seen numerous NESCAC and NCAA athletic championships, including three NCAA championships for women’s teams during the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

Finances. Patton strengthened Middlebury’s financial practices by tackling a structural deficit in place upon her arrival. She and her team have returned $38 million to the budget and created practices of open communication and financial transparency. This has allowed the institution to keep staff and faculty salaries in line with a competitive higher education market. During her time at Middlebury, the endowment has increased from just under $1 billion to $1.6 billion. Last fall, Patton launched the public phase of “For Every Future: The Campaign for Middlebury,” and fundraising is currently running a year ahead of schedule, achieving $440 million of its $600 million goal to date. The past three years have seen the largest fundraising totals in Middlebury’s history. The campaign priorities are based in the community-wide strategic planning process that Patton introduced—Envisioning Middlebury—which involved the contributions and insights of thousands of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and trustees.

Energy2028. In 2019, Patton’s presidency unveiled Energy2028, Middlebury’s plan to address the threat of climate change after achieving carbon neutrality in 2016. In addition to divestment from fossil fuels, Energy2028 has put the institution on the path toward a complete shift to renewable energy by 2028 and is well on its way to achieving its goals. A partnership with Vanguard Renewables, Vermont Gas, Goodrich Farm, and the State of Vermont has created a biodigester that is pumping renewable fuel to the College’s campus. Middlebury has also completed a 30-acre solar array in Vermont to power much of its electricity needs.

Conflict Transformation. In 2022, under Patton’s leadership, Middlebury received a $25 million grant to create the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation, the institution’s largest programmatic grant ever. The initiative views the study and development of conflict transformation skills as a liberal art, supporting wide-ranging initiatives in high school, undergraduate, graduate, global, and experiential pedagogy where students learn and practice different approaches to conflict management and resolution. This work has involved more than 100 faculty and staff and hundreds of students on Middlebury’s Vermont and Monterey campuses.  Patton has written and spoken extensively on the relationship between freedom of inquiry and expression and the resolution of conflict.

Dialogue. Patton has worked constantly to create better communication between trustees, staff, faculty, and students through both formal and informal channels. Two new trustee committees have formed under her leadership: the External Relations Committee and the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Governance. Patton’s commitment to shared governance also empowered faculty to create new committees, including the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and to reinvigorate older standing committees to engage in collaborative planning with the administration. 

Pandemic. A most significant part of Patton’s work was ensuring the safety of the community during the COVID pandemic. In the most difficult years, between 2020 and 2022, her team worked with students, faculty, and staff to open its doors as early as fall 2020, and to maintain wellness measures while ensuring a vibrant and cohesive living-learning community.

Town-Gown. Patton has deeply understood the historical roots of Middlebury as “The Town’s College,” and has supported local change accordingly. Early in her tenure, the College Park was completed. In addition to funding several smaller internships and annual town-gown events with local partners, her team has worked with Addison County partners to double the size of area childcare facilities and to create 250 new housing units in downtown Middlebury that will open in 2025.

Infrastructure. Under Patton’s leadership, the institution’s physical campuses have also been transformed. In Vermont, the Munroe and Warner Buildings and Dana Auditorium were refurbished largely according to the principles of universal design. The Johnson Building has been completely renovated—housing vibrant programs in Studio Arts and Architectural Studies and hosting a state-of-the-art maker space. A new first-year residence hall is under construction to open in fall 2025 to replace Battell Hall, and a new art museum will take shape at the center of campus. The Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey opened its first residence hall for graduate students in 2021. 

Laurie Patton Bio

Laurie L. Patton is the 17th president of Middlebury and is the first woman to lead the institution in its 224-year history. Patton joined Middlebury in 2015 after serving as dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and as the Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion. Patton is an authority on South Asian history, culture, and religion, and religion in the public square. She is the author or editor of 10 books and more than 60 articles and has translated the classical Sanskrit text The Bhagavad Gita. She is also the author of three books of poems, most recently House Crossing in 2018 from Station Hill Press. From 1996 to 2011, Patton served on the faculty and administration at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and the inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the Office of the Provost. Patton began her career at Bard College as assistant professor of Asian religions from 1991 to 1996. She earned a BA from Harvard University in 1983 and PhD from the University of Chicago in 1991. She served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion in 2011, and the American Academy of Religion in 2019. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2018.

About Middlebury

Middlebury is an undergraduate college; graduate school for international studies; home for immersive language study; graduate school for the study of literature, literacy, and pedagogy; leader of schools abroad sites that span the globe; and home to the oldest, most prestigious writers’ conference in the world. Middlebury prepares students to address the world’s most challenging problems by engaging them in the life of the mind and soul. 

Middlebury College. The cornerstone of the institution, the undergraduate College was founded in 1800 and is grounded in the liberal arts and sciences. From September until June, the Vermont campus is the exclusive domain of 2,700 undergraduates, who have more than 850 courses in 45 majors to choose from. With a 9:1 student-faculty ratio, the College is a close-knit, residential community, yet one with a global outlook; more than half the junior class chooses to study abroad. Middlebury College’s graduates go on to lead enriched and meaningful lives, with education, technology, financial services, and arts, media, and communications among the top career fields for recent grads. 

Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Founded in 1955 as the Monterey Institute for Foreign Studies, the Institute became an official graduate school of Middlebury in 2010. With degree programs that are increasingly relevant in today’s world, students gain key skills in international fields like environmental policy, public administration, language teaching, translation and interpretation, terrorism and nonproliferation, and international policy and development. Faculty, students, and a global network of alumni actively address some of the most critical issues of our time. The Institute also oversees several renowned research and program centers including the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies; the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism; the Center for the Blue Economy; and the Center for Conflict Studies.

Middlebury Language Schools. Since 1915, when the German School opened to 47 students seeking an immersive approach to language learning, the Middlebury Language Schools have grown in number, scope, and prestige. Each summer, the 13 language programs enroll more than 1,500 students who work closely with leading faculty from around the globe. The Middlebury Language Pledge® remains the cornerstone of the experience, and the benefits of this immersive approach have global impact. Through diplomacy, politics, education, defense, commerce, finance, and humanitarian efforts, Language School graduates help connect people with a common language and a shared cultural footing.

Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad. The Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad offer an authentic cultural experience for students to immerse themselves fully in the host language and country. With 38 sites in 17 countries, students can find the place and program that best suits their interests. Guided independence is a foundational concept, encouraging students to engage with their communities, take on internships, and make personal and lifelong discoveries.

Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English. Founded in 1920, Bread Loaf School of English is a six-week summer graduate program with locations in Vermont, California, and Oxford. The master’s degree program is designed specifically for K-12 English and language arts teachers, and students work closely with some of the finest faculty in the fields of literature, creative writing, literacy and pedagogy, and theater arts.

Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences. The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, founded in 1926, is known as one of the finest of its kind in the country. Its programs are designed with small-group workshops scheduled among readings and lectures. Some of the world’s most notable writers and translators come each summer as faculty and often return year after year.