Wei Liang, a faculty member at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey, is a winner of the 2019 Virtue Family Exceptional Service Award. Photo: Randy Tunnell

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – President Laurie Patton announced that Bill Hegman, GIS specialist and teaching fellow in the Geography Department; Wei Liang, professor and co-chair, International Trade and Economic Diplomacy Program; and Tim Parsons, landscape horticulturist, are 2019 recipients of the Virtue Family Exceptional Service Awards. The three winners join two other winners who were announced over the summer—Dixie Goswami, longtime Bread Loaf School of English faculty member and founder of the Bread Loaf Teacher Network, and Sheila Schwaneflugel assistant director of the Betty Ashbury Jones MA ’86 School of French.

Established in 2017 by Ted ’82 and Dani Shaw Virtue ’82, the $10,000 cash awards recognize faculty and staff who have gone above and beyond their normal professional responsibilities to support and connect with students in ways that build a more engaged and inclusive Middlebury community. The three winners were selected from a group of nominees forwarded to a selection committee by faculty, staff, and students at the College.

Bill Hegman, Photo: Todd Balfour

Bill Hegman has been working with unfailing humor and energy for Middlebury since 1999, said Patton. As the GIS specialist in the Geography Department, he has supported thousands of students as they navigate their way through spatial sciences and GIS technology.

“To a person, his nominators cited his sincere interest in students; his unflagging encouragement that helps them succeed; his expansive office hours, when he will tackle any problem or discussion, no matter how long it takes; his help in organizing internships; his technological wizardry; and his joy in making life more fun—whether that’s by organizing a scavenger hunt up Snake Mountain, making homemade ice cream for a department gathering, or mounting student work on the walls in Bi Hall,” said Patton.

Nominators described Hegman as the “departmental shepherd,” the department’s institutional memory, and someone who flies under the radar but without whom “we would be truly lost.”

A nominator noted that this summer when the department moved, “Bill went even further above and beyond his call of duty when he spent his summer almost single-handedly moving the department from the third to the sixth floor.”

A student nominator said, “Bill’s patience and care for others is astounding and has made geography majors out of people who otherwise would have dropped GIS 0120. My career and interests for the rest of my life have changed because of Bill, and I cannot thank him enough.”

Wei Liang, Photo: Randy Tunnell

Wei Liang joined the MIIS faculty in 2007. Her research and teaching have concentrated on the governance of the national and world economies—how foreign economic policy is made domestically and why governments and international organizations do what they do in international economic relations. She has conducted field research in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States in order to learn directly from the policy practitioners.

“Wei has been instrumental in linking the Institute and the College in a truly creative way,” said Patton. “During the summers, Wei leads a group of MIIS and Middlebury College students on a dynamic experiential-learning trip to China. For those participants who may not have the necessary Chinese language skills, she also brings along Institute translation and interpretation students, who can practice their interpretation skills while the other students observe professional language skills in action. There are opportunities for students to work in teams of both MIIS graduate students and College undergraduates so they can learn from one another.”

One nominator noted: “Wei thinks not only about the curricular experiences—which are truly excellent—but also about many other details. She is incredibly caring and willing to stay up with students all night to solve any problems that arise. She is amazingly dedicated to the student experience.”

Tim Parsons, Photo: Todd Balfour

Tim Parsons has been the landscape horticulturist at Middlebury since 2006. His infectious enthusiasm for Middlebury’s landscape has transformed the campus community into a hub of tree enthusiasts.

“Not only is Tim responsible for the maintenance of the College’s urban forest, landscape design and installation, and management of the turf athletic fields, he is an integral member of many essential committees, and he serves tirelessly as president of Community Council,” said Patton.

Nominators described Parsons as an advocate and enthusiastic spokesperson for Middlebury’s trees who is always happy to work with faculty and students. He has helped students studying plant biology, teaching them about the trees on campus, tree-health assessment skills, census techniques to survey flora, and tree mapping. He has taught a well-received winter term course about trees in the urban forest.

Ted Virtue ’82 and Dani Shaw Virtue ’82 established the award to honor those whose exceptional work has helped build a more engaged and inclusive Middlebury community. Photo: Todd Balfour

Parsons may be best known for his campus tree walks, which introduce groups to the campus environment in a new way. A student nominator said of the tree walk: “I have never looked at the landscape of the school the same. The diversity and abundance are truly spectacular, and each tree is rich with a history that is now woven into my experience here at the College.”

Another said, “I have found that many Middlebury students I speak to share fond stories of Tim. When I talk with my friends who attend other institutions, they can’t even name their own horticulturists.”

Another spoke about a talk Parsons had organized: “We perambulated around until it got dark, soaking up every word Tim had to say. When we eventually split, students from their first semester to their super-senior fall agreed that it ranked among their favorite events at Middlebury.”

Previous award winners are profiled on the Virtue Family Exceptional Service website.