MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Middlebury has named five recipients of the 2022 Virtue Family Exceptional Service Awards, in recognition of the many varied contributions of faculty and staff at Middlebury. The awards are presented annually to faculty and staff.

The 2022 Virtue Family Exceptional Service Award recipients are as follows:

  • Ashley Arrocha, Associate Dean of Student Services and Alternate Human Relations Officer at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies
  • Peggy Burns, Executive Director, Center for Careers and Internships
  • Rebekah Irwin, Director and Curator, Special Collections
  • Antonia Losano, Professor of English
  • Eamon McMahon, Scientific Machinist

“The Virtue Awards celebrate the deep sense of community that defines Middlebury, and these individuals have consistently put students first,” said Middlebury President Laurie Patton. “Each and every one of them shares their talents with students in ways that far exceed the usual job expectations. Through their work, they enhance our community.”

Established in 2017 by Ted ’82 and Dani Shaw Virtue ’82, P’10, ’15, the award traditionally recognizes individuals 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. Each year, faculty, staff, and students of the College, Institute, Language Schools, Schools Abroad, Bread Loaf School of English, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences are encouraged to submit nominations for this award. A committee of faculty and staff reviewed 33 nominations.

Below is additional information about each of the recipients:

Ashley Arrocha
Ashley Arrocha

Ashley Arrocha, associate dean of Student Services and alternate human relations officer at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, began working at the Institute in 1997. Since then, Ashley has held different positions, including in recruitment, admissions, enrollment, and student services. Nominators noted that Ashley’s priority is always to put students’ interests first, helping them to navigate their academics and their personal lives. One colleague, who recognized Ashley’s commitment to students and their needs, said, “Ashley is the person who literally drives across town, day or night, to go visit these students—many of whom are international with no family nearby—to ensure they know the Institute cares and is there for them.” Another nominator said, “Ashley is a phenomenal colleague, spirited student advocate, and steadfast administrator.” Ashley’s responsibilities include managing the Student Conduct Judicial Board and supporting the TimelyCare and Green Dot Personal Violence Prevention programs—work that requires long hours, attention to detail, and big-picture thinking. Ashley does this, a nominator said, “all the while marshaling considerable creativity to adapt to changing conditions and to address unexpected challenges.”

Peggy Burns
Peggy Burns

Peggy Burns, executive director of the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI), arrived at Middlebury in 2003 and has also worked at the Center for Community Engagement (CCE). Peggy collaborates with partners across campus to help students achieve their professional goals. She is steadfast in her dedication to supporting her staff, including career and student peer advisors as they support CCI’s mission. Peggy is steadily expanding what it means to be “work ready” and “world ready” for Middlebury students, noted one nominator. “She has built partnerships with local and global employers and made experiential learning accessible for students by creating funded and for-credit opportunities.” Peggy helps raise and administer significant funds for student internships. She launched MiddWorks for Vermont to increase interest among students in living and working in Vermont, while contributing to Vermont’s workforce needs. Peggy has championed work in conflict transformation—helping to design and deliver a trek to Washington, D.C., last spring and identifying and funding student internships addressing conflict transformation. Peggy helped found Midd2Midd, which brings students and alumni together for mentorship and community building. As one nominator said, “Peggy is always the first to volunteer, to ask questions, and point out that students are the heart of Middlebury.”

Rebekah Irwin
Rebekah Irwin

Rebekah Irwin, director and curator of Special Collections, manages the book and manuscript collections, College archives, digital projects initiatives, and the conservation and preservation of Middlebury’s library collections. In her 11 years at Middlebury, Rebekah has built Special Collections into a robust and valuable resource for students and faculty. Noted by many as an enthusiastic resource and partner in research, one nominator said, “Rebekah has made archival research at Middlebury a fascinating exploration for students, one that they do not forget. They immediately look past the ‘assignment’ aspect of their visit, and they get sucked into the process of discovery and inquiry. Rebekah and her team make it easy and meaningful for student after student to have that authentic, hands-on learning experience.” Rebekah also cofounded and serves as associate director of The Twilight Project, a three-year program that seeks to engage the College community in learning about the history of exclusion and marginalization at Middlebury. In 2021, Special Collections had its largest attendance of faculty and students, including many who visited as a class for a particular course. According to one nominator, “She has turned it into one of our institution’s most dynamic academic resources.”

Antonia Losano
Antonia Losano

Antonia Losano, professor of English, joined the English and American Literatures Department in 1999 and teaches courses in 19th-century literature, literary theory, gender studies, mystery fiction, animals in literature, and the intersections of literature and the visual arts. Colleagues described the positive impact of Antonia’s work as a Posse mentor, department chair, and academic advisor, and how she has gone far beyond what is expected in these roles. “Antonia’s teaching has long been legendary among students,” one nominator said. “She fires her students’ interests in art and the life of the mind. She also gives of herself generously as an advisor, to the extent to which many Middlebury students and graduates come to look upon her as a mentor.” Antonia is a committed participant in the New York City Posse Program and stepped up to serve as chair of the English Department when a colleague unexpectedly stepped down. “Communities thrive because of selfless individuals who give freely of their enormous generosity and talent—without any expectation of reward,” said a colleague, adding that Antonia shows “unfailing empathy, kindness, generosity of soul, and willingness to listen to those who need to be heard.”

Eamon McMahon
Eamon McMahon

Eamon McMahon is a scientific machinist on the Sciences Technical Support Services staff. Since he started in 2018, Eamon has worked with student and faculty researchers to design and build apparatuses that aid and support their varied and unique work. “Eamon always goes above and beyond in his commitment to enhance the student experience at Middlebury,” said one nominator. “It seems that every faculty member in Bi Hall whom I talk to has a story about how Eamon saved their research program or greatly enhanced their classes through something he was able to help them with.” Described as enthusiastic, thoughtful, and a lifelong learner and problem solver, he has helped build temperature-controlled coral tanks capable of simulating heat stress events, motorcycles that run on compressed air, and artificial streams inside of what used to be a janitorial closet to support student thesis projects. “His enthusiasm for taking literal back-of-the-napkin sketches and turning them into functioning equipment is boundless,” one colleague noted. “He is an incredible asset to Middlebury.”

Learn more about the Virtue Family Exceptional Service Award and past winners.