Middlebury Senior Celebration

This year, many of our annual traditions have been canceled or postponed, perhaps none more significant than our Commencement ceremonies.

While we’re planning to hold a full, in-person Commencement at some point in the future, we’ve celebrated and honored the accomplishments of the Class of 2020 with our online Senior Celebration.

This event was livestreamed on Sunday, May 24, at 2:00 p.m. EDT. We invite you to view the recording below.

2020 Middlebury College Senior Celebration

- ♪ Mountains towering again ♪ ♪ In your mind ♪ ♪ Aren’t they the hardest ones to climb ♪ ♪ Darlin’ look how far we’ve come ♪ ♪ Simply by taking it one step at a time ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh, I want you to know ♪ ♪ You’re not in this on your own ♪ ♪ Oh because darling ♪ ♪ I would never let you go ♪ ♪ Oh, oh, oh, and I’m willing to lose ♪ ♪ Anything if I have you ♪ ♪ Darling no matter what it takes ♪ ♪ We’ll make it through ♪ ♪ Oh don’t be afraid my dear ♪ ♪ Cause I’m not going anywhere ♪ ♪ You know that I’ll be there for you ♪ ♪ No matter what it takes ♪ ♪ We’ll make it through ♪

- Gather us all. Now are we gathered, more now than here, because of a spring interrupted. A senior year, split between gathering here and gathering now. We’re privileged to be able to hold a remote celebration. Come place into time. We invoke you, carillon bell in lofty Mead Chapel. Sunny beach of Battell. Oh, Gifford and Hadley. Le Chateau and Adirondack View. The Knoll with its gardens, labyrinth, and firewood oven. Proctor and Ross and Atwater and Weybridge House Dining. Bi Hall and Mahaney. Old Stone Mill and Old Chapel. Meeker, Munford, Axinn, and Davis. Nelson Rec Center. Kenyon Ice Arena. Pepin Gym, Dragone Track, and Alumni Stadium. Red Kelly Trail and Ralph Myhre. These are the places our bodies communed, put on pause by a virus, though our hearts stayed in tune. We gather now virtually, recalling the place and inhale it in time even now. May we celebrate all that this experience has brought us. Friendships and mentors, learning and discovery, challenge and insight. We’ve gained so much as part of this education. In the remarkable response to this moment as well, families have taken students back in, tried to support them in their learning in unusual and deeply challenging circumstances even as they struggle with their own commitments and responses to the COVID-19 crisis. We owe them and so many a debt of gratitude as partners in education. We, along with them, have also known loss. We pause to recognize those who are providing the essential services in the face of a horrific global pandemic, some who have been lost to the virus. This class over the years has also known loss. We’re especially full in this moment with love for the memories of Thibault Lannoy and Will Nash. And though not in this class, but a friend to so many, Eric Masinter. Let us pause and remember them. Our hearts embrace their families and loved ones from afar as though near. And we would be remiss if we did not also say to all of our Muslim students and their families, our faculty and staff who are celebrating Eid al-Fitr, the conclusion of Ramadan, we wish you a joyous and meaningful holiday, Eid Mubarak. With all of that taken together, let this be a celebration of what you seniors of Middlebury College have helped to create, to conjure this place and these times that you’ve shared. I’m Mark Orten, dean of spiritual and religious life. Congratulations, seniors. In this, the end, is your beginning. May it be so. And now, President Patton will bring greetings. President Patton.

- Hello, and greetings from the field where many of you have walked, watched games, watched sunsets and sunrises. I’ve met many of you here. It’s also the field where many of you would have gathered the night before you graduated. Later on, that same morning, I would have greeted you in the town with the dogs, Padma and Suka, while you were having breakfast. And so, they’re here with me today too. It’s great to be together again. Ever since you left campus, it hasn’t been the same. You bring life to this place, and your lives here will forever be a part of Middlebury’s legacy and its history. Your education is the reason why we exist, and we’re so glad that each of you has been part of this institution’s life of learning and teaching. Physically, you’ll visit this place again. We’re sure of this. But know for now, in this spring, where our campus has more echoes than voices, that your energy and creativity linger here and your presence is felt. Your presence has been missed, and we look forward to being with you again. But now, you’re scattered across the globe. From dramatic locations and really challenging circumstances, you have pushed through and finished your degree. And we look forward to the day when we can commemorate that with you in person. Middlebury’s history is filled with the overcoming of tough circumstances. Gamaliel Painter, whose cane you would have received today, struggled for decades of his later life with a loss of all three of his children- two sons, Samuel and Joseph, and a daughter, Abby Victoria- as well as his second wife, Victoria. Some might say that he channeled that grief into the founding of Middlebury College. And more than a century later, in 1918, Middlebury lost several students to the Spanish influenza when Vermont was hit hard. And yet, after the war, this community found a way to thrive again, and we will too. The way I think about it, we are dispersed yet dynamic, we are closed yet connected. And today, this is our way to acknowledge the dynamism of your achievements and to remember the connectedness of your time here. Today we celebrate your hard work and the wonderful memories and the lifelong friendships that you have forged that will most certainly last your whole lives long. We will also celebrate you at an in-person Commencement in the year ahead. And I wanna let you know before anyone else who your Commencement speaker is and who will be receiving honorary degrees on that special day. You and they are in good company. Our honorary degree recipients are Judge Allison Burroughs, Middlebury Class of 1983, appointed to the federal bench by President Barack Obama; Marta Casals Istomin, renowned cellist and former artistic director of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Kimberly Collins Parizeau, Middlebury Class of 1979, former chair of the Middlebury Board of Trustees, entrepreneur, and advocate for educational equity; and Ernie Parizeau, a leader and educator in the field of entrepreneurship, and, at Middlebury, a professor of the practice. We look forward to seeing them and you in person. And now, your Commencement speaker, Jason Collins. Jason is the former NBA star, human rights activist, one of the first major athletes to come out as openly gay, and the recipient of numerous honors, from the Matthew Shepard Foundation to the National Civil Rights Museum, for making a difference in the lives of others. I’m happy to tell you that Jason has a message for you, which we’ll hear later in the ceremony. I wanna thank all of those who have worked so hard to finish this year as we have and all those who have worked to create this special moment in advance of our regular Commencement. This is a testament to the tenacity and flexibility and creativity of our College community. To all of you. Coming up in this remote celebration we’ll hear from your provost, Jeff Cason, and the dean of the College, Baishakhi Taylor, as well as your student body president, Varsha Vijayakumar, and members of the Senior Class Committee. Let me take a moment to thank Varsha and the rest of the committee now. Emily Kerstein, Jack Litowitz, Julia Sinton, Olivia Reed, Sandhya Sewnauth, Steph Miller, Catherine Blayze, and Vanessa Young. They’ve done amazing work on short notice on this wonderful celebration. They’ll introduce a video that members of your class have put together. We’re all really excited to see it. They’ll also explain a little about the gift box that you should’ve received by now and prepare you for the conferral of your degree that I’ll make at the end of this celebration. Let me now turn it over to Jeff Cason, professor of international studies and provost of the College, for his own words of celebration. Right now, we may have more echoes than voices on the campus, but I know the sounds of you greeting each other again are not far off. We’ll see you again soon. My deepest congratulations.

- Hello, seniors. And greetings to you and to all of your families and friends who are joining us in this moment. It is exciting to share this moment of virtual celebration even as we anticipate seeing you again in person as soon as it is possible. Now, on behalf of your faculty, congratulations on your extraordinary achievement. Not only have you successfully navigated these last four years, but in this last semester together, we have undertaken some of the most extraordinary shifts in pedagogy imaginable. In order to continue our teaching and learning, you have adapted along with us. Indeed, these last few months have been as extraordinary for us as they have been for you. And we will always remember you for it. We are so grateful for your patience and endurance as you have made exceptional adjustments to fulfill assignments and demonstrate your learning. We have done our very best to live up to our highest ideals as teachers and mentors, while each of you has risen to the challenge of being a student in this great class. For a successful career as undergraduates at Middlebury overall, we extend our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations. And for all the good things to come in your futures, we send you with our best wishes. Stay well until we see you again. And now, here’s Baishakhi.

- Class of 2020, congratulations, you did it. Four incredible years, and amidst a pandemic, you did it. I distinctly remember the Sunday evening in September 2016 when I met many of you for the first time in Mead Chapel at Convocation. Your journey here at Middlebury, like you, has been unique. In your four years, your class navigated some of the most memorable and challenging moments on campus. Maybe these moments, in hindsight, foreshadowed that your last semester would be also very different. You will always be a special and unique class, to graduate like no other class has graduated before. You’re also starting your adventure after Middlebury in the same unique way, like no class has started before you. While the current challenges are very present in our minds, and our hearts go out to those providing support and care to fellow humans all across the world in fighting the COVID-19 crisis, I don’t want you to forget the opportunities that lie in front of you. I hope the past four years and this historic last semester will forever allow each one of you to have both important and wonderful stories to tell. We are sure that these years will continue to live in your own memories as you draw on these experiences for all the things your life will bring. I have learned so much from your class, from dreaming about a new student center, to more vegan cheesecake options in the dining halls, to engaging in serious discussion about how we live up to our commitments to one another as a learning community, working alongside you on significant initiatives and changes, and trying to make this place as accountable and inclusive as it can be. I am truly grateful to each one of you for everything you have done for me and at this institution. I am also leaving Middlebury with you. Your class is the last class I will see graduate. It has been a pleasure to be a part of your experience, and I’m so happy that I get to now wish you all the best as we celebrate your time here as students. Middlebury will always be your special place. Class of 2020, you are unique. So I want to say my farewell to you in the words of Toni Morrison. “Nobody has the exact memory that you have. “What is now known is not all “what you are capable of knowing. “You are your own stories and therefore free.” Good luck, and congratulations again.

- Hey seniors, wherever you are in the world. My name is Varsha, and you may know me as a classmate, a friend, or your outgoing SGA president. I don’t think any of us would have thought for even a second that our senior year would be as tumultuous and as dramatic as it has been. But I wanted to take a moment to recognize the fact that we’ve made it. If you had a chance to read my love letter to our class in the “Campus,” you’ll know that I’ve spent quite a lot of time thinking about our resilience. Some of us have lost family members and close friends to the virus, some of us are struggling to adjust to this new reality of social distancing, and yet others feel like the future ahead seems very uncertain. All of these feelings are real and true. And sometimes they make it difficult to celebrate and take pride in our accomplishments guilt-free. But I want to ask you to try. Today marks the culmination of an entire lifetime of academic achievement. It’s not hyperbole when I say that ever single member of our class has shaped Middlebury in some way. And Middlebury, in turn, has shaped us. I remember giving a speech to first-years back in September at their Convocation, and I told them that I keep a framed copy of my acceptance letter wherever I live. It’s currently sitting in a box somewhere back at Midd, collecting dust. But I’m realizing that regardless of where that piece of paper is, it represents the beginning of a beautiful, long-lasting relationship. The connection was tested and strengthened over these past couple of years, but it doesn’t die with our graduation. Middlebury will always be something that defines us just as we define it. So first-generation students, students of color, those of you that switched your majors a million times, low-income peers, athletes whose seasons got cut short, and everybody in between, congratulations on reaching this milestone. Congratulations on taking every challenge head-on and beating the odds. You know we’re going down in Middlebury history, right? Class of COVID-19, 2019.75, whatever you want to call it, we really did it. I hope you take the rest of today to unabashedly celebrate yourself. You deserve it.

- Hi, seniors. We are so proud to be the leaders of your Senior Committee. We have truly enjoyed the privilege of planning and attending all of the memorable class events throughout the year, as well as organizing the fundraising drive for the class gift. As we reach this incredibly important milestone today, in an unexpected way, we wanted to ensure that it remains as memorable and celebratory as possible.

- Normally, seniors would mark this occasion with the weeklong celebration of Senior Week, culminating in a day of wearing our caps and gowns. Though we can’t recreate these iconic moments, we wanted to ensure that all seniors are able to have some fun today. In the senior gift box each of you received, you’ll find a Class of 2020 baseball cap representing your cap, and a Middlebury blanket representing your gown. Until we can celebrate together in person, we hope these will be a playful way to commemorate this special occasion. We invite you to photograph yourself in your “cap and gown” and share with us using the hashtag #MiddSeniorCelebration.

- The Senior Committee has worked hard and had a lot of fun planning all of the events earlier this year as well as the gift boxes, but we could not have done it alone. Our Senior Committee staff advisors, Erin Goodrich, Tiffany Elias, and Tammy Grant, have supported us throughout the year. Also, these gift boxes would not have been possible without the hard work of Valerie Costello, Rick Carlson, and Patty Murray in Printing and Mailing. Finally, we owe a huge thank you to Forth ‘N Goal in Middlebury for helping us produce these gift boxes so that each of us could have a little piece of Midd while we are all away from campus.

- Speaking of Middlebury and our time on campus, we’ve had a pretty memorable four years. We’ve seen Midd go through quite a few significant events, including the last-ever town chili fest and our first student-run chili fest, multiple national and NESCAC championship titles for different sports teams, the first-ever Snow Bowl Pond Skim, Nocturne, Sean Kingston, Lil Uzi, Quinn XCII, and Joey Bada$$, the no-swipe dining halls, TBT, the creation of Student and Faculty Emergency Funds, and now, this online Senior Celebration.

- In just a minute, there will be a chance for you to share some of your own memories during a video montage. What are some of your personal highlights from the last four years? What are these photos and videos evoke in you? How we remember Middlebury and take it with you wherever you’re headed next. Post your favorite Midd moments using the hashtag #MiddSeniorCelebration, and they will be reposted as part of a greater Middlebury media collage for everyone to enjoy. Recording for this celebration will also be available to you all later should you wish to come back and experience these memories again.

- While the onset of the pandemic and shift to remote learning have certainly been unforgettable features of our time at Middlebury, there are so many other aspects that define our incredibly rich experiences as students. As you’ll see in just a minute, our time at college was filled with so much more. We made lasting friendships, created art, conducted experiments, asked and answered questions, and maybe even danced on a table or two. Some of us learned new skills like speaking a foreign language, cooking, knitting, or perhaps even skiing. We mentored and taught schoolchildren in town. We sang in choirs and played instruments. We took to fields, courts, tracks, pools, and lakes to compete for our school and ourselves. We explored Vermont, took spontaneous trips, and had late-night conversations. Most importantly, we became the people we are today.

- This virtual celebration is also part of our experience in Middlebury. It’s a demonstration of how, despite the circumstances, we’re all committed to coming together and celebrating our invaluable time at Middlebury. This is certainly a moment we will all remember. Thank you, Class of 2020, for the amazing moments and memories. Today, we celebrate the many achievements we have to be proud of as well as our lives at Middlebury together as students.

- And finally, before we begin, the Senior Committee would also like to thank Chris Spencer, the entire Communications team, and Alex Gemme for all of their work on the video that you are about to see. And a special thank you to all of you for sharing your favorite moments over the years in helping to make this video so special. Please stay safe and healthy until we can gather together again. And enjoy the video. ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh, ooh, ah ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Ooh, ah ♪ ♪ Ah, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Ah, oh, oh ♪ ♪ Ah, ah, oh ♪ ♪ Ah, oh ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Ooh, ah ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Ooh ♪ ♪ Hey ♪ ♪ Hey ♪

- Thanks for sharing these wonderful moments and memories of this remarkable class. And thanks to all who helped put this together. It makes me look forward all the more to a time when we can be together to celebrate Commencement in person. Look for more information and details on that soon. In addition to gathering with your departments and teams, and the other events that are traditions around Commencement Weekend, on that special day we will have the chance to say your names one by one and to hand you a replica of Gamaliel Painter’s cane. We will confer honors and citations and honorary degrees and do all the things that you would have been enjoying today. We’ll also have a special address from the Commencement speaker, Jason Collins, who is ready to inspire and encourage you today. He’s graciously agreed to do that. And in order to give you a little taste of what to look forward to, he has a message for you.

- Hi, I’m retired NBA player Jason Collins. And I wanna say happy Senior Celebration Day. I’m disappointed that I’m not there in person as your Commencement speaker to celebrate your achievements as graduates of Middlebury College. However, I am looking forward to your postponed Commencement ceremony, which will take place at some date in the future. I’m looking forward to joining you then. In the meantime, I wanna leave with you a quote from Steve Jobs. “Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower.” We live in some really challenging times right now. Some challenging times that are calling on us to adapt, to change, to innovate. I want you to reflect on this moment. I want you to think about the past four years and all the skills that you’ve acquired. And I want you to look at this as an opportunity. So I’m challenging you, for you to step forward and be a leader, to innovate, to create. We need you. Society needs you, the world needs you. Be the future leaders that we know that you can be. So until that time, celebrate this day, celebrate your accomplishments, I want you to stay safe, and I look forward to seeing you in the future.

- As you can see, we have a lot to look forward to. Thank you, Jason. This has been your Senior Recognition and Celebration. It’s such a joy to seize the opportunity to honor you even in the midst of what has been a really challenging time of separation. We have been determined to make the most of it. And your participation today is part of Middlebury’s grit and grace. You have earned your degrees, and we know that you will make the most of them. Until we see you again in person, please rise as you are able wherever you are and don, if you have them, your “caps” and your “gowns” as I pronounce the bachelor’s degrees to be conferred upon you. And I’ll pause just a moment while you get into position. Now inasmuch as each of you presented to me has completed the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts, I have the honor by virtue of the authority vested in me by the trustees of Middlebury to confer upon you the degree of Bachelor of Arts with all the rights, honors, privileges, and responsibilities here and everywhere pertaining to this degree. Congratulations. Come here, pups. ♪ Walls of ivy, paths of beauty ♪ ♪ We have known and loved thee well ♪ ♪ Spired chapel rising proudly ♪ ♪ Morning hymn and evening bell ♪ ♪ Middlebury, Alma Mater ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪ ♪ Sunset glowing o’er the mountains ♪ ♪ Snowy peaks and winding ways ♪ ♪ Peaceful stillness o’er the campus ♪ ♪ Memories of most happy days ♪ ♪ Middlebury, Alma Mater ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪ ♪ Loyal ever in these friendships ♪ ♪ We have spent four glorious years ♪ ♪ Filling us with hope and courage ♪ ♪ Till the hour of parting nears ♪ ♪ Middlebury, Alma Mater ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪ ♪ Symbol of our strength and truth ♪

Order of the Program:

  • A Musical Video Introduction

  • Invocation 

  • Greetings from President Laurie Patton 

  • Congratulations from the Provost Jeff Cason and Dean of the College Baishakhi Taylor.
  • Senior Greetings from the SGA President and Class Officers

  • Senior Video Montage
  • Preview of On-Campus Commencement

  • Conferral of the Degrees 

  • Singing of the Alma Mater

(Total running time is under an hour)