Middlebury has been enrolling students in February for 50 years. What began as a way to fill rooms vacated by students studying abroad in spring term has evolved into an important Middlebury tradition, and a midwinter “graduation”—known as Feb Celebration—has become a hallmark of the College.
In the fall of 1971, applications from good candidates were up significantly. Dean of Admissions Fred Neuberger ’50 saw an opportunity to enroll some exceptional students and fill the empty beds, and the first group of freshmen entered Middlebury midterm.
In the early years, being a Feb could be disorienting and lonely. But over the years, the number of Febs increased, and they came to realize that their Feb experience made them a special group of students—adaptable, resilient, leaders who were strongly bonded to one another. They just needed a way to celebrate that special Febness.
The First Snow Bowl Ceremony
In the winter of 1986–87, four Feb women—Bessie Cromwell, Nicky Biddle, Leslie Lyons, and Helena Paulin—decided they were not members of either the Class of 1986 or 1987. Their class was 1986.5, and they needed a way to mark the completion of their Middlebury degrees. Ingenuity being a characteristic of Febs, they came up with a plan for a ceremony that has continued for more than 30 years.
What could be more appropriate for students who entered at the coldest time of year than to stage a ceremony at the Snow Bowl? And so Feb Celebration was born.
That first midyear, an unofficial but very high-spirited Snow Bowl graduation featured 40 Feb graduates skiing down the Allen trail, led by ski team captain Biddle doing “S” curves, to receive high fives and fake diplomas at the bottom.
The Feb Spirit Endures
Since then, Feb Celebration has expanded to include a ceremony with the president, a student speaker, and the presentation of the Fleishman Award to the student who “embodies Feb and College pride, academic passion and determination, excellence in leadership and involvement, a positive attitude, and care for others.”
The Feb spirit that sparked the first Feb “graduation” endures. And this year’s Feb class has thrived despite adversity (that’s the Feb spirit) and will leave its mark on Middlebury.