Progress by Degrees: A Graduation Letter from President Patton

Dear Members of the Middlebury Community,

I write to offer my deep congratulations to all of you on the occasion of our graduates receiving their degrees from Middlebury, and my special congratulations to the members of the Class of 2020 themselves. One of the most inspiring parts of graduation—one I never get over—is the rows of chairs that appear so quickly the day before, and then disappear even more quickly hours after the ceremony. Sometimes, in the quieter moments before the beginning of Commencement exercises, I can see small groups of people camped in the rows, having ponderous, even tearful conversations, little islands of human intimacy in the mesmerizing labyrinth of wood. One season, I watched the Middlebury facilities team set up and break down just to witness their miraculous coordination and speed. In the words of the poet Lisel Mueller, in Virtuosi,” “the words start over again hold no terror for them.” 

This is a time of celebration of our graduates’ dedication and perseverance and inspiration—where we, and they, remember that they built something awe inspiring. A time of memory and acknowledgment, where we ponder the vital gifts that others made on their journeys. It’s worth remembering all that it took to support our graduates’ lives at Middlebury. Marvel today at their own miraculous coordination and speed that has created this moment. As always, it arrives quickly. As always, it is filled with tiny steps, or as the facilities crews teach us every year, one chair at a time.

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