May 24, 2007
By MEGAN JAMES
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College officials and town police are gearing up for what they believe will be the largest graduation ceremony this town has ever seen.
Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the commencement speech at the college this Sunday, May 27, and 7,000 people have secured tickets to see him.
In an effort to keep the ceremony, which will celebrate the approximately 600 graduates of the class of 2007, as intimate as possible, tickets were reserved for graduates and their families, alumni and friends of the college. No tickets are no longer available.
Secretary of the College John Emerson could not reveal many of the details of Clinton’s visit, only that he will speak at 10 a.m. on the green below Mead Chapel, and that only people with tickets will be permitted. Commencement is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The college’s and town’s main concern is traffic control. To ease the congestion, the college has organized shuttle buses to run regularly from hotels in town to the ceremony. Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley stressed that driving through town will be difficult all day.
According to Hanley, the exact route of Clinton’s motorcade will not be determined until the day of the event. He advised people planning on driving through Middlebury that day to be ready for heavy traffic and detours, as some roads may be closed.
He added that the construction on College Street should have no effect on commencement traffic because it is a Sunday.
“If you see people directing traffic out there, just be patient with them,” he said. “We’ll be trying to get everyone around the best we can.”
Whether or not the former president will march in the college processional is still a matter for speculation, though Emerson confirmed that Clinton did process in the University of New Hampshire’s commencement ceremony when he spoke there last weekend.
Emerson stressed that those with tickets should come prepared for any kind of weather, as the ceremony will be held outside regardless of rain.
Clinton will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. The college will also present honorary degrees to Robert De Cormier, director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Chorus; Janet Hanson, managing director and senior advisor to the president of the investment firm Lehman Brothers; James Gustave Speth, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; St. Michael’s College President Marc A. vanderHeyden and his wife, Dana Lim vanderHeyden; and Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine.
For those without tickets, Clinton’s speech will be broadcast live on Middlebury Community Television’s education channel, Channel 16 and on the college Web site, www.middlebury.edu.