Middlebury grads told to better the world

MIDDLEBURY — Speakers at Middlebury College’s graduation Sunday told the 557 seniors about to receive their bachelor of arts degrees to believe their ability to change the world.
“There is no advanced degree required for achieving the impact on children,” featured speaker William E. Strickland Jr. said. “But it does require passion, a zeal and insistence on doing things right as opposed to doing them wrong.”
Family, friends, faculty and students gathered on the lawn behind Middlebury College’s Voter Hall for the sun-filled ceremony.
Strickland, a former at-risk youth, founded the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Youth and Arts Program and is the CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp. He won a MacArthur “Genius” award for his work in inner city Pittsburgh. Strickland is lauded as a visionary social leader and organizer, and received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree at the ceremony.
In his address, Strickland discussed his revitalization of the Bidwell Training Center, his work improving schools, and the importance of reforming public education. He urged the graduates to address these issues at least on some level, and noted that the path to doing so is not as unattainable as many believe.
Strickland left the class of 2012 with a call to service.
“I hope that in some way many of you will join me in the effort to reverse the drift in our country and allow it to regain world leadership in education, economic innovation and the improvement of the living conditions for the chronically poor,” he said.
In a similar vein, student speaker Alyssa Limperis discussed the importance of community and making a change. She connected the lessons learned from the “bubble” of Middlebury College to the larger communities that the graduates will soon be joining.
“As we move forward, let’s keep Middlebury glued in our minds and use it to push us to decipher what our role in the world is, to decide what makes us different, and what makes us stand apart from the rest, and most importantly, to figure out what we can do to better the whole community,” she said.
In addition to awarding an honorary doctorate to Strickland, Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz presented honorary degrees to Sarah Bright Alturki, Frederick M. Fritz, Martha Siegfried Fritz, Christoph Wolff and David Wolk.
Alturki is a philanthropist who attended Middlebury’s Arabic School and works in Saudi Arabia. Frederick Fritz is a college trustee and serves on the board of directors of Middlebury Interactive Languages. Martha Fritz is a member of the Friends of the Middlebury College Museum of Art and the Middlebury Arts Council. Wolff is a renowned musicologist and expert on Mozart and Bach. Wolk, who grew up in Rutland and attended Middlebury College, is president of Castleton State College.
Liebowitz also recognized the class valedictorian, Nora Fiore of Pawlet, and salutatorian, Ying Zhuo of Nanjing, China.
The Addison County graduates were Cailin Ross of Bridport; Alicia Evancho, Paige Keren, Clara von Loebenstein and Ian Trombulak of Middlebury; Amy Doucette of Monkton; Holly Atkins and Chase Marston of New Haven; and Nicholas Montello III of Orwell.
As the ceremony came to a close, artist-in-residence François Clemmons led the crowd in renditions of “Gamaliel Painter’s Cane” and “Alma Mater.”
When Liebowitz announced the recessional, caps soared into the air as members of the class of 2012 celebrated the end of a multi-year journey through college and the beginning of the next stages in their lives.
In her speech, Limperis reminded her classmates that, despite the sadness of leaving their beloved school and cherished friends, they still have the excitement of looking forward to many new experiences.
“We are compelled to leave 05753, drop our eight-digit ID numbers that have encompassed our identities here, cash in our Panther points and blow this bubble outward,” she said. “I’m so excited to see what we do.”

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