Middlebury College to graduate more than 500 on Sunday

MIDDLEBURY — At last! Middlebury College will graduate more than 500 seniors on Sunday in a ceremony that will be steeped in tradition, yet with an air of lightness befitting the current generation.
Thousands of out-of-town guests are expected to flood the shiretown this weekend for the 215th Middlebury College Commencement, which will take place between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on the quad behind Munroe and Voter halls.
It will be the first Middlebury commencement for college President Laurie Patton, who took the reins at the selective liberal arts college last July.
Van Jones, a CNN political contributor, attorney, author and environmental and human rights activist, will deliver the commencement address. Jones is the president and co-founder of Dream Corps, whose current initiatives — including #cut50, #YesWeCode and Green For All — work to bring economic opportunity to disenfranchised communities.
In 2009, Jones worked for President Obama as the Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In that job he helped to run the inter-agency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. He became a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in 2010, where he leads their Green Opportunity Initiative. Jones is the author of two New York Times bestsellers: “The Green Collar Economy” and “Rebuild the Dream.”
In addition to the undergraduate degrees that Patton will hand out, Middlebury will also bestow honorary degrees on a number of dignitaries, including a Cornwall resident: the Hon. William K. Sessions  III. The 1969 Middlebury graduate is a distinguished jurist who has served 20 years on the U.S. District Court for Vermont, including tenure as Chief Judge from 2002 to 2009. He has held senior status on the court since 2013. Sessions was vice chair for 10 years and then headed the U.S. Sentencing Commission from 2009 to 2010. Sessions’s landmark ruling in 2007 ended the auto industry’s attempts to block states from regulating car emissions, leading the way for clean air legislation to be enacted in multiple states.
Other honorary degree recipients will be:
• Srinivas Aravamudan (posthumous) was professor of English, romance studies, and the Literature Program, and the former Dean of the Humanities at Duke University. His areas of expertise included eighteenth-century British and French Literature, postcolonial studies, and literary theory. Aravamudan was awarded his honorary degree on April 9, and died April 13, 2016.
• Sen. Susan M. Collins, a Maine Republican. First elected in 1996, Collins has a national reputation as an effective legislator who works across party lines to find consensus and cooperation. She is a powerful advocate on issues of health care, education, small business ownership, defense, and intelligence. She chairs the Senate Select Committee on Aging and the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and also serves on the Intelligence Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Senator Collins ranks 19th in Senate seniority and is the most senior Republican woman. She has never missed a vote – having cast more than 6,000 – during her 19 years in office.
• John Grotzinger, geology professor at California Institute of Technology. He was the project scientist and head of strategic science planning for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission. He was also a participating scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers, and for the High Resolution Science Experiment camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Grotzinger was part of the Opportunity rover team that discovered evidence of liquid water on ancient Mars. He is the recipient of several important awards from NASA and the National Academy of Sciences. Hannah Grotzinger, his daughter, is a member of the Middlebury class of 2016.
• Simi Linton, a writer, consultant and public speaker. She has been active for more than 40 years in increasing the visibility of the disabled in society, and in particular in the arts. She is the author of two books, including the memoir “My Body Politic,” and recently coproduced and directed the documentary “Invitation to Dance.” She is the founder of Disability/Arts, which worked to help shape the presentation of disability in the arts and to increase the representation of works by disabled artists. She founded the National Coalition on Sexuality and Disability and has received a Switzer Distinguished Fellowship from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.
As of Wednesday morning, rain was forecast for Sunday.

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