Diverse class of Middlebury College grads raise over $40K for memorial scholarships

MIDDLEBURY — Alongside the serious words from the two featured speakers at Middlebury College’s 216th graduation on the lawn near Munroe and Voter halls, was the usual joy, as parents and well wishers snapped photos, beamed with pride and carried flowers and balloons to give to their own young men and women.
An estimated crowd of close to 5,000 watched as each member of the class of 2017 was called forward and received his or her diploma.
The 552 graduates came from across the United States and from locations as far flung as Hong Kong, Macedonia, Malaysia, Ghana, Australia, Guatemala, Ireland, Iran, Egypt and Peru.
Graduating from Addison County were Forrest Wallace, Patrick Fuller, Elise Biette, Izzy Fleming and Madelyn Sanchez.
The college granted featured speaker Jon Meacham an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Others honored with honorary degrees were:
•  Graphic novelist Alison Bechdel.
•  Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab robotics researcher Kate Darling,
•  Ghanaian entrepreneur, school founder and leader-development expert Fred Swaniker.
•  Vermont’s own Grace Potter, rock musician and songwriter.
As its gift to the college, the class of 2017 raised $40,622 for a memorial scholarship fund in honor of classmates Nathan Alexander and Murphy Roberts. Alexander died in April 2015; Murphy in August 2016.
After retiring Associate Chaplain Ira Schiffer offered a closing benediction, Middlebury College President Laurie Patton announced a surprise performance.
Potter strode to the stage, acoustic guitar in hand, and sang a powerful and haunting rendition of Bob Dylan’s 1967 tune “I Shall Be Released.”
Moments later, the graduates hurled their caps into the air, while the huge crowd shouted and clapped.
The faculty exited to the sounds of the Constitution Brass Quintet.
Then, marching to the strains of a lone bagpipe, Middlebury’s 2017 graduates were indeed released, to — borrowing a phrase from Charles Dickens — “begin the world.”
   VERMONT SINGER, SONGWRITER and rock star Grace Potter was one of five honorary doctorate recipients at Middlebury College’s commencement Sunday. Potter also performed a song.

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