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NVU receives $3.5 million from Carhartt CEO

LYNDON — Northern Vermont University has received a $3.5 million donation — the largest-ever private gift to the Vermont State Colleges — from Mark and Molly Valade, college officials announced Monday.
Mark Valade is a graduate of Lyndon State College, the now rechristened NVU-Lyndon, and is CEO of Carhartt, the iconic Michigan-based workwear company. The gift, which will be paid out over three years, will provide seed funding for NVU’s new Learning and Working Community, which aims to provide career pathways and hands-on learning opportunities for students, particularly at northern Vermont businesses and organizations.
“The education I received at Lyndon was instrumental in my first partnership: the Darion Inn Restaurant in East Burke. It was there that I was first introduced to the business community in the Northeast Kingdom and all that it had to offer,” Mark Valade said in a statement. “NVU plays such an important role in the lives of its students and is vital to northern Vermont.”
Calling the gift “truly transformational,” NVU President Elaine Collins said the partnerships it will help fund would “drive entrepreneurship, innovation and professional development, encouraging our students to stay in Vermont while also helping to meet our state’s workforce needs.” 
The money will help pay for curriculum development and internships, and other programs that help students transition from college into the workforce.
The donation comes at a pivotal time for NVU and the state colleges, which also include Vermont Technical College, Castleton University, and Community College of Vermont. The pandemic has battered the finances of the system, which were already on tenuous footing before Covid-19. The system’s former chancellor, Jeb Spaulding, went as far as to recommend closing NVU outright, although the idea led to such a public outcry that he resigned.
The system is expected to need extra help again next year in the wake of the pandemic, and a legislative panel is preparing to publish a report recommending an overhaul to the system.
At a press conference Monday, college officials thanked the Valade family and touted the benefits of their new workforce initiative. But they also cast the gift as a vote of confidence in an institution vital to the local economy. 
“I do think having this kind of support from donors and alums sends a very important signal at this time both to the Legislature and to Vermont as a whole as to what we can do and how important we are,” said Sophie Zdatny, chancellor of the state colleges.
Shawn Tester, a state colleges trustee and CEO of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, said more than one of every six staff members at the hospital are graduates of the state college system.
“The Valade family also understands that NVU is more than just an educational organization. It is an anchor institution, underpinning our local economy as well as enhancing our quality of life,” he said.
 

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