University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - May Commencement

Judith Buechner

Honorary Degree Recipient

James H. Douglas
Doctor of Laws

William MeezanJames H. Douglas served the people of Vermont for nearly four decades, beginning with his election to the Vermont House of Representatives in 1972, the same year he graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Russian. In his second term, he was chosen assistant majority leader and in his third term, at the age of 25, became the majority leader. He left the Vermont House in 1979 to become a top aide to the late Vermont Governor Richard Snelling. He was elected secretary of state in 1980 and held that post for some 12 years. In 1994, he was elected state treasurer, a post he held for eight years. During his tenure as treasurer, millions of dollars in assets were returned to their rightful owners, and Vermont’s bond rating came to be one of the best in the nation.

In 2002, he was elected the 80th governor of Vermont and he was re-elected to this position in 2004, 2006, and 2008. In 2009, he announced that he would not seek election for a fifth term and instead, in 2011, he became an executive-in-residence at his alma mater, where he teaches a class titled Vermont Government and Politics. He has for many years served as Town Moderator for the Town of Middlebury.

During his tenure as governor, Douglas focused on strengthening the state’s economy, reducing the cost of living in Vermont and protecting the state’s natural environment. He advanced groundbreaking health reforms that have made Vermont a model among the states in health care, and he worked to strengthen the relationship between Vermont and Quebec and the other Canadian provinces. A lifelong Republican, he governed in a state otherwise dominated politically by Democrats. His skill in negotiating those tricky political currents was admired by supporters and rivals alike. “Even President Obama asked the first time I met him, ‘How did you win in Vermont?’” he told the Addison Independent.

Douglas was chosen for leadership positions by his colleagues nationally, serving as the president of the Council of State Governments, twice as chairman of the New England Governors’ Conference and as chairman of the Coalition of Northeastern Governors. He was also chosen to serve as chairman of the National Governors Association. In February 2010 President Obama appointed him co-chair of the Council of Governors.

In addition to his many volunteer community service activities, Douglas garnered many honors and awards during his career in public life, including selection as an Inspire Awards Honoree from AARP Magazine in 2007, the 2010 Health Quality Award from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in 2011, and election as a Trustee of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation Board.

Last modified March 28 2013 10:41 AM