Ceremonial Events - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
THOMAS K. SLAYTON
Doctor of Humane Letters
Tom Slayton has been taking the pulse of Vermont for forty years and delivering his diagnosis with caring but clear-eyed, eloquent prose and commentary. He retired this year as editor-in-chief of Vermont Life magazine after twenty-one years, leaving behind a matured publication that reflects well and truthfully on his beloved state.
Slayton has been a perfect editorial fit for a magazine that celebrates a landscape rife with the elements of his passions – hiking, skiing, and birding. Fortunately for Vermont Life readers, he also has been a superb translator of those and of Vermont’s unique sense of place.
Slayton, a native Vermonter, graduated from UVM in 1963 with a degree in English and history; while there, he worked in food service and as a dorm counselor for his board and room. In an interview with Vermont Business Magazine a few years ago, he recalled how influenced he continues to be by some of his professors, including Betty Bandel, Bob Cochran, Jeremy Felt, and others. Following graduation, his next stop was the Army, and, after that tour, he began a twenty-year career as a newspaperman, starting at the Rutland Herald as a city reporter. He became a member – and later, chief – of the Vermont Press Bureau, covering state government. Later still, he was the editorial page editor of the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus.
In 1986, Slayton began his second career as Vermont Life’s editor. He saw the state publication through the technological revolution that all publishing has weathered, as well as threatening financial times and the concomitant need to bring in revenue through advertising and expanded, related sales, including its famous calendars. Vermont Life has a circulation of 75,000 paid subscribers, with an estimated far-and-wide readership of 200,000. A recent review by a Montana reader on Amazon.com cited the magazine as “a cornucopia of information for those who live there or (in my case) yearn to live there. Don’t pass up this magazine,” he exhorted us. Many of the magazine’s readers are Vermont expats, and one, now living in Seattle, also wrote an Amazon review, saying she picks up the magazine when she is feeling homesick. “It’s like a nice slab of apple pie with sharp Cabot cheddar on the side – a piece of home every month.”
Slayton has attracted many of Vermont’s best writers and photographers
as contributors, and during his tenure, the magazine has won 95 regional and
national awards for writing, photography, and covers. That success is closely
tied to his direction, fueled by his belief in Vermont’s uniqueness. “Vermont
has lots of ‘there’ – it feels like a real and definable place,”
he said in one of his Vermont Public Radio commentaries. Vermont, he said, is
“a place where people tend to ignore social classes. … college professors
do not have significantly greater social cachet here than masons or printers
or lawyers or contractors, and people tend to be listened to on the strength
of their arguments, rather than on the authority of their position.”