Academic Ceremonies - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
GLADYS CLARK SEVERANCE
Doctor of Laws
Gladys Clark Severance, UVM class of 1949, left the university with a degree in chemistry and mathematics and a love for Vermont and a Vermonter that would keep her tethered to the state for life.
Following graduation, she taught junior high and high school mathematics briefly before going to Cornell University for graduate work in guidance and student personnel. She and her Vermonter, Malcolm Severance, married, and eventually returned to Vermont. “I knew Mary Jean Simpson (then dean of women) and got the job as house manager at Converse Hall,” Gladys says. Malcolm began his career on the faculty and joined her in the house-parenting role. The couple spent six years at Converse, with their three children, who always had adoring babysitters, “both when it was a women’s dorm and a men’s,” Gladys says. The Severances remained close to many of those students, and the Class of 1957, well populated with Converse alumni, invited them to their 50th reunion.
When the couple built their house on the Severance acreage in Colchester, Gladys took on a schedule that easily rivaled Malcolm’s. In 1972, she co-founded Burlington’s Meals on Wheels program, the outcome of her work with a group of churches interested in outreach. She served on the board of Meals on Wheels for two terms and still volunteers to deliver meals. She also continues to serve on various committees with the First Baptist Church in Burlington.
As her children grew, Gladys volunteered in their activities, including 4H and Little League. When she realized that Colchester had no Girl Scout program, she began one; it continues to be a thriving program.
In 1972, Gladys ran for elective office, beating out eight other candidates to become the town’s tax collector. It was a job shaped by her personal sense of community and her counseling skills. “I tried to help people who had a long history of delinquent taxes,” she says, rather than act the enforcer. “Sometimes they’d come to my home at night just to pay ten dollars toward their debt.” Often they left with far more than that in Severance garden produce. Her experience in running for office paid-off for her husband when he decided to run for the legislature. Gladys managed that campaign – and the successive three.
A volunteer with the National Museum of the Morgan Horse in Shelburne, Gladys also can take much of the credit for its continued presence in Vermont. When the owners wanted to move it to Kentucky, she says, “I mobilized forces, worked with the state, the community, and the Morgan world to keep it here.”
She is currently working with her husband on the Severance Corners New England Village project.