photo by Shayne
photo below by Sally McCay
the 200th Commencement
A steady mist on a spring morning didnt
deter the University of Vermont from marking its 200th commencement in
a big way. As the ceremony returned to the Green for the first time in
four decades, President Daniel Mark Fogels words from the podium
celebrated the graduates as they took their places in the Universitys
are here to celebrate the graduation of the University of Vermonts
Class of 2004 at a milestone moment in our history the two hundredth
year in which this proud institution has sent graduates into the world.
UVMs Class of 1804 Charles Adams, Wheeler Barnes, Jairus
Kennan, and Justus Perry Wheeler was feted with a daylong commencement
that drew spectators from miles around. That first ceremony was held downtown
at the courthouse because the fledgling University lacked a building to
call its own. And the Green where you sit today was little more than a
rough meadow recently carved from the wilderness. What a difference two
centuries make, as we celebrate the wonderful place the University of
Vermont has become and the 2,285 graduates who gather on this historic
Members of the Class of 2004, the values that you exemplify are thoroughly
consistent with the values that have come to characterize this great University
throughout its long history of educational leadership. Our University
is steeped in the traditions and values of Vermont: practicality, environmental
stewardship, civic duty, fairness, social justice, and respect for individuality.
It is deep within our ethos to make a difference on the things that matter
from monitoring the impact of acid rain to battling drug addiction,
from developing sustainable farming practices to preserving the memory
of the Holocaust
Chartered in 1791 by the State of Vermont, the University was founded
by heroes of the American Revolution, declaring at the outset the freedom
it would guarantee its faculty and students from doctrinal constraints.
It was on this historic Green that our first president, Daniel Clarke
Sanders, joined in the work of cutting a clearing on the hilltop, a location
that he once described as the most healthy place on Earth.
It was here, where the Old Mill now stands, that the first college building
arose, only to burn down in a great conflagration on May 27, 1824. Nearly
everything the University owned was lost in that fire. But just one year
later, on the strength of remarkable support from local citizens, there
was again a spirit of celebration on these grounds. The Marquis de Lafayette,
George Washingtons comrade-in-arms, was distinguished guest at the
ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the Old Mill building that endures
to this day.
The University of Vermont survived and soon it would thrive with the arrival
of President James Marsh, one of the heroes of nineteenth-century American
intellectual history. As a scholar, Marshs interpretation of Samuel
Taylor Coleridges thought was a major catalyst for this countrys
Transcendental movement, serving as inspiration to iconic American philosophers
and writers Emerson, Alcott, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman. As an
educational leader at the University of Vermont, Marsh would, in essence,
plant the seeds of the modern college curriculum. And, importantly, President
Marsh would be an original voice promoting the radical notion that college
professors should incorporate their own scholarly thinking into their
James Marshs influence was felt across this entire country, but
no place more vividly than around this Green, where he elevated the intellectual
life and set the course on an educational mission that would not waver.
Many would follow, forging the identity of an institution with points
of pride too numerous to catalog today except to note some illustrative
We take pride in UVMs pioneering openness to women in higher education.
In 1875 our local chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was the first in the nation
to enroll women, namely Lida Mason and Ellen Hamilton, who were also our
first female graduates.
We take pride in George Washington Henderson, UVM Class of 1877, the first
African American admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. Born a slave in Virginia,
Henderson came to Vermont in 1865, balanced his UVM studies with work
as a school teacher in Jericho, and went on to a remarkable career as
a minister and professor of theology.
We take pride in the father of progressive education, John Dewey, UVM
Class of 1879. Professor Deweys influence as a political and educational
philosopher driven by an intellect honed on this campus
touched the lives of citizens throughout American society. Recalling his
undergraduate years at UVM, Dewey once said that reading James Marshs
edition of Coleridges Aids to Reflection, was a spiritual
We take pride in recently celebrating two alumni connections with the
Nobel Peace Prize. In 1997, Jody Williams, University of Vermont Class
of 1972, was honored for leadership with the International Campaign to
Ban Landmines. And just two years later, Dr. John McGill, a 1978 graduate
of our College of Medicine and president of Doctors Without Borders, would
again put Vermont in the Nobel spotlight.
We take pride in Professor Emeritus Raul Hilberg, whose relentless scholarship
established a foundation of knowledge for generations of Holocaust scholars
to follow. Over the course of three decades, Professor Hilberg excelled
as a teacher in the classroom as well, his words echoing in the minds
of former students long past graduation:
Know what youre looking at. Study it.
Never take anything at face value.Class of 2004, it is my hope that
the wisdom of the current University of Vermont faculty will form its
own refrain years and miles beyond this place. This university is blessed
with an exceptional faculty. They are distinguished scholars, scientists,
and artists with national and international reputations. And, as James
Marsh counseled, their original thought finds expression in the classroom,
in the fundamental work of this institution which we celebrate today.
Make no mistake, the distinguished faculty and talented, dedicated staff
who join you on the Green take joy and pride in this day to rival your
It is my honor to speak for them this morning, to say to all of you: Congratulations.
Job well done. You are no longer University of Vermont students. You are
now University of Vermont alumni. We hope that you will emulate the devotion
to intellect and education of James Marsh and John Dewey, the commitment
to service and humane values of Jody Williams and Dr. John McGill, and
the love of learning and resolve to make a difference in the world exemplified
by the faculty who have guided your years at the University.
What the Class of 2004 will inscribe on the blank slate of possibility
with your lives, by word and deed, will become the next chapter in the
history of your alma mater. Go forth with courage and commitment and joy.
It is your turn to build upon the records of achievement and service that
are the proud legacy of generations of sons and daughters of the University