I’m here today to give voice to an entire community’s appreciation for and admiration of senior leader, vice president, and UVM legend Gary Derr.

With twelve awards being issued this year, even if he were to receive each and every one of them the recognition would be unequal to the depth and impact of Gary’s sustained contributions to the University of Vermont.

Today we recognize you, Gary, for your extraordinary leadership during these last 18 months, and your indelible impact on UVM and our community across more than 20 years.

The depth and breadth of Gary's sustained contributions to the University of Vermont is impossible to overstate. Gary's reputation precedes him for good reason. He is adept at navigating the world of higher education and respects the delicate balance among its many facets. Student affairs, faculty issues, university politics, student life, operational logistics, and staff concerns are all areas he understands and navigates with openness, respect, and thoughtful innovation.

What becomes abundantly clear early on in working with Gary is his respect for our community and his reverence for our university. In his many years at UVM, Gary has orchestrated celebrations of some of the university's most important achievements. And sometimes he has had to convey difficult news and decisions to students, parents, faculty, and staff, which he does with unwavering grace, fairness and sincerity, preserving both the integrity of our processes and the dignity of those on the receiving end.

Gary is both a consummate professional and an ideal colleague. He delights in the triumphs of others and is quick to show compassion in difficult times. When he sees a wrong he works to right it. He can take a joke, lend a kind ear, and he always gives credit where credit is due. Regardless of the pressing matters on his desk, his answer to “Do you have a minute?” is invariably “Yes.”

Early in President Garimella's term, Gary's responsibility shifted to overseeing a new Division of Operations and Public Safety. And what prescient timing! Is there anyone on campus we would rather have had leading UVM’s response to the COVID pandemic than Gary Derr?

What an incredible job he has done as the leader of our pandemic response. He has been unfailingly calm, accessible, and caring during one of the most challenging times anyone at UVM can remember – a prolonged event with no playbook and many possible pitfalls. Even when sleep was a luxury and stress was at its peak, you never heard Gary utter a harsh word, never saw him short tempered. While UVM’s success has truly been a team effort, because of Gary's work leading our COVID response, UVM has succeeded.

The strength of an institution derives from the integrity of its leaders. Our respected and much appreciated vice president Gary Derr, you are a study in altruism, dedication, and kindness. Gary, I speak for everyone here and in our UVM community when I say that we are so grateful to call you a colleague. And we are lucky to call you a friend.