Remarks by Curtiss Reed, Jr. at Middlebury 2021 Commencement Luncheon for Honorary Degree Recipients • 29 May 2021

On a cool, sunny Saturday afternoon, the Middlebury College community gathered to celebrate a historic Commencement for 481 members of the Class of 2021. Graduates and their guests assembled at six separate outdoor venues, to comply with pandemic health and safety regulations, each with a stage and large video screen. At an event that was hard to imagine just a few months ago—and one that required careful planning without the benefit of a rehearsal—joyful bursts of applause and cheering could be heard all over campus.

The first portion of the ceremony, including the speakers and conferral of honorary degrees, was broadcast from the Robison Hall stage, followed by in-person degree conferrals at each site. 

Acclaimed playwright, composer, and musician Anaïs Mitchell delivered the 2021 Commencement address and received an honorary doctor of arts degree. The native Vermonter and 2004 Middlebury graduate is the creative force behind the hit Broadway musical Hadestown, which won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Mitchell, herself, won the Tony for Best Original Score. In 2020, Hadestown won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

Three additional distinguished guests received honorary degrees during the Commencement ceremony:

John B. Derick, a leader in the Middlebury community who, for more than 30 years, served as the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM) coordinator and a volunteer with the Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT).

Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s commissioner of health. As the head of the Vermont Department of Health (VDH), Levine directs statewide efforts to combat COVID-19 and has received national recognition for his leadership during the pandemic.

Curtiss Reed Jr., a civil rights leader in Vermont and a champion of equity and inclusion, has dedicated his career to service, advocacy, and fighting for the rights of all Vermonters. Reed joined the Peace Corps and moved to Tunisia in 1983, and later worked in cooperative business development in Niger, Guinea Bissau, Burundi, and Mali. Since 2001, he has served as the executive director of Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, a resource that provides Vermont organizations in every sector, from businesses and government to education, with assistance regarding issues of inclusion, diversity, and equity.

Read the full announcement at

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