Middlebury College was founded in 1797 as the Addison County Grammar School, and three years later it was officially chartered as an all-male institution. Alexander Twilight became the first African-American graduate of any American college when he received his diploma from Middlebury in 1823. Twilight broke another barrier in 1856, serving in the Vermont House of Representatives as the first African-American elected to public office. Today, an academic building is named after him. In 1883, Middlebury was one of the first all-male liberal arts schools to begin enrolling women.
The German Language School opened in 1915, establishing summer language programs as a Middlebury institution. Middlebury Language Schools are full-immersion programs taking place over the summer, and today the schools host ten different language programs. The language boot camps attract government and other high-powered employees to Middlebury's campus to mingle with students over the summer.
The Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference takes place every summer at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf campus. Since it was founded in 1926, Bread Loaf has hosted some of the world’s greatest writers (Robert Frost was closely associated with the conference for almost thirty years). Today, Bread Loaf offers a master’s program in English each summer in addition to the conference itself, which takes place over ten days in August.
Recently, Middlebury launched the “Middlebury Initiative,” designed to extend the range of opportunities it offers to students all over the world. Middlebury hopes to become the "first truly global liberal arts school," with an expected price tag topping $234 million.
Middlebury's 350-acre campus is in the heart of the Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains to the east and the Adirondacks flanking the campus to the west. Bordering the quaint town of Middlebury, most of the college sits on a hill west of the town’s center.
Open spaces and greenery abound on the gorgeous campus, where historic granite and marble architecture melds with more contemporary buildings. “Old Stone Row,” consisting of the Old Chapel, Painter and Starr Halls (dormitories), is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Painter Hall is the oldest college building in the state of Vermont. McCardell Bicentennial Hall, the five-story science building, is one of the largest structures in the state of Vermont.
The campus is divided by College Street running through its center, as well as five “Commons,” each operating as its own mini-institution. Each Commons has its own housing, deans, and staff, and students have the option of living within their commons for all four years.
A number of new and renovated buildings have cropped up in the past few years, among them the new 130,000-square-foot library, Hillcrest Environmental Studies building, and two enormous dormitories. The Axinn Center will house offices, lecture halls, and a fully operating sound studio for the film and video program.
Middlebury, VT is a quaint New England town, full of stationery and used book stores stores, boutique galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants. Nearby towns like Vergennes and Bristol also offer delicious treats for traveling students. Middlebury's American Flatbread is one of the most popular restaurants in the area, and the wait for a table on weekends can exceed an hour.
There are a few student bar options in town, all of which close early on weekends and even earlier on weekdays. Two Brothers Tavern is an especially popular destination, where college students mix (and sometimes clash) with the locals. Otter Creek Brewery is another great place to grab a “growler” of fresh beer.
Despite its lack of nightlife and entertainment options, Middlebury is a great destination for outdoorsy people. Ski dreams come true at the nearby Middlebury Snow Bowl. Hiking, biking, kayaking, running, and mountain climbing are all popular activities both on campus and off.
Burlington, VT, is only a short drive away from Middlebury, and offers a little more nightlife, including a couple of concert venues, movie theaters, and malls, as well as shops selling amenities unavailable in Middlebury itself.
Like students at several other liberal arts schools, Middlebury students observe tradition by removing their shirts when the DJ plays Madonna's "Like a Prayer" at parties. While they're not the only ones who do so, Middlebury students will swear they came up with the concept - especially the Ultimate Frisbee team, who have been known to remove more than shirts during the song.
After staying up all night before spring graduation, graduates convene at the president’s house in town to “wake up” the president, usually by shouting and screaming things in the house's general direction. Afterwards, graduates head to Steve’s Park Diner in town for breakfast. Middlebury's president joins them at six a.m for some eggs and, perhaps, oatmeal.
Middlebury’s “Feb” program admits a handful of students who begin their freshman year in February and eventually graduate a semester late. Dressed in their caps and gowns, Feb graduates, along with faculty and staff members, ski down the main hill at the Middlebury Snow Bowl to meet families and friends at the bottom. Some students have been known to go down the hill on snowshoes, in toboggans, or, in one case, in a canoe.
Middlebury students and fans have a slew of songs they sing during hockey games at home, including the "Middlebury Fight Song."
Middlebury’s Polar Bear Club has a rabid following. It’s practically a rite of passage for all new Midd students to try "polar bearing" at least once during their Middlebury careers. After all, what says school spirit more than swimming naked in a freezing lake with a whole bunch of classmates?
Julia Alvarez (1971) is an award-winning poet and novelist.
John Deere (attended) founded the John Deere line of tractors and steel plows.
Dispatch (Chad Stokes-1998, Brad Corrigan-1996, Pete Heimbold-1999) is a folk/rock band that formed at Middlebury.
Eve Ensler (1975) is a playwright whose work include The Vagina Monologues.
Ari Fleischer (1982) is former White House press secretary for the Bush administration.
Dana Reeve (1984) is a philanthropist and wife of the late Christopher Reeve.
Vendela Vida (1993) is a well-known author and, along with her husband Dave Eggers, runs the "826" tutoring programs across the country.
Middlebury is one of the strongest Division III competitors. They lead the NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) in total championships won and compete in 31 varsity sports. The men’s and women's ice hockey teams have won three consecutive NCAA Division III national championships since 2004, a historic feat for a college at any level. Rugby, soccer, and cross country teams have also been successful in recent years.
The Alpine and Nordic Ski teams have won a host of championships. Besides the sold-out hockey games, ski meets are some of the most widely attended athletic events in Middlebury.
Middlebury's athletic facilities are expansive. With the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, the Olympic-size swimming pool, Youngman Field for football and lacrosse, Ralph Myhre Golf Course, and the Bread Loaf Mountain cross-country skiing area, Middlebury offers something for most athletic pursuits. Intramural sports are very popular, and most students participate in at least one game during their four years.
In an episode of The Simpsons, Snake the criminal is running away from Chief Wiggum while wearing a Middlebury shirt. He had just robbed Moe’s Tavern and announced that he could “say goodbye to his student loan payments” thanks to the money.
The main female characters in The First Wives Club all met while students at Middlebury College.
Mr. Wolfe, a character in American Graffiti, comments that he attended Middlebury for one semester before dropping out.
Freshmen are placed in one of the five "Commons." Each Commons has its own housing plan, starting with freshman dorms and moving on to better campus housing as students move up the ranks. The Commons offer several housing options, and students can quickly establish their preferences. In Ross Commons, for example, it's possible to wander four different hotel-like dorm complexes and eat at the dining hall without ever leaving the building. Some students stay in their commons for all four years and are rewarded with more Commons "points," while others choose to move closer to their friends.
The freshman dorms consist mostly of double-occupancy rooms that are single-sex by floor. Many students meet their closest friends in their freshman halls. As students move forward, they can choose from larger singles, two-room doubles, suites, or "Mods," which are basically trailers with kitchens and living spaces shared by five or more students. Senior students often try to secure one of the Middlebury-owned campus houses, and a small percentage move into apartments off-campus or larger houses further off the beaten path.