Serene Velocity

TedPerry__BMA1564When Ted Perry first stepped foot on the Middlebury campus in 1978, having been lured away from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where he held the lofty title of director of film, he discovered a college that had no film courses in its curriculum; it had no film equipment; it did not have a professional screening facility.

Now, look at that photograph on this page, an image captured by one of Ted’s former students. Look at that impish half grin; look at how Ted smiles as much with his eyes as with his mouth. It’s not hard to imagine him looking that way when he arrived at Middlebury 35 years ago, seeing a blank canvas stretched out before him. He surely delighted in imagining what could be, just as we can express a measure of delight in recognizing what has been.

Ted has worn many titles—too many to mention here, at least in any way that gives them proper weight—and has taught an array of bright students at Middlebury and elsewhere (Iowa, Texas, NYU), yet what has remained constant is a state of what colleague and friend Stephen Donadio has described as “serene velocity,” (which is also the title of a film that Ted has long admired).

This is what set Ted apart in the classroom—and as a scholar, as a teacher, and in the world of film, where he is held in such high regard. No doubt this state of serene velocity will accompany Ted into retirement, as he turns his attention and that impish smile to further avenues of exploration that await his attention.

A recent Sunday tested that theory. An overcast afternoon found Ted in Otter Creek Bakery with one of his grandsons, 10-year-old Sutton. As the young boy quietly enjoyed a giant chocolate cookie, Ted softly greeted other customers (a neighbor, a former chair of the Middlebury Board of Trustees). How serene (!).

“What a nice way to spend the afternoon,” a friend remarked.

“We’re about to go clean the third floor of the house, then we’re going to unpack and shelve my books. After that, we’re going swimming,” Ted replied, as casually as one would ask for a pack of sugar. “Now, when are we going canoeing in the Adirondacks…?”

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  1. A great glimpse into a great faculty colleague, whose presence in the classroom we and future Middlebury students will miss.

    Two additional snippets: First: I had the pleasure of traveling with Ted on a number of fundraising trips to Southern California, the heart of the film and media industry. It was a lot of fun, but it also gave me, then provost, an opportunity to see just how much Ted was loved and admired by his former students. Literally hundreds of them. The receptions we had, centering around Ted’s attendance, were packed, lively, and full of testimonials to Ted’s exceptional teaching and mentoring by the many now successful alumni working in the industry.

    And second: I was lured by

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    that line, “Now, when are we going canoeing in the Adirondacks?” About 15 years ago, Ted posed the same question to me and a faculty colleague, Jeff Cason (now Dean of International Programs and Professor of Political Science). We took him up on his offer and he led us on a canoe trip that involved many portages, loons, and eventually some whitewater. In fact a lot of whitewater. Too much whitewater. It was my first time in a canoe in more than 30 years, and Ted sported that impish grin that you describe above for the entire white water portion of the canoe trip. He loved seeing a city boy (and the provost) fear for his life in the Adirondack wilderness, almost as much, it seemed, as sharing his love of film with his students.

    Thanks for doing this vignette about Ted. And Ted, when are we going to a baseball game at Yankee Stadium?

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