Remembering Matthew Power

 

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When my e-mail inbox pinged at around ten o’clock on the morning of March 11, alerting me to a message from David Bain with the subject line “FW: Matt Power,” I smiled and wondered what adventure the intrepid journalist had embarked on now. David’s opening words—“devastating news”—stopped me cold.

Matthew Power had died at the age of 39.

I did not know Matt well. We had met at Bread Loaf about 10 years ago and had subsequently bumped into each other a couple of times. No matter where his reporting travels had taken him—Iceland, Cambodia, South Sudan, Tasmania—he always seemed to find his way back to the mountain and the Writers’ Conference each summer, where he was a tuition scholar in 2004 and a guest lecturer ever since. While Matt was at home in the world—more at ease in the most uncomfortable situations than anyone I know—Middlebury was his home. He was raised in Cornwall and educated at Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury College, Class of 1996; Addison County seemed to be the perfect place to incubate what Matt described as “childhood fantasies of having an adventurous life.” Fantasy became reality, but unlike those who get the wanderlust bug and never look back, Matt’s perpetual motion allowed, always, for moments in Vermont, moments cherished by family and friends and those who just wanted to be in his orbit.

People like me.

In the weeks following Matt’s passing, I had conversations with alumni journalists who were close friends of his. Some were contemporaries, folks from his class or classes adjacent, but far more were 10 or even 15 years younger. And they all shared common stories. They didn’t come to Middlebury because of Matt, but they all left wanting to do what he did. Not only were they inspired by his example, but they were beneficiaries of what friend Abe Streep ’04 has described as his “relentless generosity,” his ability to connect, to empathize, to encourage.

Matt is gone, leaving this Earth far too soon, yet he lives on through so many others—people we know and people we will never meet. For those feeling his loss most acutely, I hope there’s some solace in knowing this.

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  1. Thank you for this kind remembrance. To honor Matt – and to encourage talented young writers to pursue untold stories – we have established the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award under the direction of Ted Conover at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. This annual award will support promising writers early in their careers with a stipend of $12,500 to help produce a story of importance about an overlooked corner of the world. Recipients will be selected annually from a broad national applicant pool by a panel of recognized faculty, writers, and editors. I hope some of Matt’s fellow Middlebury alumni will apply for the Award. Matt was a tireless advocate and mentor for aspiring journalists, and the

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    goal of this award is to provide the means to give young writers a start. The annual recipient will be able to immerse him or herself in a worthy project, learn through experience, and come back with a better story for it. We have launched a Crowdrise campaign to fund the endowment. For more information: https://www.crowdrise.com/matthewpoweraward/fundraiser/FriendsofMattPower

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We hope to create a lively discussion on MiddMag.com and invite you to add your voice. Please keep comments civil and relevant to the news item at hand. MiddMag.com may remove comments that do not follow these guidelines.

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