May Belle Chellis, Middlebury’s First Alumna

In honor of President Laurie Patton’s inauguration, Special Collections and Archives will mount a campus-wide exhibition showcasing eight exceptional women throughout the College’s history. Our community is thrilled that President Patton has joined the ranks of these founders, marking a momentous step in Middlebury College history.

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We first recognize May Belle Chellis, one of the first three women admitted to Middlebury College in 1883 and the first woman to graduate in 1886. Chellis’ presence and accomplishments forced the trustees to make accommodations – including a special curriculum, dedicated study and living space, and awards for scholarship – so that women could attend the College. “The faculty were not going to require us to do the regular work that the boys had,” Chellis reminisces, “but [May Bolton, Class of 1887, Louise “Daisy” Edgerton, Class of 1887, and I] insisted that we ought to do it just the same.” Chellis captured the highest rank in Greek at the end of her freshman year, graduated Phi Beta Kappa, and delivered her essay “The Growth of Criticism” at the 1886 Commencement.

She went on to become Preceptress at both Black River Academy in Ludlow, Vermont and Gates Academy in Neligh, Nebraska, and Principal at St. Peter High
School in Minnesota. She married Joseph Andrew Doremus in 1898 and raised five children.

Keep an eye out for our exhibition around campus and additional posts featuring more iconic Middlebury women!

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