Ezra Brainerd, Class of 1864
Brainerd, born in St. Albans, Vermont, was a College alum, the College’s eighth president (1885-1908), and a prominent geologist and botanist with a lifelong enthusiasm for violets. (To boot, his extravagant sideburns rank him in the Top Ten List of Celebrated Middlebury Beards.)
Aldace Freeman Walker, Class 1862
Born in Rutland, Vermont, Walker was class valedictorian. Famously, he delivered his valedictory address in Civil War military uniform before leaving for the front. Following his Civil War service, Walker practiced law in New York City and returned to Vermont in 1873 to serve as a State Senator from 1884-1885.
Born in Rutland, Vermont, Freeman would go on to be the nation’s first African-American college professor (at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania) and later a professor and president of Liberia College in the African-American colony in Monrovia, Liberia in Africa. Read more about Freeman here.
May Belle Chellis, Class of 1886
After transferring to Middlebury as a sophomore from Mount Holyoke College, May Belle Chellis finished first in her class. During her years as a Middlebury student, she boarded in the home of her classmate Anna Bolton, a farmhouse now known as the Franklin Environmental Center at Hillcrest.
Mary Annette Anderson, Class of 1899
The first woman of color to graduate from the College, Mary Annette Anderson was born in Shoreham, Vermont. Finishing first in her class, she was class valedictorian and is thought to be the first African American woman elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society in the United States. Read more about Anderson here.
Joseph Battell, Class of 1860
Joseph Battell was the editor of the Middlebury Register, founder of the Bread Loaf Inn, breeder of horses, and land conservationist. Battell was responsible for protecting Vermont forests including the land for Camel’s Hump State Park and the Breadloaf Wilderness. He hated automobiles and famously required all Bread Loaf Inn guests to arrive by horse and carriage.
Julian W. Abernethy, Class of 1876
A distinguished teacher and scholar of American and British literature, Abernethy was an avid bibliophile and during his lifetime amassed an extraordinary collection of books and original manuscripts by American authors. When he died in 1923, he donated his library to Middlebury College.
Eleanor Sybil Ross, Dean of Women
Eleanor Sybil Ross was Dean of Women for nearly 30 years. She was legendary on campus for her role in doubling the size of the Women’s College of Middlebury and for the strict discipline that she insisted upon for Middlebury women. She demonstrated her no-nonsense demeanor even as a student (pictured below).
Lilian Stroebe, founder of the German Summer School
Lilian Stroebe was founder of the German Summer School in 1915 and its Director from 1915-1917. She was a professor of German at Vassar College from 1905-1943. For its first six-week summer session, tuition in the German School was $30 for the summer. Board and room at the college was an additional $8 a week.
Perley Voter, Chairman of the Chemistry department
Perley Voter received his master’s and Ph.D. at Harvard before joining the Middlebury faculty in 1912. A scientist and skier, Perley Voter taught Chemistry at Middlebury for over forty years and contributed to the construction of a 27-meter ski jump on Chipman Hill for the first annual Winter Carnival in 1943.
After graduating from Middlebury in 1895, Eleanor Sybil Ross taught at high schools across the country from her native Rutland, Vermont to Pennsylvania and Idaho. Twenty years later, she returned to Middlebury at the request of President Thomas to serve as Dean of Women for thirty years. Here see young Eleanor as a student (Dean Ross above).
Harvey Denison Kitchel became Middlebury’s fifth president in 1866 and was the first alumnus to hold the office. Although he had a reputation for being an outstanding student and preacher, his lack of fundraising abilities rendered him an inefficient president. Unfortunately, not even his marvelous facial hair could not protect him from the faculty’s scrutiny, and he stepped down in 1873.
Doc Cook earned his BA from Middlebury in 1924 and his master’s degree from Bread Loaf in 1926 before attending Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. Upon his return to the U.S., Middlebury’s President Moody (from 1921-1942) persuaded him to join what was probably the first separate department of American literature established at an American college or University. He was a wildly popular professor and directed the Bread Loaf School of English from 1946-1964.