Author Andre Dubus III Urges Southern Vermont College Graduates to See the Value in Adversity in Today's World

May 28, 2009

BENNINGTON, VT – Award-winning author and honorary degree recipient Andre Dubus III delivered sage words for the graduating class at the 82nd commencement exercises at Southern Vermont College on Sunday, May 17: “See the difficult times as opportunities to grow.” 

Acknowledging the need to talk about the “elephant in the room, the world that you’re going out into...,” Dubus cited the dire economy, a scarcity of jobs, and the nation’s two wars in two countries. “The good news is that there is great value to adversity and tough times,” Dubus added. He also urged the graduates not to get caught up in a culture that divides people into winners and losers. With his newly conferred “doctoral magic dust,” Dubus said his wish for the graduates was, “to go out there, suffer a little bit, get great growth and find great joy.” 

Dubus was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by the school. He is the author of House of Sand and Fog (a Finalist for the National Book Award and an Oprah’s Book Club selection which was made into a major motion picture), The Garden of Last Days, Bluesman and The Cage Keeper and Other Stories. He teaches creative writing at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell. 

Southern Vermont College conferred associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees to 74 students on Sunday afternoon, a class that has achieved “remarkable successes,” according to President Karen Gross. Prior to the keynote address two SVC students, Sarah Hersey of Bennington and Lynn Reingold of Concord, N.H., offered their classmates, parting remarks. Bennington Chief of Police Richard Gauthier, SVC Class of ’91 and an instructor in criminal justice at the college, was given the school’s Distinguished Alumni Award, in recognition of his contributions in his career, community service and personal achievements. 

Eight graduates earned valedictory and salutatory honors. The traditional baccalaureate degree Valedictorian was Melissa Sweeney of Arlington, Vt. The nontraditional baccalaureate degree Valedictorian was Sarah Hersey. The traditional baccalaureate degree Salutatorian student was Lindsay Baker. Nontraditional baccalaureate degree Salutatorian was Mary Lewis of Troy, N.Y. 

In the associate degree program, the traditional Valedictorian student was Ann Driscoll of Bennington. The nontraditional Valedictorian associate’s degree program student was Lynn Reingold. The traditional salutatorian was Susan Heaney of Merrimack, N.H. The nontraditional associate’s degree Salutatorian was Philip Bushey of East Wallingford, Vt. 

Three traditional awards were presented to graduating students. The William A. Glasser Award, honoring a student for achieving outstanding personal and academic growth while at the College, was given to Jessica Fonner of Washington, Vt. The Lynda Curry Memorial Award, honoring the graduate who best exemplifies the fulfillment of the College’s mission, was given to Krystal Poulen of Readsboro, Vt. The Edward H. Everett Award, acknowledging numerous contributions to the Southern Vermont College community, was presented to Leslie Surdam of Hoosick, N.Y.