Ceremony sets course, tone for academic year

October 2, 2016

During her Academic Convocation address September 30 in the McCarthy Arts Center, biology professor and last year’s Scholarship Award winner Donna Bozzone tapped the force of her personality and trademark humor in offering three assertions and three wishes regarding the essential role of love in learning.

In a talk titled “Soft Hearts, Hard Heads, Scholarship, and Paying it Forward,” Bozzone told faculty, staff and students in the McCarthy Art Center Recital Hall about her formative experiences growing up in the Bronx that instilled in her a love of learning, powerfully supported by her parents. Prior to recounting those early days, which led her to a doctorate from Princeton before “finding a professional home” and community at Saint Michael’s, Bozzone had proposed “three assertions” to start of her talk:

First, “Nothing you do matters that much except for how it allows for the expression of love. Nothing. This includes one’s scholarship; second, “You cannot do anything truly worthwhile unless it is supported by love – principally your own and hopefully that of others too; and third, “Successful endeavors rely much more on the work of the heart than that of the head.”

Her scholarship amounts to this, Bozzone said: “I learn, I try to make sense of it, I try to forge connections, and I share, hoping to reach others.” She concluded with “three wishes” for the audience and herself: First, Continuing to find joy in “engaging hearts and minds in the wonderful adventure of learning …which is the raw material for teaching and scholarship and our service too” … since “we are products of the whole, not simply the parts; second, “To enjoy sharing our gifts in a loving manner that feels wonderful and authentic” and third, “…to cherish the great gifts we have each received – the opportunity to matter [and] make a difference to others by softening our hearts, working hard and being open to possibility — and understanding what we do is not about us, which makes us grow even more.”.

The ceremony reprised an annual tradition begun under former President Paul Reiss in 1986 – once more presenting evidence that Saint Michael’s remains a vital and vigorous bastion of liberal arts learning and scholarly community. As at past years’ ceremonies, it was a time to:

  • Honor faculty with annual awards for teaching, scholarship and service.
  • Recognize academic honor society students, who bore flags to lead a processional beginning the convocation; and hear a talk from student Amy Garlesky’18.
  • Recognize faculty who in the past year have been granted tenure or achieved promotion to full professor or emeritus status.
  • Affirm both the College’s spiritual roots and its inclusive culture via the thoughtful invocation and benediction – respectively, from a faculty member, Vince Bolduc of the sociology and anthropology faculty – and from the Very Rev. Stephen W. Hornat SSE ’72, superior general of the Society of Saint Edmund.

Major Faculty Awards

Last year’s winners of the College’s three major faculty awards were the presenters to this year’s winners:

Nicholas Clary of the English faculty presented the Norbert A. Kuntz Service Award, named for a longtime professor and chair of the History Department, to Robert Letovsky, professor of business administration and accounting. Clary spoke of Letovsky’s wit and flair, and reviewed Letovsky’s many leadership roles in his department and on College committees as well as coordination of major competitions with his department, including the Pitch Your Passion and SUNY Plattsburgh Free Enterprise events. Letovsky, Clary said, has made an impact on many people in the community with his expertise in business matters and as a regular guest expert for local media, as a school board leader in his community, as a state Senate candidate, and by lending his  talents to a NASA-funded project through the Vermont Space Net Consortium.

Donna Bozzone of the biology faculty presented the Scholarship and Artistic Achievement Award to John Devlin, professor of fine arts/theatre. She described his distinguished work and artistic scholarship since joining the College in 2001, as resident scenic and lighting designer and technical director for undergraduate theater, and in similar roles with the professional Saint Michael’s Playhouse in the summer. He lists 406 production credits, analogous to publications in other fields, and has earned prestigious honors for mentoring students and interns. His free-lance design work with professional companies also is extensive, she said, noting stints across Vermont and New England, in Wisconsin, New York State, the Dakotas and elsewhere. She called Devlin “an inspiration to our Saint Michael’s students, Playhouse audiences and our local, regional and national theatre colleagues.”

Because last year’s winner, Mark Lubkowitz of biology, could not attend to make the presentation, Talentino presented the 2016 Joanne Rathgeb Teaching Award, named for a skilled and beloved actor, director, teacher and breast cancer activist, to Patricia Siplon, professor of political science. She cited Siplon’s commitment to community and engaged learning as she works closely with area community organizations, and of her diverse of interests and expertise — from activism in the global HIV/AIDS crisis to the politics of water, and study trips to Tanzania. “Students routinely cite Trish’s class as transformative experiences that profoundly impact their intellectual passions and career aspirations,” Talentino said. “She models the truth that political, economic and social change need not be an abstract, ivory tower dream …Trish perfectly captures what liberal arts education is all about; she models the heart and courage that is central to our craft.”

Student Participation

Bearing flags of the academic honor societies they represented and sitting in the front row for the ceremony were the following students, recognized individually by Master of Ceremonies Karen Talentino, vice president for academic affairs: Veronica McGurrin, Phi Beta Kappa; Eliza McDonald, Beta Beta Beta (biology); Emma Timmel, Delta Epsilon Sigma (Catholic Honors Society); Laura Verville, Kappa Delta Pi (education); Natalie Moore, Kappa Tau Alpha (MJD); Hannah Libby, Omicron Delta Epsilon (economics); Brian Shearer, Pi Sigma Alpha (political science); Christopher Holloway , Psi Chi (psychology); Kassidy Snair, Sigma Beta Delta (business); Alexandra Brown, Sigma Pi Sigma (physics); and Niall Keane, Theta Alpha Kappa (religious studies).

Speaking on behalf of students near the start of the ceremony – though by way of a pre-recorded video since she could not be present — was Amy Garlesky ‘18, secretary of academics for the Student Association. Garlesky said her education after three years at the College has changed and molded her “not into a thinker who believes as they’re told – but one who questions what we know, debates it and challenges it by its very foundations … My time here has shaped me into an individual – one who lives by my own ideas and values.” The political science major from Cleveland, OH, gave examples of profiting deeply from a wide range of courses, such as philosophy that igniting a passion that might lead to graduate work in political philosophy; or French, leading to study-abroad plans; or statistics and geography classes that taught her not just the course material, “but something about myself.” She expressed gratitude to faculty that “you make us better thinkers, stronger individuals and all-around better people.”

Faculty promotions

VPAA Talentino announced faculty granted tenure in the past year: William Ellis, Fine Arts; David Heroux, Chemistry; Laura Stroup, Environmental Studies; and Peter Vantine, Modern Languages. Tara Natarajan was promoted to full professor of economics.

Retiring, and therefore new Emeritus Professors, are Nicholas Clary, English, and Timothy Whiteford, Education.

Lorrie Smith, English Department chair, read the citation honoring Clary, who in his 46 years at the college “has quite literally done it all … very well” – he’s won all three major faulty awards during his career, she said; his primary teaching included courses in Shakespeare, Milton and Renaissance literature, and “his dedication to students and to his pedagogy is legendary.” She reviewed his leadership and many editorial achievements as a Shakespeare scholar, and recounted his “long and impressive” service to the College, director the Honors program, chairing the department, and passionately promoting “all things literary.”

Jonathan Silverman, Education Department chair, honored his colleague Tim Whiteford, who came to the College in 2005 after 17 years at nearby Trinity College. He said Whiteford is a leader in mathematics education in Vermont, with a professional history that “is a rare example of how a person’s teaching, research interests, publications and professional work can integrate beautifully and completely.” Silverman spoke of Whiteford’s commitment to study the role of language in math, multicultural aspects of the field, and dynamics of math-teaching to disadvantaged students. His students have included Somalis and Bosnians from local schools, and he’s known for illustrating math concepts with pennies on the walls outside his office. Colleagues will miss Whiteford’s “British humor” and “inspiration and creativity, Silverman said.


In his benediction, The Very Rev. Stephen Hornat, SSE’72, Edmundite Superior General, spoke of the “vocation of educating the hearts, minds and souls entrusted to our care.” He asked God to “help us remember” the roots and history of the college, employees of every job description, and of course students. “Guide us in the work that we do that we may do it not or the self alone, but for the common good,” he said.

A reception in the Teaching Gardens followed the ceremony.

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