Champlain’s Class of 2016 Graduates with Honors - Grace Potter and Katherine Paterson Receive 2016 Honorary Degrees, Graduates Urged to 'Dare to Change the World'

BURLINGTON, VT (May 14, 2016) – Champlain College President Donald J. Laackman conferred 537 associate and bachelor degrees to one of the largest graduating class in the College’s history on Saturday, May 14 under an enormous tent spanning the entire Edmunds School athletic Field adjacent next to the College. More than 4,000 people attended the 138th annual Commencement ceremony with even more watching the simulcast in the Champlain Room of the CCM Building or online.

The College’s 138th Undergraduate Commencement presented honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to Vermont musician Grace Potter of Waitsfield and noted author Katherine Paterson of Barre.

Author Katherine Paterson was presented with an honorary degree and a citation read by Professor Jim Ellefson: “ ...for decades, you have built bridges connecting young readers to both literature and libraries. Your imagination has allowed readers to explore fantastic new places and discover the power of unexpected friendships. Your honesty has born witness to the challenges associated with “growing up,” while your compassionate narratives validate the feelings and emotions of young adults in Vermont and beyond. You have enabled your readers to understand the importance of being open to those set apart or outcast from society and our responsibility to provide them with hope for a better life. You have been honored with the top awards in literature, including the Newbery Medal, National Book Award, Hans Christian Anderson Award, and named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress. We celebrate your powerful body of work, your lifelong commitment to education and your storytelling skills.”

Grace Potter’s citation was read by Business Professor Thane Butt, “ Grace Potter, you have made a lasting impact on your community by following your dreams and bringing your artistic expression to life. Your music reflects your unique life experiences while simultaneously conveying universal truths and shared experiences. You have embraced your entrepreneurial spirit and charted your own course, reinforcing the importance of individualism and inspiring others to live their own dreams. We honor you for your compassion and commitment to community service. Your willingness to help others, both as an artist and a Vermonter, speaks to your desire to help those in need - whether through a concert to support a flood-devastated community or headlining an event to ease our veterans’ return from war.”

Major Chris Gookin, ‘99, State Public Affairs Officer for the  Vermont National Guard, offered the Alumni Welcome to the graduates and their families. Nina Knorr, ‘16,  a professional writing major in the Division of Communication and Creative Media delivered the Senior address.

In President Laackman’s address to the graduates, he focusing on the tremendous amount of change they have seen on campus during their four years and the change in themselves.

“The physical campus itself has undergone significant transformation and has almost always been under construction.  I am certain the route you followed when you took your first campus tour is not the same one you use today. You are the first graduating class to enjoy the Center for Communications & Creative Media, a transformative campus space designed to support collaboration and creative thinking. The Finney Quad, from which you began your procession today, was a parking lot your first year. Many of you have lived in Butler and Valcour Halls, which were simply drawings on paper when you considered attending Champlain,” Laackman noted.

And he concluded by offering one last assignment to the graduates “Lift up your spyglass. Stare intently into the future. It is your future to seize. Audeamus. Let us Dare!”


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Quebec and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and more than 60 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 380 Colleges: 2016 Edition. Champlain College is featured in the "Fiske Guide to Colleges" for 2016 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Champlain was named the #1 “Most Innovative School” in the North by the U.S. News and World Report’s 2016 “America’s Best Colleges and #14 in the overall list of “Best Regional Colleges in the North. For more information, visit

Contact: Stephen Mease Director of Public Information and News, Champlain College, Burlington, VT / 802.865.6432 or cell 802.578-8029


1.HonoraryDegree recipients musician Grace Potter and author Katherine Potter share a laugh after receiving their Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from Champlain College. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

2. Mortarboards are tossed into the air at the conclusion of the Champlain College 138th Commencement Saturday in Burlington, Vt. 

3. Champlain College Class of 2016 grads pose with the College's mascot Chauncey T. Beaver at the reception following graduation.