Burlington College celebrates commencement, new campus

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joelbairdatburlingtonfreepress [dot] com (Joel Banner Baird, Free Press Staff Writer)

Photos by Morgan Day, a 2009 Burlington College Alumnus

Narrowly beating the weekend’s rain, Burlington College celebrated its class of 2011 on Saturday with tributes to new definitions of success, a new campus and to a legendary entrepreneur: Tony Pomerleau.

Thirty-four graduates and a tent full of faculty, trustees, family members and friends took part in the school’s first commencement at the new North Avenue campus, which will officially open later this year.

Humor and informality held sway. So did invocations to self-directed study-and- career paths.

Bachelor of Arts degrees ranged from Legal and Justice Studies to Transpersonal Psychology; from Writing and Literature to Documentary Studies.

Rene Schwiesow McGuigan, ’11, one of two student speakers, was introduced to the gathering as a gifted, creative writer by President Jane O’Meara Sanders.

McGuigan began her remarks with an unaffected, “Thank you, Jane.”

Beneath the traditional gown and mortarboard caps, the students are emphatically unclassifiable individuals, she said.

“Choosing to grow as we have is never the easiest route,” she added. “We cross the threshold knowing that we are not finished.”

A few minutes later, Pomerleau slipped into his newly bestowed doctoral robes, glanced around and behind him, and stepped up to the microphone.

“I was just thinking what this would cost me later,” he said — and the crowd howled.

Tony Pomerleau recieves a Honrary Doctorates
Photos by Morgan Day, a 2009 Burlington College Alumnus

He laced his humor with sound advice. He told the youngsters that his rise from poverty had almost everything to do with seeking out and sticking with a career that agreed with him (he’s one of the state’s most accomplished real estate developers; and one of its most generous philanthropists).

Forging a vocation will require the ability to “take a licking” now and then, Pomerleau said; but to be successful, “a job has to be a place where you look forward to going, every morning.”

He drew mostly humorous parallels with U. S. Sen. Bernie Sanders — the college president’s husband — who sat in the front row. The two didn’t share the same politics, Pomerleau said, but they persevered and made a difference in their respective spheres.

“Now he’s in Washington, and I’m here, still working,” Pomerleau added. Everyone, including Sanders, guffawed.

Jane lauded Pomerleau’s inquisitive mind, strong values, determination and kind spirit as “the embodiment of Burlington College’s mission.”

She also credited him as the only man in town who could have brokered the land-purchase deal with the Roman Catholic Diocese.

“He understands relationships,” the president said. “Not just ‘who you know,’ but an understanding that leads to a reputation, and to trust.”
Pomerleau’s self-mapped journey matches the way Burlington College hopes to direct students, she continued.

“We want you to focus on futures which you’ve created,” she told the graduates. “Being true to yourself may be your most difficult accomplishment.”

She hinted that directing so many lines of inquiry presented unique challenges to faculty and staff.

“Can you imagine trying to lead a class of mavericks?” she asked the crowed. “And this one takes the cake.”

Contact Joel Banner Baird at 660-1843 or joelbairdatburlingtonfreepress [dot] com ( joelbairdatburlingtonfreepress [dot] com). Baird’s blog: http://bit.ly/BairdsEye . Become a fan of the Burlington Free Press page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bfpnews.

Burlington College celebrates commencement, new campus