Commencement

Commencement Weekend 2019, May 31-June 1

We look forward to welcoming family and friends of the Bennington class of 2019 to campus May 31-June 1, 2019 for graduation ceremonies and other events. Come enjoy a weekend of memorable activities celebrating the achievements of this year’s graduates! 

Ticketing is now closed. 

We are delighted to announce that the 2019 Commencement Speakers will be all three members of the acclaimed folk trio Mountain Man. Molly Erin Sarlé ’12, Amelia Meath ’10, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09 met on the campus of Bennington College more than ten years ago and released their first album, Made the Harbor, soon after. The New York Times called their distinctive harmonies “bewitching.” After touring and taking some time to forge artistic paths of their own, Mountain Man reunited last year to release their luminous second album, Magic Ship. We are so grateful that they can step away from their album tour to talk with us about collaboration and creativity, and to celebrate the Bennington College class of 2019.

Michelle Cirillo ’19 will be the Senior Class Speaker. Michelle’s academic path has been a model for fusing creative inquiry with social good. As a student of ceramics and philosophy, she sought new ways to strengthen communities and spark cultural change through her dedication to a critical study of ethics and rigorous attention to the practical demands of being a working class artist. In the classroom and in the field, Michelle has been lauded for her principled, empathic, and visionary leadership skills.

Sarah Harris will be the Faculty Speaker. A scholar of contemporary Spanish fiction, Sarah Harris's research and teaching interests include sequential art, twentieth and twenty-first century Peninsular film, trauma, collective memory and forgetting, migration, monstrosity, and gender and identity studies.

More on Mountain Man 

Before they were the critically-acclaimed folk powerhouse known as Mountain Man, they were Bennington College students studying drama, literature, gender, and visual art. The story of how Molly Erin Sarlé ’12, Amelia Meath ’10, and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig ’09 found each other on campus is as enchanting as their vocal harmonies. As they tell it, Amelia heard a gorgeous sound coming from the living room of her dormitory. She raced downstairs to find Molly singing “Dog Song,” a tender tune about lust, longing, and responsibility. Amelia demanded that Molly teach her the tune, which she, in turn, taught to her friend Alexandra. The next time all three were in the same place, they sang “Dog Song” together, and Mountain Man was born.

The unique alchemy of their voices was instantaneous, and the bonds of friendship soon followed. Mountain Man’s debut album Made the Harbor was recorded in an abandoned factory on rickety equipment, and it launched them into the musical stratosphere. The New York Times called them “bewitching” and The Guardian said, “Mountain Man have created a music from another time and place, a closed environment they're now opening up to all.” On their first album, they toured the globe with Feist, The Decemberists and more.

After an eight-year hiatus in which each band member forged an artistic path of her own, Mountain Man reunited to produce their luminous sophomore album Magic Ship. In a glowing review of their return to the folk stage, Pitchfork described the album thusly: “Though Mountain Man’s radiant harmonies are as pretty as they come, there’s still considerable weight to the shiny package.” Mountain Man is on tour throughout 2019 including stops at Newport Folk Festival, Willie Nelson's Luck Reunion, Preservation Hall and Red Rocks Amphitheater.

Information for Graduates and Families 

Following are several details to help you plan:

  • Accommodations. We encourage you to make hotel reservations as soon as possible, as accommodations tend to book quickly during this busy time of year. For information about local accommodations, please visit our website.

  • Invitations. Four (4) commemorative invitations will be distributed to graduates in early May.

  • Dinner tickets. Ticketing is now closed. Each graduate is limited to a maximum of four (4) guest tickets for dinner.

  • Diploma Frames. Diploma frames will be available for purchase in the Bennington College bookstore. For more information, please call the bookstore at 802-440-4361.

  • Commencement Fee. The $80 graduation fee helps offset the cost of your graduate’s dinner, diploma and cover, and any necessary cap and gown rental. This fee will be billed in the spring.

Commencement Schedule

Wednesday, May 29

  • 6:00 pm | Commencement Rehearsal, Barn 100

Friday, May 31

  • 2:00 pm | Senior Dance Concert, Martha Hill Dance Theater

  • 3:00 pm | Graduation Concert, Greenwall Auditorium

  • 5:00 pm | Welcome Reception, Commons Lawn

  • 6:00 pm | Commencement Dinner, under the tent, Commons Lawn

  • 7:00 pm | Commencement Addresses, under the tent

Saturday, June 1

  • 10:00 am sharp | Conferring of Degrees, Commons Lawn. Light refreshments will follow, under the tent. 

More information to follow so please check the schedule again later.

Past Coverage

Past Commencement Speakers

  • 2018 | Liz Lerman
  • 2017 | Cornell William Brooks
  • 2016 | Jane Chu
  • 2015 | Gloria Steinem
  • 2014 | Dr. Johnnetta Cole
  • 2013 | Elizabeth Coleman
  • 2012 | Peter Dinklage ’91
  • 2011 | Tim Daly ’79
  • 2010 | Melissa Rosenberg ’86
  • 2009 | Hendrick Hertzberg
  • 2008 | Rebecca Tinsley
  • 2007 | Mac Maharaj
  • 2006 | Glen Van Brummelen
  • 2005 | Jonathan Lethem ’86
  • 2004 | Shirin Ebadi
  • 2003 | Edith Velmans
  • 2002 | Meredith Monk
  • 2001 | Rick Moody
  • 2000 | Gay McDougall ’69
  • 1999 | Peter Hedges
  • 1998 | Linda Wertheimer
  • 1997 | Jane Alexander
  • 1996 | Mark Gearan
  • 1995 | Irene Borger ’71
  • 1994 | Harvey Lichtenstein ’53
  • 1993 | Kay Crawford Murray ’56
  • 1992 | Harvey Fierstein
  • 1991 | Harvey Gantt
  • 1990 | Joan Tower ’61
  • 1989 | Ellen McCulloch-Lovell ’69
  • 1988 | Elizabeth Frank ’67
  • 1987 | Barbara Lazear Ascher ’68
  • 1986 | Tillie Olsen
  • 1985 | Elizabeth Swados ’73
  • 1984 | Howard Nemerov
  • 1983 | Frederick Wiseman
  • 1982 | Joseph S. Murphy
  • 1981 | Bernard Malamud
  • 1980 | Elizabeth Swados ’73
  • 1979 | Vivian Gornick
  • 1978 | Mitchell Markowitz ’75
  • 1977 | Elizabeth Holtzman
  • 1976 | Joseph S. Iseman
  • 1975 | Carol Channing ’42
  • 1974 | Thomas Brockway
  • 1973 | Senior readings and performance
  • 1972 | Jimmy Garrison
  • 1971 | Anaïs Nin
  • 1970 | Kurt Vonnegut
  • 1969 | Denise Levertov
  • 1968 | Thomas P.F. Hoving
  • 1967 | Russell Baker
  • 1966 | Howard Nemerov
  • 1965 | Gene Baro
  • 1964 | William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
  • 1963 | David Riesman
  • 1962 | Kenneth Burke
  • 1961 | Henri Peyre
  • 1960 | Francis Fergusson
  • 1959 | George Boas
  • 1958 | Jacques Barzun
  • 1957 | Alvin Eurich
  • 1956 | Howard M. Jones
  • 1955 | W. Averell Harriman P ’40
  • 1954 | Franklin Ford
  • 1953 | Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
  • 1952 | Harry Allen Overstreet
  • 1951 | Mary Josephine Shelly
  • 1950 | Reinhold Niebuhr
  • 1949 | Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey
  • 1948 | Erich Fromm
  • 1947 | Lewis Webster Jones
  • 1946 | Reinhold Niebuhr
  • 1945 | Justice Frank Murphy
  • 1944 | Alexander Meiklejohn
  • 1943 | Robert D. Leigh
  • 1942 | William Batt
  • 1941 | Robert Lynd
  • 1940 | Henry Wallace
  • 1939 | Dorothy Canfield Fischer
  • 1938 | Frederick Lewis Allen
  • 1937 | W.H. Kilpatrick
  • 1936 | No commencement speaker