With Gratitude (Summer 2019)
President Mariko Silver reflects on her final term at Bennington College.
Greetings from the beautiful Bennington College campus, where the mountains are green and the flowers are in full bloom. The end of this term marks the start of exciting transitions for our graduating seniors and important campus spaces. It is an opportunity to reflect on all that we have accomplished together and to look ahead toward Bennington’s ongoing work as a leader and innovator.
This year’s achievements exemplify Bennington’s unwavering gaze toward the future, our drive to solve for tomorrow’s problems and create new things where they didn’t previously exist.
This year, Bennington was awarded a grant of $1 million from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a three-year collaborative effort with local partners to address the systemic causes of food insecurity in Bennington County. Through the Beyond Plastics project, students became leaders in the fight against plastic pollution, publishing letters in newspapers nationwide, testifying at the Vermont Statehouse, educating media organizations, and helping to plan an educational forum at Pace University. Bennington hosted experts from around the country to discuss the role of liberal arts in educating and empowering incarcerated people. In its inaugural season, the Robert Frost Stone House Museum welcomed more than 3,000 visitors and students, and a new season of original programming is already under way including rare works of art, poetry workshops, readings by Bennington faculty, and a folk concert on the lawn. And we announced that, beginning next summer, Bennington will host several of the Middlebury Language Schools on campus in a partnership that will enable us to help provide access to language education and welcome more people to our campus and the region.
Bennington students continue to break boundaries and forge original paths for themselves in every field. In just the past several months, our students have premiered their work at Sundance Film Festival, released a debut music album, had their art exhibited at Yellowstone Art Museum, published essays in the Walloomsack Review, and launched an online Black Studies Guide that builds on the work of Bennington’s Black Library project of the 1970s and now serves as a resource for all current and future students.
Alumni were recognized for their work in myriad fields, including a Tony nomination, a Screen Actors Guild nomination, an Academy Award nomination, a TED Fellowship, and a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant.
There are too many such accomplishments to list in their entirety, but you will find a rundown of the achievements of students, alumni, faculty, and staff here.
The thread running through all of this work—from pioneering students and faculty like Mary Oliver, Helen Frankenthaler, and Paul Feeley, to the breakout projects of this Spring Term—is an enduring hunger to keep learning and collaborating, to keep building. That collective, generative force of Bennington will continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible for generations to come.
Thanks to your dedication to this place, we have established partnerships with some of the world’s premier arts and cultural institutions, creating new opportunities for more brilliant, creative students. There are more ways than ever for students to integrate their work experience into their academic path, and to hit the ground running when they graduate. And, through the generosity of our alumni, we have launched the largest capital campaign in the College’s history, more than quadrupling commitments to the endowment in just a few years.
I am so honored to have led this college and to have helped shape part of the story of Bennington. As I enter my final days here, I feel a mix of gratitude, excitement, inspiration, and immense pride in Bennington College, the people who work and live here, the students, alumni, and all who make Bennington its best. The work that you do to bolster Bennington’s standing as a fearless, creative, and trailblazing place is extraordinary.