In Memoriam, Alumni News

Remembering Carol Channing

Celebrating the life of artistic trailblazer and electric stage personality Carol Channing '42.

Today, Bennington College celebrates the extraordinary life of Carol Channing '42—artistic trailblazer, electric stage presence, and proud Bennington College alumni.

Channing arrived on campus in 1938, a time when colleges offered few options for women pursuing serious careers. She saw in Bennington an opportunity to grow her intrinsic gifts into something extraordinary. "I wanted to go to Bennington and nowhere else,” she said. “I simply had to go there."

"Carol Channing didn’t become a force of nature in her college years—that spark had always been inside of her—but it was at Bennington that she refined her craft and charted a professional course that would make her a star," said President Mariko Silver.

So eager was she to begin stage acting that she managed to get an audition with the president of the William Morris Agency during her sophomore Field Work Term—then called Winter Term—the yearly experiential internship required of every student. Through that audition, she landed her first Broadway appearance, which garnered the praise of The New Yorker and eventually led to the stage and screen productions that would make her an award-winning icon.

Decades later, Channing said of her college years: "What Bennington allows you to do is develop the thing you're going to do anyway, over everybody's dead body. But it gives you the floor and the foundation to build on, and forces you to plunge into wider territories of it than you ever would otherwise had had the nerve to do. It removes the fear."

Bennington College is proud to have been a part of this fearless life.


Listen to Carol Channing's commencement address from June 20, 1975, and view more remembrances on Bennington College's Twitter.

Carol Channing 2003
Carol Channing '42 at a reading of her memoir on campus. March 17, 2003.
Carol Channing in 1938
Carol Channing was on Field Work Term when she finagled an audition with Abe Lastfogel, president of the William Morris Agency.
Carol Channing 1975
Carol Channing returned to campus as Bennington College's 1975 commencement speaker.