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Slayton: Goddard College

10/26/12 7:55AM By Tom Slayton
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(Host) Journalist and commentator Tom Slayton has been thinking about the stellar history of a local college, some of its former students, and it's current rejuvenation.

(Slayton) Goddard College, which hit a low point in 2002, when its residential program was terminated, now seems to be on the rebound under President Barbara Vacarr, who has infused the college with a new burst of energy and renewed mission.

And that's good news for Vermont, because Goddard is a perfect example of how even a small, rural college can enrich the community life around it.

Not only does the school offer creative education - it employs faculty and creates graduates, introducing them to Vermont in the process. And they, in turn have played a major role in the transformation of this small state.

Central Vermont would be a very different place, for example, without the restaurants and food service run by the New England Culinary Institute. And it was Fran Voigt, a Goddard faculty member in the 1970s, who was one of the founders of the Culinary Institute. "I couldn't have asked for better preparation (than Goddard) for going out and starting a school myself," Voigt said recently. His wife, Ellen Bryant Voigt, is an important contemporary poet, who has served as Vermont Poet Laureate.

Studio Place Arts in Barre, one of this region's premier art venues, owes much of its energy and direction to one of its founders, the artist and arts educator, Janet Van Fleet, who took her MA from Goddard in 1995.

Rick Winston, who came to Vermont in 1970 because of friends at Goddard and attended classes there, recalls that the film series that eventually flowered into Montpelier's unique Savoy Theatre began in the Haybarn Theatre at Goddard College.

Montpelier's first vegetarian restaurant, the Horn of the Moon, was started by Ginny Callan, who graduated from Goddard in 1974. Callan now works for the New England Grass Roots Environmental Fund and serves on the District 5 Environmental Commission.

Buch Spieler Music, which will be celebrating its 40 th year in business this coming January, was created by Fred Wilber, who graduated in 1973, Wilber also helped found the Onion River Arts Council.

Avram Patt, now general manager of Washington Electric Coop, graduated from Goddard in 1972. He has also been director of the Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity.

Perhaps Goddard's most famous alumnae are three members of the band Phish, which was born at Goddard and played many gigs there before going national.

And the list goes on... Jay Craven, who received an MA from Goddard in 1978, is well known to Vermonters as film director, and arts impresario. His films include several deeply grounded in Vermont, including "Where the Rivers Flow North," and "Stranger in the Kingdom."

Ricky Gard Diamond, novelist, professor at Norwich and Union Universities, and founding editor of the newspaper, Vermont Woman, says:

"Goddard College changed my life..."

Those same words could have been uttered by many of the teachers and graduates that Goddard brought to this state. And though none of them would probably say so, together, they've done something profound: They have helped transform Vermont.

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