Nikki Brown '80Anyone who has the pleasure of knowing Nikki Brown ’80 understands that, if given the opportunity, she will opt for the Road Less Traveled…especially if that Road has the potential to be more fun!
A Washington, D.C., girl, her tenure at Southern Vermont College was something of a happy accident. In early 1979, she had decided it was time to see the world! Her first stop was Bennington, for a visit with lifelong friend, Laura Myers-Paligo, who was a student at SVC. Nikki thought it would be fun to hang out in the area awhile and maybe take a class or two. One week later, thanks to the persuasion of Prof. Bob Sugarman and staffer Mary Moore, she was enrolled full time! Living on her own for the first time, Nikki juggled her time between friends both at school and in town. A talented singer, one of the first things she did as a Benningtonian was to join the St. Peter’s Church choir. Some of what appealed to her was the blurring of the lines between academia and the community. She fondly recalls taking piano lessons from renowned instructor Rosamond Van der Linde at the elegantly appointed studios of Sonatina Music School with two Harley-riding veterans!
When asked how SVC impacted her life, Nikki says, “It gave me my career.” Math Professor Bev Smith forced her, kicking and screaming, to try data entry on a computer. Nikki was terrified, sure she would break it/blow it up/start some sort of nuclear melt-down. Much against her better judgment, she hit “enter.” When she saw what it could do, she was totally hooked and signed up for the College’s first computer class. The rest, as they say, is history. She is currently a Senior Systems Analyst for Westat, an employee-owned corporation providing research services to agencies of the United States Government, as well as businesses, foundations, and state and local governments.
After earning her associate’s degree in General Studies, Nikki returned to Germantown, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C., where she lives with her husband, John Libby. She currently serves as the Chair of the Alumni Association, and faithfully makes the lengthy schlep from Maryland to Bennington to lead Association meetings, usually along with Vice Chair and still-partner-in-crime Laura Myers-Paligo! This dynamic duo is leading the revitalization of the Alumni program in remarkable ways.
Nikki has also done outstanding work as a representative of SVC at college fairs in Maryland and D.C. When students ask her why they should consider the College, she tells them that it’s a small, friendly school where you can’t get lost in the crowd. And if that’s not convincing enough, she tells them she valued her SVC experience so much that now, some 30 years later, she is again a matriculating student here, pursuing her bachelor’s degree. And did we mention that her grade point average has significantly improved with age.
Nikki has many fond and funny memories of her tenure at SVC. The College obviously holds a very special place in her heart. The feeling is mutual.
JTom Redden, Professor of History and Politics
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- Remarks by Commencement Speaker/Honorary Degree Recipient/Author/professor Moustafa Bayoumi