USA Today Journalist Christine Dugas Urges SVC Graduates to Forge a Meaningful Life by Taking the Road Less Traveled By

May 18, 2008

In the keynote address at the 81st Southern Vermont College commencement ceremonies Sunday, award-winning personal finance reporter Christine Dugas advised the 83 graduates to, in the words of Robert Frost, make a difference by “taking the road less traveled by.”

Before Dugas’ speech, SVC President Karen Gross conferred upon her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, for her “remarkable professional achievements and for her personal courage.”

In her address Dugas related how her expectations for life had changed since growing up on a farm in western Ohio: how she had graduated college with a teaching degree, but decided upon a career in journalism; how she’d married a fellow journalist and had to flee to Vermont to avoid a threat from the Russian mafia, the subject of one of her husband’s investigative stories; how his work in India had resulted in his contraction of a fatal disease; and finally, how she had overcome a severe brain injury – the cause of which she cannot remember – to pursue her career as a reporter for USA Today.

“Life can be so unpredictable, complicated and yet amazing,” she told the SVC class of 2008. “I don’t regret anything, and I look forward to the next part of my life.”

Before her stint at USA Today, Dugas worked as a writer for Business Week magazine and New York Newsday, earning awards for her business coverage. A graduate of Bowling Green University, she earned a Master of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin.

Prior to the keynote address, Senior Diana Senecal of Yarmouth, Maine, who earned a double major in English and Creative Writing, spoke on behalf of her fellow baccalaureate degree recipients. The class speech representing the associate’s degree program was delivered by St. Johnsbury, Vt.-native Rebecca Jane Rowe, a graduate in the Radiologic Technology program.

Eight graduates earned valedictory and salutatory honors. The traditional baccalaureate degree Valedictorian is Kira McLenithan of Cambridge, N.Y.; the nontraditional Valedictorian is Mark Klauder of Arlington, who is also the College’s director of facilities.

The traditional baccalaureate degree Salutatorian is Melissa Kempton of Bennington; the nontraditional baccalaureate degree Salutatorian is Derek Nagle, also of Bennington.

In the associate degree program, the traditional Valedictorian is Pamela Pelchat of Berlin, N.H.; the nontraditional Valedictorian is Barbara Ann Walsh of Williamstown, Mass. The traditional Salutatorian is Ashley Doucette of Arlington; the nontraditional Salutatorian is Arlene Shannon of Bennington.

During the commencement ceremony three special awards were presented to graduating students. The William A. Glasser Award, honoring a student for achieving outstanding personal and academic growth while at the College, was presented to Holly Leigh Lyon of Panama, N.Y.

The Lynda Curry Memorial Award, honoring the graduate who best exemplifies the fulfillment of the College’s mission, was given to Barbara Wright-Murray of Arlington, Vt.

And finally, the Edward H. Everett Award, acknowledging numerous contributions to the Southern Vermont College community, was presented to Valedictorian Mark Klauder of Arlington, Vt., who in addition to being a student is also the College’s director of facilities.

Also during commencement, Ben Patten, a 1984 SVC graduate and an Albany, N.Y., radio broadcaster, was named as the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, in recognition of his contributions in his career, community service and personal achievements.