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Middlebury Changes Name of Chapel Gifted by a Eugenicist

September 28, 2021

Middlebury College's chapel will no longer be known as Mead Memorial Chapel because its namesake, former Vermont governor John Mead, was a staunch proponent of eugenics, the college announced Monday.

Mead, a member of the Class of 1864, and his wife in 1914 donated $74,000 to build the chapel. Just two years earlier, in his farewell speech as governor, Mead had called on the Vermont state Legislature to adopt policies based on eugenics -- the practice of sterilizing certain individuals to avoid propagating undesirable characteristics in the population.

"John Mead's documented actions in this regard are counter in every way to our values as an institution, and counter to the spiritual purpose of a chapel, a place to nurture human dignity and possibility, and to inspire, embrace, and comfort all people," President Laurie Patton and Board Chair George Lee wrote in a message published on the college website.

Going forward, the building will be known as "the Middlebury Chapel" or simply, "the chapel."

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Susan H. Greenberg

Susan H. Greenberg is a senior editor at Inside Higher Ed. A career journalist and educator, she joined the publication in August 2021 after eight years in Vermont, where she freelanced and taught writing at Middlebury College and Champlain College. Prior to that, she spent 22 years writing and editing for Newsweek magazine, where she covered everything from international affairs to arts and culture. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and River Teeth, among others. She has taught English and journalism at Phillips Academy, where she served as an advisor to the student newspaper. She holds a B.A. in English from Brown University and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia. The mother of three nearly adult children, she is very much enjoying her newly empty nest.

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