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News Release

VLS to Host 46th Commencement Exercises on May 15

Tuesday, April 27, 2021


The classes of 2020 and 2021 to be celebrated with virtual graduation ceremony

Vermont Law School will celebrate the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 when it hosts its 46th commencement exercises, Saturday, May 15, at 1p.m. EDT.
Last spring VLS rescheduled the 2020 commencement ceremony to May 2021 with the hopes that graduates from 2020 and 2021 could be celebrated with an in-person event. However, due to the ongoing restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the combined graduation ceremony will be held virtually at

"The classes of 2020 and 2021 faced unprecedented adversity that makes their accomplishments all the more extraordinary," said Beth McCormack, VLS's interim president and dean. "It is disappointing that we can't all be together in South Royalton to celebrate their graduation, but we are working hard to provide the special graduation experience that they so richly deserve."

Jacqueline Patterson, senior director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, will deliver the 46th commencement address and be honored for her contributions to climate and social justice with an honorary degree. The school will also confer honorary degrees upon Rick Middleton, founder and president emeritus of the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Tom Sullivan, the University of Vermont’s president from 2012 to 2019.

During commencement candidates will be presented for juris doctor, master of laws, and master’s degrees, and graduate certificates.

About the 46th Commencement Speakers and Honorary Degree Recipients

Patterson is the Class of 2021 commencement speaker and an honorary degree recipient. She is the senior director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, and serves as coordinator and co-founder of Women of Color United. A committed advocate for women’s rights and environmental and climate justice, Patterson has held prominent positions at ActionAid IMA, World Health, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Johns Hopkins University, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. Holding master’s degrees from both the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University, Patterson currently serves on numerous boards, including Greenpeace, the Bill Anderson Fund, the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, and the National Black Workers Center Project. She has authored numerous articles and publications, including “Equity in Resilience Building for Climate Adaptation: An Indicators Document,” “Climate Change is a Civil Rights Issue,” and “Our Communities, Our Power.”

The evening prior to the commencement ceremony, Middleton will deliver the 2021 environmental lecture: Reflecting on 50 years of Environmental Advocacy in the Southeastern United States—the Key to Success. Middleton is president emeritus of the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), an organization he founded and led for 34 years until his retirement in 2019. Under his leadership, SELC grew to become the preeminent environmental organization in the South–with 80 lawyers and offices in six Southeastern states– and one of the most effective environmental law organizations in the country. Middleton is a native of Birmingham, Ala., and holds degrees from the University of Virginia and Yale Law School.

Sullivan is a 2021 honorary degree recipient who served as the University of Vermont’s 26th president from 2012 to 2019. Now president emeritus and professor of political science at UVM, Sullivan is a nationally recognized authority on antitrust law, complex litigation, and constitutional law, having authored 12 books and more than 50 articles. In 2015, he received the Robert J. Kutak Award from the American Bar Association for his contributions to the legal academy, the judiciary, and the Bar, and he currently serves as vice president of the Board of Directors of the American Bar Foundation. Prior to becoming UVM president, he served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Minnesota, and dean of the University of Minnesota Law School. He graduated magna cum laude from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.