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Green Mountain College holds 176th commencement celebration

POULTNEY - Green Mountain College shook off the threat of rain and awarded diplomas to 24 graduate students and 124 undergraduates during its 176th commencement ceremony this past Saturday morning.

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley, a national and international leader in environmental sustainability, corporate responsibility and social justice, addressed the graduates and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from GMC.

"This stage is so crowded - my mother and my father are here in spirit, and my grandparents are here," she said. She recounted teachers, mentors and influential people including one of her Howard College friends who died in a traffic accident.

"He might have been the brightest person I ever met in my life," she said. "So many of us were devastated when he passed. I felt part of my responsibility was to live for, and to live up to, his potential in the world - not as a burden but as a promise and a commitment to his spirit and to his life."

Dillon-Ridgley is the chair and a trustee for CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law) and has served as the U.N. Headquarters representative for the Center for International Environmental Law since 2005. She was appointed by the White House to the U.S. delegation for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in New York in June 1997 (known as UNGASS-'97), and World Summit for Sustainable Development in 2002 in South Africa, making her the only person to serve on all three U.S. delegations.

In the private sector, Dillon-Ridgley has served as a director at Interface, Inc., a global manufacturer of environmentally-responsible modular carpet and an industry leader in sustainable design since 1997. She also served as a director at Green Mountain Energy, a leading retailer of renewably produced electricity.

Two students, Ernest Klepeis and Meiko Lunetta, also addressed the crowd giving a join speech. In their spirited repartee, the duo traded recollections of the class' activities in sustainability over the past four years, including promotion of the "real food" movement through the installation of a local food freezer, helping with the opening of a community food co-operative in Poultney, and construction of a new solar garage that will serve as a powering station for an electric vehicle.

"Wherever you travel to, know that you impact the people you meet. For years we have looked up to those who motivate and inspire us. Know now that as you complete 16 or so years of schooling, you are one of those role models who we watched crossing this stage in years before us," said Lunetta of Francestown, N.H, a double major in sustainable agriculture and environmental studies. "So stand out - be someone who does yoga in airport."

"Or be the person who plays the devil's advocate," responded Klepeis, of New Paltz, N.Y., a graduate of the college's progressive program in visual/performing arts and philosophy. "Aspire to become the person that others will draw inspiration from," he concluded.

Photo by Tim Donaghy
Meiko Lunetta of Francestown, N.H. sung with the GMC choir during Green Mountain College's commencement Saturday, May 11. Lunetta was one of the student speakers at the event.