Dr. John Elder, environmental writer, scholar, and educator, will deliver the commencement address at Sterling College’s 18th baccalaureate commencement ceremony, to be held at the College’s Houston House Gardens at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 6th, 2017.
“John has been a longtime mentor of mine, and I’m thrilled that our community will have this opportunity to honor him, and to express our gratitude for all he has contributed to Sterling,” said Dean of Academics Dr. Carol Dickson. “In exemplifying the roles that language, literature, and the humanities play in environmental stewardship, John’s work stands as an inspiring model for all of us.”
Dr. Elder joined the Middlebury College faculty in 1973 and has taught most summers at the Bread Loaf School of English. His special areas of interest as a teacher are in American nature writing, English Romantic Poetry, modern American poetry of nature, and Japan’s haiku tradition.
His three most recent books, regularly included in reading lists at Sterling—Reading the Mountains of Home, The Frog Run, and Pilgrimage to Vallombrosa—have each combined discussion of literature, description of Vermont’s landscape and natural history, and personal memoir. A multi-media website called pickinguptheflute.com reports on his wife Rita’s and his immersion in traditional Irish music since their retirements from teaching. Picking Up the Flute was published by Vermont’s Green Writers Press, and is now being published as an audiobook.
“Music is required if we are to move forward resolutely, in the face of challenges that first make us falter, and in order to foster community when disagreements push neighbors apart,” he writes in Picking Up the Flute. “Our only choice is finally to move forward into the next season while doing our best to serve and celebrate what we hold most dear.”
In recent years, he has also enjoyed exploring the possibilities for service-learning and community-based education, through courses related to residents’ sense of place in the Vermont town of Starksboro and to the challenges and hopes of eleven Addison County farmers.
John Elder has served as a Trustee of Sterling College since 2007 and will retire from the board in June 2017.