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Middlebury College Chooses Its First Female President

Middlebury College
Laurie L. Patton, currently dean of Duke University's Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, will lead Middlebury College beginning in July.

Middlebury College has named the first female president in its 214-year history. College trustees announced today that Laurie L. Patton will succeed Ronald Liebowitz, who will step down at the end of the academic year.

The 53-year-old Patton is currently dean of Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, which has more than 5,000 students.

Her academic background is in religious studies. She has written books on South Asian history, culture and religion and translated classic Sanskrit texts.

Middlebury trustee Al Dragone, who led the presidential search committee, says Patton has warmth, charisma and strong communication skills.  

“It was very clear early on that not only was she an incredibly accomplished academic, but she was also someone that had a very high energy level and was capable of dealing with very complex issues,” says Dragone.

Dragone says a member of the committee who had worked with Patton initially recommended her. But once the committee members had made their choice, they had to convince Patton to accept the job.

Dragone says Patton felt she had more work to do at Duke and she was unfamiliar with some aspects of the Middlebury College. He says convincing her to take the job was a matter of educating her about the college, not a negotiation over contract terms.

Patton’s selection ends a six-month search that began with a list of 250 potential candidates. She becomes Middlebury’s 17th president.

Her husband, Shalom Goldman, a professor of religious and Middle Eastern studies at Duke, will become a tenured professor at Middlebury.