UVM Honors College named for Senator Patrick Leahy

Senator Patrick Leahy, center, reacts to a standing ovation following approval by the UVM Board of Trustees of the naming of the Patrick Leahy Honors College on Friday at UVM's Dudley H. Davis Center. Photo by Bailey Beltramo

Board of Trustees Approves Naming in Recognition of 48 Years of Service and Support

Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont Board of Trustees approved the naming of the Patrick Leahy Honors College at its May meeting Friday, aligning student and faculty excellence across a wide range of academic programs with the ongoing legacy of the retired senator’s 48 years of service to the nation and support for his home state of Vermont.

“Just as the Honors College is synonymous with academic excellence here at UVM, Senator Patrick Leahy has long personified exemplary leadership and advocacy for the state of Vermont and the nation,” said UVM President Suresh Garimella. “It is only natural for this man and this college – both of whom represent the best in terms of merit and achievement – to be united henceforth in name as they are in spirit.”

Senator Leahy and his wife, Marcelle, attended Friday’s meeting to witness the Board’s approval vote for the naming. The senator was appointed in March by Garimella to the position of President’s Distinguished Fellow, a role in which he advises UVM students, faculty members and staff, appears as a guest lecturer in classes and at public events, and acts as a conduit between the university and organizations and communities in all corners of the state.

“The students, faculty, and staff of UVM's Honors College set the highest standards for commitment to critical thinking, research, service, and leadership,” Sen. Leahy said. “Marcelle and I feel that the college embodies excellence at the University of Vermont, one of the finest research universities in the country. We are delighted to have my name attached to the Honors College and linked to the achievements and success of all who pass through the college now and in the years to come.”

David Jenemann, the college’s dean, said the Patrick Leahy Honors College will serve as a steward and standard-bearer for the senator’s living legacy, promoting excellence at UVM while spotlighting the issues that Leahy championed, and training the next generation of engaged scholars and informed leaders. The senator helped secure a federal endowment in support of the Honors College in his last year chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee in December 2022.

“The Patrick Leahy Honors College aligns our dedication to student success and our commitment to educating the next generation of leaders addressing contemporary challenges with the ongoing legacy of Senator Leahy,” Jenemann said. “The transformational support from the new endowment positions the Honors College as a true center of opportunity for all high-achieving UVM students.”

Jenemann said elements of that transformation will include increased support for tuition, research, and internships for UVM’s highest caliber students; “launch” funding to support Honors College seniors as they develop their research in advance of graduate school or pursue accelerated master's programs at UVM; a Leahy Faculty Fellows program to support teaching and research mentorship; and research awards in social justice, civil rights, sustainability, gender equity, and Vermont economic development.

Founded in 2004, the Honors College is home to original research, innovative teaching, and student-faculty collaborations representing the full spectrum of academic programs at UVM. Its students are empowered through experiential learning and encouraged to grow into courageous thinkers and compassionate leaders.

Excellence in the Honors College is evidenced by its students’ exemplary academic achievements and record of top-choice graduate school admissions and job placements each year. The Honors College has supported students from across the university to apply for and win an unprecedented number of national and international fellowships and awards, including two Truman Scholars, three Goldwater Scholars, and 42 student Fulbright finalists in the past four years (with a record nine winners in 2019-2020).

Senator Leahy represented Vermont in the U.S. Senate for 48 years, retiring in January 2023 as the third-longest-serving senator in the nation’s history. His legacy in the Senate was defined largely by his support for agriculture, environmental protection and natural preservation, much of which benefited Vermont directly. The native of Montpelier introduced into budget bills small-state minimums that effectively channeled billions of dollars of additional funding to his home state.

During his time in the Senate, Sen. Leahy helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for UVM through Appropriations Bills, awards, and other support mechanisms. The culmination of his work was the inclusion of $30 million in Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) for an endowment to support the Honors College and academic excellence at UVM and an additional $50 million in Vermont-focused programmatic funding in the annual Appropriations Bills signed into law on Dec. 29, 2022.

Senator Leahy was the driving force behind the $9.3 million award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that funds the Institute for Rural Partnerships at UVM, due to be unveiled this summer.

A separate $9.5 million USDA grant, secured by Sen. Leahy, is allowing UVM to renovate the Joseph L. Hills Agricultural Science Building on the UVM campus, where the Institute for Rural Partnerships will be located once work is completed later this year. Leahy also secured an initial $11 million of federal funding in 2021 to support UVM’s Food Systems Research Center, a collaboration between UVM and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which will also be housed in the Hills Building.

In October 2019, UVM unveiled a $3.3 million fund in tribute to Sen. Leahy and his wife. The Patrick and Marcelle Leahy Scholars Initiative benefits undergraduate, doctoral, and post-doctoral students in two signature programs at the university – the UVM Honors College and the Gund Institute for Environment – with research funding and tuition support for students whose work includes the environment, infectious diseases, Alzheimer's, and Vermont agricultural issues, all causes championed by Sen. Leahy during his political career.

Marcelle Leahy was the recipient in 2019 of an honorary degree – Doctor of Laws, honoris causa – from UVM in recognition of her nearly 20 years of service as a member of the UVM College of Nursing and Health Sciences Board of Advisors.

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About the University of Vermont

Since 1791, the University of Vermont has worked to move humankind forward. UVM’s strengths align with the most pressing needs of our time: the health of our societies and the health of our environment. Our size—large enough to offer a breadth of ideas, resources, and opportunities, yet intimate enough to enable close faculty-student mentorship across all levels of study—allows us to pursue these interconnected issues through cross-disciplinary research and collaboration. Providing an unparalleled educational experience for our students, and ensuring their success, are at the core of what we do. As one of the nation’s first land grant universities, UVM advances Vermont and the broader society through the discovery and application of new knowledge.

UVM is derived from the Latin Universitas Viridis Montis (in English, University of the Green Mountains).

Source: 5.19.2023. BURLINGTON, Vt. – University of Vermont