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Monday, Feb 26, 2024

In memoriam: Remembering Middlebury faculty and staff who recently passed away

This past summer, the Middlebury College community mourned the passing of three professors emeriti and one staff member: Professor Emeritus Robert “Bob” Pack, Professor Emeritus Robert “Bob” Martin, Professor Emeritus John McWilliams and former Language School Director of Operations John Stokes.

Professor Emeritus Robert Pack

Professor Emeritus Robert Pack joined the Middlebury College faculty in 1964 and became the first professor to be appointed Donald Everett Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing. Pack spent 34 years teaching at the college and was responsible for developing and chairing the Creative Writing Track of the English major. Pack also served as a director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference from 1970 to 1994.

“He was the first teacher to encourage my writing as an undergraduate at Middlebury and without his encouragement and guidance, I would never have thought I, an immigrant into English, could become an American writer,” poet and novelist Julia Alvarez ’71 said on the college memorial webpage for Pack.

In an email to The Campus, Donald Everett Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing Jay Parini said of Pack, “[He] was a mentor for countless students at Middlebury over many decades. He was an inspired teacher who loved poetry and literature, and his enthusiasm was catching. We had countless great conversations about literature and life. The creative writing program was something he valued hugely, and he was instrumental in its evolution.” 

A prolific writer, Pack not only published critical prose about Robert Frost, Shakespeare and Wallace Stevens, but also 21 collections of poetry, according to a June 16 email from the college announcing his passing. Pack continued to write poetry during his final years with the help of his wife, Patty, and his friends. His final collection of poems, “Searching for Home,” will be published this fall. 

Professor Emeritus Robert Martin

Professor Emeritus Robert “Bob” Martin joined the college faculty in 1976 as an assistant professor of Mathematics.

After a year of study at Harvard and MIT while on sabbatical in the early 1980s, Professor Martin returned to Middlebury and taught computer science courses. In the following years Martin became the “grandfather” of the Computer Science department, helping to build the major that has become one of Middlebury’s most popular today.

“What I will remember best about Bob Martin is his cheerful support in the mid-1980s for the idea that a woman could have both an academic career and a family,” Priscilla Bremser, Nathan Beman Professor of Mathematics said about Martin on his memoriam webpage. “He loved kids, and he joked about setting up a small childcare center in Warner Hall.” 

Professor Emeritus John McWilliams

Professor Emeritus John McWilliams was a member of the Middlebury College Faculty for close to 40 years. 

A professor in the American Literature department (now known as just the English Department), McWilliams served in a number of administrative roles, including as chair of the Department of American Literature, chair of the Program in American Civilization, chair of Faculty Council, chair of the Division of Humanities and vice president for Academic Affairs.

As a professor, McWilliams developed new courses for Middlebury’s comparative literature program and the departments of religion, history and art history, according to the college’s memoriam webpage for him. McWilliams wrote numerous academic books, articles and book reviews, frequently contributing to the Phi Beta Kappa Key Reporter. He also received various fellowships, grants and honors, notably including four National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) fellowships.

“John was one of the most distinguished scholars ever to have served on the Middlebury faculty, and I am honored to have been his colleague and friend,” Stephen Donadio, John Hamilton Fulton professor emeritus of Humanities said in the memoriam released by the college on July 27.

A memorial service for McWilliams open to all will be held in October at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the town of Middlebury.

John Stokes

John Stokes was a member of the Middlebury College staff for over 40 years, serving most recently as director of operations, from which he retired earlier this year. Stokes was also associated with the Middlebury Language Schools in various capacities for over 40 years, according to the College’s “in memoriam” webpage for him

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Stokes graduated from Middlebury’s Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian in 1983. He then went on to serve as the coordinator of the School of Russian from 2005 until 2012, and as interim coordinator of the School of Arabic in 2008. Stokes held the position of director of operations from 2012 until 2023. 

Wendy Butler, assistant director of the School of Japanese and School of Korean, shared a remembrance of Stokes on the college’s memoriam page. “John’s calm and unflappable presence will be sorely missed by everyone in the Language Schools family,” Butler wrote. He relished a challenge, physically and mentally. Whether he was attacking the obstacle course at Shale Hill, or sorting out complex operational puzzles for the Language Schools, his determination was relentless. His positive attitude was an inspiration.”

Susanna Schatz

Susanna Schatz ‘24 (she/her) is the Senior News Editor. 

She previously served as Local Editor, Staff Writer, and Visuals Artist for The Campus. She is an English major and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies minor.   

Susanna is the social media and marketing intern for a small business started by Midd Alums, Treeline Terrains. In her free time you’ll find her taking in the Vermont outdoors hiking, swimming, skiing, reading in an Adirondack chair, or painting the scenery.

Sabrina Salam

Sabrina Salam '24 (she/her) is a Copy Editor.

She previously served as a Staff Writer. Sabrina spent this past spring semester studying abroad in Spain. This summer she interned as a Legal Intern at Verizon's headquarter in New Jersey.

Sabrina is studying International & Global Studies with a focus in Global Security. She is also a Peer Career Advisor at the Center for Careers and Internships and a DJ for WRMC Middlebury College Radio.