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Kind of a Miracle — the Introduction:

The Power of People Who Refused to Give Up

by Emerson Lynn

CCV Kind of a MiracleDoug Wilhelm’s Kind of a Miracle is perhaps less a story about how the Community College of Vermont came to be than it is about the power of people who refused to give up — people whose thirst to turn the educational model upside down could not be quenched, and people who prevailed when all others told them they were wrong, or they did not belong.

This is a book inspirational to Vermonters, because for the past half century CCV has been woven into our individual communities in a way nothing else in higher education has. As Vermonters, we know them. They know us. CCV is centered on the belief that it is only as strong as its community relationships are deep.... It’s a belief and a practice that has made CCV the second-largest higher-ed presence in Vermont, and the one within the Vermont State College system that is strongest and most envied.

CCV’s relationships are personal, especially so for this writer. I came to Vermont a decade after Peter Smith, the soothsayer who in 1970 began this experiment” in higher education.... In this book Peter characterizes what has transpired at CCV as a very unlikely story.” Indeed. It was, and is, a story that rewrites people’s lives.

The college gave those without the resources the opportunity, followed by the thirst, to learn. It served as a pillar to the community, something to be defended, encouraged and celebrated. A half-century later that same sense of belonging, and importance, remains at the center of its 12 academic centers statewide. Doug Wilhelm’s book explains why, and does so through testimonials and interviews with new CCV disciples as well as those who have been there through the half-century-plus experience.

In an age where the unexpected becomes routine and founda- tional things are shaken to their core, this book is a crucial reminder that good things disappear if not defended. Good things disappear if the wrong people lead. Good things disappear if change is not embraced, some-thing Doug makes central to the CCV story.

CCV has been extraordinarily fortunate to have been led by CCV insiders” like Barbara Murphy, Tim Donovan and Joyce Judy — people who were pivotal in its evolution, who were ahead of their times in understanding that students’ needs were, and still are, the focus of their mission. And, as Doug ably portrays, these people are simply marvelous human beings.

The expression Run till you’re tackled,” which appears more than once in this book, will be familiar to Vermonters old and new who have taken part in making this uncommon college work so well.

The phrase best describes CCV’s philosophy, and it explains why the college’s leadership has prevailed against the forces that resist change. It conveys why it’s never acceptable to rest in neutral while change erupts around us — and it hints at why CCV’s educational model is essential to Vermont’s future.

Thank you, Doug. The story of the Community College of Vermont is a tale very much worth telling.

Emerson Lynn was the owner, editor and publisher of the St. Albans Messenger from 1981 to 2019. He continues to write the papers editorials as editor emeritus.