Commencement speaker selected


Mary Alice McKenzie

Mary Alice McKenzie, the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club in Burlington, Vermont, has been selected to speak at commencement on May 14.

McKenzie was chosen by a committee of staff, faculty, and students at the college. The committee included Associate Professor of Writing and Literature Sharon Twigg; Dean of Student Life and College Relations Dave Bergh; Associate Professor of Education Kathleen Brinegar; chair of the Department of Fine Arts, Professor Ken Leslie; and a student, Taryn Colby.

The main criterion for selecting the speaker is that the candidate has to be someone who can speak to the interests and concerns of those about to graduate.

Everyone on the committee had a recommendation for this year’s speaker, with none so popular as Bernie Sanders. While it was a long shot that Sanders would accept, the committee felt that it was at least worth the effort of reaching out.

“We did ask if he was available, but he is not, which is not too surprising,” said Twigg. “He’s busy campaigning, but we thought we’d at least try, because people really wanted to see if there was a chance.”

While the effort to get Sanders was certainly wishful thinking, the committee does tend to look for people who are heavily involved in their community, according to Twigg. McKenzie, for example, works with those whose opportunities are often limited by poverty or other adverse circumstances.

“She’s worked with people through that process of overcoming some difficult situations, which I think a lot of our students do too,” said Twigg. “And I think because of that, a lot of our students are more interested in giving back, and more interested in people who do that kind of work, so she was a really good choice for us.”

McKenzie has held a number of leadership roles in Vermont. She was general counsel of the Vermont State Colleges from 2001 to 2005 and also practiced employment law at Paul Frank and Collins in Burlington.

McKenzie has served on a number of boards, including those of Central Vermont Public Service, Vermont Electric Power Co., Vermont Federal Bank, Associated Industries of Vermont, and the American Meat Institute.

McKenzie holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing from St. Mary’s College and a Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law. She is a Vermont native and alumna of Rice Memorial High School in Burlington, where she lives with her husband, Allan Rodgers, and their five children.