News Honorary Degree Citation, Francis Voigt
As the founder and chief executive officer of the New England Culinary Institute for three decades, you have done more than bring together students and faculty with a passion for fine food. You have pioneered a unique educational environment where hands-on learning and sustainable practices are central to student success.
A native of Iowa, you earned your bachelor's degree from Wesleyan University and a master's from the University of Iowa before starting your career as an educator, innovator and food activist in Vermont. In addition to founding NECI, you have served as the chair of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, the Vermont Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. You were elected to the board of the national Career College Association, and were appointed by Vermont Governor James Douglas to the Vermont Human Resource Investment Council.
Your mission at NECI has held many parallels with Marlboro College, including your "small is beautiful" approach to education. You have said, "We are small by design. We have to be. In our minds, great hands-on learning does not take place in a lecture hall or demo kitchen for 30 students."
NECI also has a model commitment to sustainability and community, as exemplified in your leadership in the "farm to table" movement. You were a founding member of the Vermont Fresh Network, educating the public about the value of locally and sustainably produced food, and you are a leader of the Vermont chapter of Slow Food USA. The institute has led recycling and composing efforts with local farmers and food banks since the early 1980s. You have required community service of all students since the institute's founding, and this year you led a "farm to school" initiative with local elementary schools.
In recognition of your leadership, you received an award from President Clinton in 1994, and you shared national honors as a finalist for "Small-Businessman of the Year." The Vermont Chamber of Commerce named you "Citizen of the Year" in 2000.
You have upheld ideals of education, sustainability and community action through your work in Vermont and the country. Francis Voigt, it is our pleasure to confer upon you the degree: Doctor of Humane Letters.
photo by Jeff Woodward