Yeaton Receives Appreciation Award

By Ellie Reinhardt

A ceremony was held this past Tuesday in Crossroads café to honor Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Dana Yeaton with the Marjorie Lamberti Faculty Appreciation Award. The annual award was initiated by the SGA as an opportunity to recognize those faculty members who have made an impact on the College.

The award is student-nominated and given to faculty members who, in the words of retired History Professor Marjorie Lamberti, “have demonstrated excellence in teaching (be it lecture course, seminar, or laboratory) and dedication by giving time, energy, and effective effort in encouraging and supporting students in their search for knowledge and in their intellectual development inside and outside the classroom.”

After students send in nominations, the winner is selected by a committee of SGA members based on the number and quality of the nominations for each faculty member.

Andi Lloyd, dean of the faculty, said, “I appreciate the fact that this award is entirely driven by students— in its initiation and execution, this is an opportunity for students to identify and thank exceptional faculty members.  And that gives it special significance.”

Lamberti was a professor at the College from 1964 until her retirement in 2002, specializing in modern European History. Yeaton was also a graduate of the College, and was a student during Lamberti’s time teaching. He has been a member of the faculty since 1998 and part of the theater department since 1999.

“Receiving the Lamberti Award is such an honor because it comes from the students. It’s particularly meaningful for me because when I arrived at Middlebury as an undergraduate in the late ‘70s, Professor Lamberti was already a legend here. Students who couldn’t get into her classes would sometimes attend her lectures for fun. Here was this diminutive figure with enormous intellectual energy, who literally seemed to know everything. We were in awe of her, and I still am,” said Yeaton.

Yeaton teaches many playwriting classes, and as a playwright himself, brings a unique knowledge to his courses. “Because I continue to write plays, I have a special relationship to people who are trying to write plays. I’ve found that getting into a script, whether its mine or somebody else’s, takes the same muscles,” he said. “Working with someone else’s text feels like a combination of therapy and collaboration; no, I’m not the author, but we can still get inside their idea and make discoveries together.”

Many of Yeaton’s plays have received recognition throughout the country. He is also the Founding Director of the Vermont Young Playwrights Project, which, since its start in 1995, has provided high school students a chance to work with professional playwrights, actors and directors.

Yeaton has also taught courses at the University of Vermont and the University of Tennessee. Of working with Middlebury students, Yeaton said, “These are students who want a challenge and you get to play up to that. You raise the bar for them, because that’s what they want. Of course that means raising the bar for yourself.”

He continued, “Students come here eager to find out what it is they’re actually here for. So as a professor, you get to watch people change course and struggle with some of the bigger questions of life. It makes teaching here seem really important.”

Yeaton’s dedication to his students is exemplified in his approach to teaching. “We’re trying to encourage students to broaden their interests, and in the theater department especially, we’re hoping they can see how this particular art form can pull widely varying disciplines together. When we see students doing that, well, it makes you proud,” he said.