Member Spotlight: Laurie L. Patton

Laurie L. Patton photo

“Phi Beta Kappa started on a vision of friendship and the life of the mind. While the definitions of those two values have changed a great deal since ΦBK was founded, as an educational leader I think they remain simple but profound bedrocks of living a meaningful life. I’m proud that we have a chapter at Middlebury to embody a 21st-century version of these values.”

           — Laurie L. Patton, President
                Middlebury College

Laurie L. Patton (ΦBK, Harvard University) is the 17th president of Middlebury College and the first woman to lead the institution in its 218-year history.

An authority on South Asian history and culture, Patton is the author or editor of 11 books in these fields. She also translated the ancient Hindu text The Bhagavad Gita for the Penguin Classics Series.

Patton’s previous academic positions include appointments at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions, chair of the Department of Religion, and the inaugural director of the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence. Her career then took her to Duke University, where she served as the dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Durden Professor of Religion, and oversaw 36 academic departments and programs.

At Middlebury, Patton advocates for building a more resilient public sphere and increasing opportunities for informed debate about today’s most challenging issues. She and her team have raised $72 million in financial aid; inaugurated several new programs focusing on inclusivity on campus; and launched Compass, an experiential learning initiative. She is guiding Energy 2028, Middlebury’s ambitious environmental goal to be powered 100% by renewable fuels by 2028. Middlebury achieved carbon neutrality in 2016. 

In 2019 Patton served as president of the American Academy of Religion. The year before, in 2018, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, in two categories: religion/philosophy and education.