Champlain Holds Two Commencements For Largest Class in College's 139-Year History

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Champlain College President Donald J. Laackman conferred more than 1,100 associate, bachelor's and master's degrees to the largest graduating class in the College's history on Saturday, May 13. For the first time in the College's history, two separate commencement ceremonies were held on the same day to accommodate the burgeoning class that has seen its greatest growth in online education while maintaining a strong traditional undergraduate base.

President Laackman conferred 505 bachelor's and 11 associate degrees during the morning's 139th Commencement under a tent in the Edmunds Middle School field adjacent to the College.

An additional 207 undergraduate bachelor's degrees, 37 associate  degrees and 399 master's degrees were conferred in the afternoon at the Commencement ceremony for Champlain College Online (Online) and master's degree students.

Hooding ceremonies for the master's degree candidates were held Friday evening on campus at two locations to accommodate the dramatic growth in Champlain's online master's programs, which include digital forensic science, healthcare administration, executive leadership, managing innovation and information technology, and more. 

More than 6,000 people attended the two Commencement ceremonies with even more watching the online simulcast in the College's Alumni Auditorium.

Champlain College bestowed two honorary degrees this year:

  • Al Roker of NBC's Today Show and founder of Roker Media Labs, a Doctor of Humanities. Roker displayed his usual brand of humor with references to college life, how we are all becoming our parents, and the need for people to put down their electronic devices and reconnect, whether by phone, a handwritten note or in person. 
  • Renee Forney, CEO of the Forney Group and the Executive Managing Director of Global Cyber Security Management at Equinoxys Inc., a Doctor of Science and Technology. Forney spoke of the need for change and how those seeking to further their education are the change agents this world needs. 

"Champlain is honoring Al Roker and Renee Forney for their professional achievements in fields that align with two of Champlain's academic offerings -- media communications and cyber security," said President Laackman. "Both honorees are prominent leaders in their industries who have helped prepare Champlain students for a lifetime of career success by creating ongoing educational opportunities for our students through internships and jobs after graduation."

In the morning, Samantha Brehm ‘14 offered the Alumni Welcome to the graduates and their families. Julian Lopez, ‘17, an international business and finance major in the Stiller School of Business, delivered the Senior address to the undergraduate Class of 2017. Lopez urged his fellow graduates to take personal responsibility when it comes to changing things in the world.

At the afternoon ceremony, Jane Brumley ‘17, an accounting major who completed her studies while living in Germany, spoke on behalf of the Champlain College Online graduates. Laura Fillbach ‘17, of Calais, Vt. who was receiving her MFA in Emergent Media, addressed her fellow master's degree recipients. Both women traced their non-traditional education journeys that brought them to the graduation.

President Laackman's remarks at both ceremonies focused on the tremendous amount of change the Class of 2017 has experienced on the way to receiving their diplomas.

"Your success in the face of change, combined with your radically pragmatic Champlain College education, positions you to successfully enter a changing world. While we face challenges that may seem daunting, I have great optimism regarding our future because of what this class has already accomplished while here at Champlain," Laackman told the graduates. He also thanked the undergraduates for their work as mentors, interns and volunteers in the community. "The Champlain College Class of 2017 has left our community a better place. You have helped people in Vermont and you have made an enduring positive contribution to our community here in Burlington and beyond," he said, adding, "I know that each of you has done something special during your time here that helped inspire you to reach Commencement today."

Later in the day, speaking to the online degree graduates and master's degree recipients, Laackman observed: "The diversity of your experiences, backgrounds and viewpoints will ultimately make us all stronger. I believe in your ability to not just persist, but to succeed. I believe in your ability to be focused, and committed. I believe when your motivation is combined with your radically pragmatic Champlain College education that you can, and will, make a real difference in the world." Laackman concluded his remarks by urging the graduates to live their lives in the spirit of the Champlain College motto "Audeamus" - Let Us Dare! 

Additional information, photos and speeches from the Commencements will be available at See video from the 2017 Commencements here.

Al Roker

Renee Forney honorary degree

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit