Faculty Presents Unique Gift to President Laackman

Capitoline Ariadne (after Charles Bargue), by Toni-Lee Sangastiano. Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes.

At the inauguration of Donald J. Laackman, eighth president of Champlain College, Mike Kelly, assistant professor of Rhetoric and President of the Faculty Senate, presented a unique gift to Laackman on behalf of the faculty.

Capitoline Ariadne, a piece of art created by associate professor Toni-Lee Sangastiano, represents charging through a myriad of challenges in higher education and learning and teaching alongside faculty. Sangastiano created the piece while on sabbatical in Italy as she re-learned the fundamentals of drawing. The piece's medium is Graphite on Canson Mi-Teintes. It was displayed at the inauguration dinner on Saturday evening so everyone could admire its detail.

Introduction by Mike Kelly:

On behalf of the faculty of Champlain College, I have the honor this afternoon to welcome everyone and present President Laackman with a gift—a piece of art called Capitoline Ariadne, created by our very own Toni-Lee Sangastiano.

In Greek mythology, Ariadne heroically provided the Athenian hero Theseus with a ball of thread that allowed him to escape the labyrinth and slay the mighty Minotaur. For that she's often associated with mazes and puzzle-solving.

In the context of American higher education, college presidents are often associated with similar mazes and puzzles.

While it is certain that figuring out what to do about the myriad of challenges facing contemporary higher education will require more than some yarn, Ariadne's face depicted in this piece of art represents a reminder.

Mike Kelly introduction

A reminder of how the need for ingenuity in problem solving has remained a constant for the better part of 2000 years. On behalf of the faculty, we look forward to working with you, Don, to meet these challenges and negotiate these mazes.

But this piece of art is more than just the face of a character in a Greek myth. Looking more deeply into the drawing, you'll see a series of shapes and images resting inside Ariadne's hair. If you look closely, you'll see a rat's tail, a lobster claw and other images.

Now, a cynical interpretation of the message here might be "good luck dealing with the faculty—they're a bunch of zoo animals." Read more generously though, what this aspect of the piece can represent are the hidden talents and layers of complexity that make Champlain a vibrant, quirky and ambitious place. If we take the time to look carefully, we can see beyond what's on the surface and embrace the subtle richness that's strikingly visible if we know how to look.

The last symbolically important aspect of this gift is the process Professor Sangastiano used to create Capitoline Ariadne. While studying in Italy last year, Toni-Lee made the piece while re-learning how to draw and returning to the foundation of what it meant to be a student.

This reflexive relationship between teaching and learning and this perpetual sense of wonder are hallmarks of what it means to do the work of higher education well and we look forward to doing it alongside President Laackman.

On behalf of the faculty of Champlain College, I congratulate President Don Laackman on his inauguration as Champlain's President.


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 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition. For the third year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2018 "America's Best Colleges," and an "A+ School for B Students" and is ranked in the top 100 Regional Universities of the North. Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2018 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2018 College of Distinction. For more information, visit  www.champlain.edu.