Middlebury College’s chapel will no longer be known as Mead Memorial Chapel because its namesake, former Vermont governor John Mead, was a staunch proponent of eugenics, the college announced Monday.
Mead, a member of the class of 1864, and his wife donated $74,000 in 1914 to build the chapel. Just two years earlier, in his farewell speech as governor, he had called on the Vermont state legislature to adopt policies based on eugenics — the practice of sterilizing certain individuals to avoid propagating undesirable characteristics in the population.
“John Mead’s documented actions in this regard are counter in every way to our values as an institution, and counter to the spiritual purpose of a chapel, a place to nurture human dignity and possibility, and to inspire, embrace, and comfort all people,” President Laurie Patton and Board chair George Lee wrote in a message published on the college website.
Going forward, the building will be known as “the Middlebury Chapel” or simply, “the chapel.”