For most of its ten-year history, the University of Vermont has financially supported an annual “Tolkien at UVM” conference. My understanding is that this has not been a large sum, but has been sufficient to pay a speaker’s honorarium and travel fees, as well as to provide a simple breakfast and light refreshments through the day.
I was told UVM had found that the bequest which had been funding the event should not have been used for such a purpose (fair enough: these things happen), but that no effort was made by the University to find an alternative source of support or to provide any stop-gap funds even for the scheduled 2013 conference or its engaged keynote speaker.
Andy Peterson drafted the following letter to the editor of UVM’s student newspaper, The Cynic, which our colleague Mark Kaminsky and I whole-heartedly signed.
We are writing to express our appreciation for both Chris Vaccaro, Senior Lecturer of English, and to The Tolkien Club at UVM for their outstanding work during the 10th annual Tolkien at UVM conference.
This year’s conference was organized in the face of financial adversity and administrative apathy.
With no funding from the college, the students of The Tolkien Club offered their time and money to make sure that those guests and lecturers in attendance were provided with coffee and donuts for breakfast and pizza for lunch. These students took it upon themselves to welcome the Tolkien academics who journeyed to Vermont for the conference. Their hospitality and generosity was much appreciated by all in attendance. We offer a tip of the hat to Anders Albertsson, Haley Markosian, Brenden Anderson, Braden Kaiser, Kerry Oster, and Corey Dawson for making us feel welcome. We look forward to seeing them again at next year’s conference.
Tolkien at UVM is the only conference of its type that is held annually on the East Coast. As such, it is an event that has been attended by such Tolkien luminaries as
- Dr. Michael D.C. Drout, Professor of English, Wheaton College
- Dr. Jonathan Evans, Associate Professor of English, University of Georgia
- Dr. Verlyn Flieger, Professor of English Emerita, University of Maryland
- Dr. Thomas Alan Shippey, Professor of English Emeritus, Saint Louis University
- Dr. Michael Neill Stanton, Associate Professor of English Emeritus, University of Vermont
and many other noted academics from other institutions including Middlebury, Rice, and Harvard.
These academics are a veritable “Who’s who” of Tolkien studies. They and many other independent scholars gather at this conference to share their thoughts and ideas about Tolkien’s legendarium. Of particular importance is the presentation of papers by students of Tolkien Studies under the scholarship of Chris Vaccaro. As Tolkien Studies is one of the only academic areas that allow for independent scholars to be actively involved in scholarship, this platform for their work should not only be encouraged but eagerly supported by the administration at UVM.
Chris Vaccaro should be congratulated for organizing the annual Tolkien at UVM conference for the past ten years. It is our hope that future conferences will be well-funded by the administration at the University of Vermont and that, once again, academics from all walks of life will gather to hear the thoughts of both the current and the next generation of Tolkien scholars.
- Andrew C. Peterson, ALB candidate, Harvard ’14
- Mark Kaminsky, MIT/Lincoln Laboratory; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’10
- Erik Mueller-Harder, Vermont Softworks; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’99