“That Driver Could Be God: How the Bhagavad Gita Changed the World”
Laurie L. Patton President, Middlebury College
Laurie L. Patton is the 17th president of Middlebury and the first woman to lead the institution in its 218-year history. She is a leading authority in South Asian history and culture, and the author or editor of eleven books in these fields. She has also translated the ancient Hindu text, The Bhagavad Gita, for Penguin Classics Series, and is the author of three books of poetry—the last book, House Crossing, just published in 2018.
Dr. Patton began her career at Bard College, where she was assistant professor of Asian religions from 1991 to 1996. From 1996 to 2011 she served on the faculty and administration at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and the inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the Office of the Provost. While at Emory she served as chair of the religion department from 2000 to 2007.
Professor Patton then served as the Durden Professor of Religion and Duke University Dean of Arts & Sciences until 2015. At Duke she oversaw 36 academic departments and programs in arts and sciences for the school, which awards 80 percent of Duke’s bachelor degrees. Patton also oversaw Trinity’s $435 million commitment to the “Duke Forward” campaign.
Laurie Patton believes in building a stronger and more resilient public sphere and in fostering increased opportunities for informed discussion and debate about today’s most challenging issues. Early in her leadership, she launched the first institution-wide discussion on Middlebury’s intellectual direction, Envisioning Middlebury, to help inform Middlebury’s new strategic direction, which was approved in late 2017.
Also in her first years as Middlebury’s president, Patton’s team has initiated in numerous programs to strengthen the relationship between campuses in Middlebury, VT., and Monterey, California; raised over 40M in financial aid scholarships; inaugurated several new programs focusing on inclusivity on campus; and created a new environmental goal after Middlebury achieved carbon neutrality in 2016.
From 2008 to 2011, she served as president of the American Society for the Study of Religion, and in 2018-19, she will be the president of the American Academy of Religion, an 8000 member scholarly society for the study of religion.
In April, 2018, she was elected to be a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, as a leader in two fields—religion/philosophy and education.
(Note: This biography was up-to-date as of the date of the lecture. Biographies are not updated over time.)