The Chestnut Hill Alumni Association recognizes an alumnus who has made significant, far-reaching contributions to society and who is widely respected by peers in his field with the Roll of Fame Award. In 2020, it was presented to Sydney Lea, Class of 1960.
Syd had a 43-year career as a professor of English, teaching primarily at Dartmouth College and Middlebury College, but also had brief appointments at Yale University and Wesleyan University. He has also taught at universities in Hungary, Italy and Switzerland. He is the recipient of fellowships from Guggenheim, Fulbright, and Rockefeller Foundations.
Syd is a former Pulitzer finalist in poetry. He founded and for thirteen years edited NEW ENGLAND REVIEW, a national literary quarterly now sponsored by Middlebury College and celebrating its 40th year of publication. He has published 13 collections, the most recent from Four Way Books, NYC, in 2019. He has also published a novel, two scholarly books, and four volumes of personal essays. Also in 2019, he published another volume of essays, The Music of What Happens: Lyric and Everyday Life, his collected newspaper columns from 2011 to 2015, his years as Vermont Poet Laureate.
Among Syd's other principal interests have been literacy and conversation. He was a tutor, board member, and president over the course of 25 years of association with Central Vermont Adult Basic Education, which serves those with severe educational deficiencies in his home state. He is a trustee and past president of Down East Lake Land Trust, which over the course of its 17-year existence has protected almost 400,000 acres from development and purchased 60,000 acres as working community forest near his summer camp in Washington County, Maine. He co-chaired and chaired the trust's two principal capital campaigns, helping to raise the better portion of the $58 million dollars dedicated to the trust's efforts.
He lives in Newbury, Vermont with his wife Robin Barone. He has five children and seven grandchildren.
Congratulations, Syd on a well-deserved Roll of Fame Award.