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Former Vermont governor sues Middlebury College for changing its chapel’s name based on ‘grossly misrepresented claim’

Last week, former Vermont governor James Douglas filed a “breach of contract” lawsuit against his alma mater Middlebury College after he removed the name of another former governor from his chapel.

Douglas’ lawsuit followed Middlebury College’s decision to remove the name of former Vermont Governor Dr. John Abner Mead from the school’s Mead Memorial Chapel in 2021.

As Douglas’ lawsuit claimed, the university justified the decision by claiming that Mead, who had donated $75,000 to build the chapel in 1914, had promoted “eugenics policies in the state that led to the involuntary sterilization of about 250”.


Former chapel on the campus of Middlebury College in Vermont. (John Greim/Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The school had claimed that prior to his generous donation to the school, Mead had urged the Vermont state legislature to pass policies and make laws based on eugenics theory.

A Washington Post article published Monday linked Mead to these “eugenics policies and practices that have led to sterilizations,” particularly of “Vermonters of mixed French-Canadian and Native American descent, as well as poor rural whites.”

The lawsuit, filed against the school on Friday, criticized that rationale as “a grossly misrepresented claim of the type that has become all too common in today’s ‘cancellation culture’ society in which we live.”

In addition to the lawsuit, the former lawmaker boycotted the school’s Middlebury 50th class reunion. He graduated from the school in 1972 and is one of its most renowned alumni.

Douglas, a Republican who served as Vermont’s 80th governor from 2003 to 2011, filed the suit in “his court-appointed capacity as special administrator of Dr. Mead’s estate in Rutland County,” wrote local media Brattleboro Reformer.


Sign of Middlebury College in Vermont.

Sign of Middlebury College in Vermont. (Toby Talbot/AP)

In the 79-page document, the former governor criticized the review of the chapel’s namesake as an unseemly move for a liberal arts school such as Middlebury College. He said the school’s accusation against Mead was “the type of claim one would not expect from an internationally recognized liberal arts college.”

He also accused the school of botching the history of the chapel by claiming it was named in honor of Mead himself. Douglas clarified that Mead donated the money to build the chapel in honor of his ancestors.

Douglas’ lawsuit claimed: “Ironically, Middlebury College, while misrepresenting the history of the Mead Memorial Chapel, claiming it was dedicated to John Abner Mead rather than by him in honor of his family ancestors, erased all memory of the monumental selfless acts and selfless contributions he made to his nation, his state, his county, his city, his church.”

The lawsuit asked the school to restore Mead’s name to the chapel or, if it refused, to give compensation to the Mead estate comparable to the financial benefit the school received from Mead’s $75,000 donation in 1914.


According to Douglas, the chapel is now worth more than $2 million.

Fox News Digital has contacted Middlebury College for a response to Douglas’ lawsuit, although the school has yet to respond.

Former Vermont Governor James Douglas sued Middlebury College for removing name "Mead" of the campus' "Mead Memorial Chapel."

Former Vermont Governor James Douglas has filed a lawsuit against Middlebury College for removing the name “Mead” from the campus’ “Mead Memorial Chapel.” (FoxNews)

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