06.21.12

Senate Takes First Step In Commemoration Of Vermont’s Justin Morrill And The Launch Of The Nation’s Land-Grant Colleges

UVM Is Among Colleges Established Under Morrill’s Landmark Law

WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, June 21) – The U.S. Senate Wednesday night approved a resolution authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that helps officially launch this year’s 150th anniversary celebration of the signing of the landmark Morrill Act, which led to creation of the nation’s land-grant colleges, including the University of Vermont.  Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a cosponsor of the Leahy resolution. 

The law is named for its principal author, then-U.S. Rep. Justin Morrill, later also a U.S. Senator from Vermont.  Like Lincoln, Morrill was a member of the Union-Republican Party, a name that later was shortened.  Leahy serves in Vermont’s U.S. Senate seat that Morrill once held.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the first Morrill Act into law on July 2, 1862.  Leahy next week will keynote an event at the Library of Congress celebrating the Morrill Act and its importance to the nation and to American higher education, and other legacy events this year will include a commemoration in Vermont in August.

Leahy’s statement on passage of the resolution follows:

 

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy

On S.Res.502,
Celebrating The 150th Anniversary

Of The Signing Of The First Morrill Act

 

I commend the Senate for passing this resolution celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the First Morrill Act.  The Morrill Act, named for its author, Justin Morrill of Strafford, Vermont, granted public lands to States and territories to support colleges in promoting education as a means of economic advancement and intellectual pursuit.  This landmark legislation brought national attention to public higher education in the United States and made higher education accessible to the public by granting federal land to each state to be used toward funding public agriculture colleges.  It is difficult to overstate the profound impact and ways in which the core democratic vision behind the Morrill Act has improved the lives of Americans.  Land grant institutions have opened the doors of affordable and accessible higher education for millions of students.  These public institutions are the lifeblood of many communities, serving as hubs of research and innovation, as drivers of economic growth and as laboratories for critical thinking and public debate. 

The University of Vermont is the State of Vermont’s land-grant university.  It is fitting that representatives from the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center will be in town next weekend for the Smithsonian’s 2012 Folklife Festival.  This year, the annual event celebrates the spirit of the Morrill Act and the cultural impact of land-grant institutions.  Timothy Perkins, Timothy Wilmont, Emily Drew, George Cook, and Brian Stowe will host a booth at the Festival on the maple industry and how maple research at the University of Vermont has provided new and improved techniques for efficient sap collection and evaporation systems which yield higher quality maple syrup, as well as research to improve understanding of the physiology and continued health of sugar maple trees.  Just one example is a revolutionary maple tap developed by students and professors at UVM and now being manufactured in Vermont which nearly doubles the yield from each tree.  

Justin Morrill’s vision for a modern higher education infrastructure was centered in creating an opportunity for farmers, mechanics, artisans and laborers who too often lacked access to higher education.  While time does not allow a comprehensive look at contributions of UVM to the State of Vermont, I will note that given the focus of land grant institutions on agriculture it is very appropriate that the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (known as CALS) is quartered in the original Morrill Hall at the center of campus.   In addition to work on maple, CALS provides a number of world-class research and outreach efforts that are educating a generation of leaders in sustainable agriculture and food systems.  And the acorn often falls close to the tree – with UVM graduates applying their skills to start businesses and nonprofits in Vermont.  CALS graduates are owners and herd managers at dairy farms across the Vermont and others are operating a growing number of diversified farms and CSA’s across the region.  Two examples are Shelburne Farms, a wonderful center for sustainability education and Vermont Natural Coatings – a private company manufacturing environmentally friendly paints – both being run by UVM alumni.  Nutrition research at the school is informing cutting edge farm-to-school programs. 

Students and researchers at the UVM School of Natural resources have been at the lead for many years in understand and addressing water quality problems in Lake Champlain.  Preparing students with a great basic education in environmental science and policy, these young people are then deployed to the UVM research vessel the Melosira, to the Rubenstein Lake Research Lab and to watershed groups to put their skills to the test.  It not unusual to see UVM undergraduates coming off the lake, cold and wet on a cold fall day and burdened with nets, buckets and boots --and smiling from ear to ear.

Vermont is a small state and could never have built such a fine and world-renowned research University but for the Morrill Land Grant Act.  UVM is now an engine that helps to drive our state, and to benefit the Nation.

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