Whether you know him as the National Anthem singer at the Middlebury Men’s Basketball games or as Officer Clemmons on the children’s television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, it is unarguable that our Twilight Artist-in-Residence, Dr. François Clemmons, has one of the brightest personalities and most powerful voices on our Campus. For the past 15 years, he has taught the popular J-term class on the American Negro Spiritual, as well as proudly directed the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir: a talented group of community members, faculty members, and students that each January perform “A Celebration of the American Negro Spiritual and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King”.
Last night, Dr. Clemmons directed his final concert, as he stated that after 15 years he is ready to retire. For François, his final MLK celebration could not be more special, for not only was it on the day of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, but also it was the first time a President acknowledged the fight for gay rights in an inauguration speech.
It was a truly spectacular night of singing, dancing, and passionate speeches, one that, if tried, will be hard to live up to.
And although he is retiring, don’t expect Dr. François Clemmons to disappear anytime soon. He has become accustomed to the Middlebury way, for as he admitted last night, “after 15 years, I indeed feel like a Vermonter.”