FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 2, 2010
Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications
Dismas of Vermont Founder Speaks at GMC Convocation
POULTNEY, VT - Green Mountain College welcomed Rita McCaffrey, founder and retired executive director of Dismas of Vermont, as the keynote speaker for the College's 2010 convocation ceremony held this afternoon on the Griswold Library lawn.
For over 35 years McCaffrey has been a tireless advocate for integrating former prisoners into society. She pointed out to the audience of about 400 students, faculty and staff that Vermont spends more money on incarceration than it does on higher education. "In the US we incarcerate more people than any country in the free world-I believe this is truly shameful," she said.
In 1986, McCaffrey helped open Vermont's first Dismas House in Burlington. With a mission to "reconcile prisoners with society and society with prisoners," the house brings non-offenders, often college students, together with former prisoners to live side-by-side in a supportive community. Dismas of Vermont has since expanded to include residential locations in Rutland and Winooski and two satellite apartment programs. Today, 78 percent of residents who live at Dismas of Vermont locations for at least three months transition successfully back into society.
"The common denominator is that these men and women whom I have worked with are just like you and I, with hearts and souls, with dreams of happiness," McCaffery said. "Addiction in most cases has altered their progress, but they want a fresh start-they want to live sober lives and they have deep longing to be reconciled with their families."
In 1987, McCaffrey was named Vermont Mother of the Year and later the same year earned the title of National Mother of the Year from American Mothers Inc. She also received the 2010 Mercy Connections Catherine McAuley Award and the Fr. Jack Hickey, OP Award from Dismas of Vermont.
College provost William Throop, president Paul J. Fonteyn, and student senate president Jose Galvez-Contreras '11 also addressed the audience.
"A lot of us, doing just a little, all at the same time, can create big changes," said President Fonteyn. "I ask you to keep this in mind as we all strive in our own way to help make our world more socially and environmentally sustainable--and more just."
Green Mountain College is a four-year co-educational liberal arts college with academic programs that focus on environmental sustainability and social justice. Sierra magazine recently named GMC the "coolest school" in the nation based on the College's sustainability efforts.