PLAINFIELD, Vt. — Goddard College President Robert Kenny will posthumously present Priscilla Ruth Davis Backman with the Presidential Award for Activism during the Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, August 21, at 4:00 p.m. in the Haybarn Theatre on Goddard’s Plainfield campus.
The Goddard Presidential Award for Activism recognizes alumni who have made significant contributions in the field of social justice and who embody the highest ideals and aspirations of Goddard College. Previous Goddard presidents have also given the award to U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist and civil rights activist Tommie Smith (MA ’74), Bread and Puppet founder Peter Schumann, and Institute for Social Ecology co-founder Dan Chodorkoff (BA ’71, MA ’73).
“We are happy to have this opportunity to honor Priscilla’s work at Goddard and her subsequent involvement in many of the important social issues of her time,” President Kenny said. “As our mission intends, she took imaginative and responsible action in the world.”
Backman graduated from Goddard’s Junior College in 1943 and, three years later, received the Bachelor of Arts. She returned in 1965 to establish and direct the off-campus work term. She volunteered in the College archives for several years beginning in 1990.
Furthermore, Backman was an anti-war activist and tax resister who also engaged in efforts to abolish the death penalty and in the anti-nuclear movement. She served her community selflessly, never looking for credit. She died on May 8, 2015.
The Backman family, including Priscilla Backman’s son and granddaughter, will accept the award in her honor. Afterward, the family will announce the establishment of The Priscilla Backman Scholarship for Activism, a new scholarship for women activists who wish to earn their bachelor’s degrees at Goddard and who have demonstrated financial need.
“Goddard was a huge part of her life, maybe the most important single incident that a lot of things circled around. She really cared about it,” Backman’s son, Peter Backman, said.
The scholarship is made possible by a generous contribution from the Peter Backman and Annie Christopher Fund, Spencer Backman and Sienna Flanders through the Vermont Community Foundation.
About Goddard College
Goddard College is a liberal arts institution offering low-residency bachelor’s and master’s degrees from its campus in Plainfield, Vermont, and its educational sites in Port Townsend and Seattle, Washington. Constituted according to the ideals of democracy and principles of progressive education developed by John Dewey, Goddard asks students to decide their areas of study, determine which resources they will use, and devise how they will measure and demonstrate what they learn. The College was founded in 1863 and subsequently moved to its Plainfield campus in 1938. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., through the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education, accredits the institution.