Matthew Derr, President
Sterling is a small college that thinks big and acts on its convictions. As the first and the leading voice for environmental stewardship in higher education, for nearly sixty years we have been studying, working, and building community in harmony with the natural world and Vermont’s working landscape.
A college advisor once shared that when she advises students about applying, she wants them to know that while there are many colleges that “have” farms, Sterling, from her perspective, “is” a farm. Sterling is much more than its internationally known Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems program, it is a college that looks at the world through the lens of environmental stewardship; but regardless of your academic focus, Sterling is a thoroughly authentic place.
Sterling also strives to be an educational community in which people of all backgrounds and identities feel at home, where are our differences are embraced, and where individuals take responsibility for furthering the dignity of all. Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and we are proud to offer a robust scholarship program.
Among the other significant distinctions you will find at Sterling is our commitment to hard work. “Working Hands, Working Minds” is much more than a tagline; it describes who we are as a community. One of only eight federally recognized Work Colleges, 100% of our students have jobs on campus.
We welcome you to learn more about this special place. In doing so, you will find something out about yourself as well. Sterling is not for everyone—perhaps no college is—but, this college is genuinely different.
A community organizer, teacher, fundraiser, and strategic planner, President Derr was inaugurated in 2012 as the eleventh president of Sterling College. Derr is nationally recognized in higher education for his expertise in leading institutional change and for strengthening mission-based focus. In 2011, President Derr was awarded a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Chief Executive of the Year Award.
At Sterling, President Derr led the effort to divest the Sterling endowment from fossil fuels and become only the third college in the United States to do so. After completion of a collaborative strategic planning process, President Derr directed the largest fundraising campaign in Sterling’s history, Nourish the Roots, and secured the institution’s first seven figure gifts. Among the early accomplishments of the campaign was the naming and completion of capital projects for the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems. Unusually for a college president today, Derr also fulfills a role as a faculty member and regularly teaches courses in community organizing.
Prior to his election at Sterling, President Derr was a Fellow at the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), where he conducted research and advised college leaders on admission and fundraising. His fellowship at the GLCA was awarded in recognition of his accomplishments as the Interim President of Antioch College, where he led an alumni effort to revitalize and reopen the college, an effort that raised more than $20 million in giving and transferred assets of over $70 million. In his role at Antioch over three years, he also developed a concept for a new undergraduate curriculum focused on issues related to sustainable agriculture and food systems inspired by that of Sterling College.
President Derr presently serves as Secretary of the Work Colleges Consortium, President of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, and a board member of the Center for an Agricultural Economy and the Vermont Higher Education Food Systems Consortium. He is a regular commentator and panelist on issues related to food systems, social justice, and sustainability issues. He has had opinion pieces published nationally and has research published by the Journal of Community Practice.
President Derr holds a BA in History from Antioch College, an MSW in Community Organizing from the University of Michigan, and has further graduate studies at the George S. Heyman Center for Philanthropy at New York University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
President Derr’s partner, Julian Sharp, an alumnus of Antioch College with a BA in Peace Studies, is presently a seminarian at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California and serves as a trustee of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Derr and Sharp make their home in Cedar Cottage on the Sterling College campus and together enjoy hiking, gardening, birding, strong coffee, bookstores, and traveling.
President in the News
- For Sterling College, Rural Location is a Benefit, the Chronicle of Higher Education
- Governor Shumlin and Vermont Businesses Join Together to Support Divestment
- At Scenic Sterling College, Get Your Hands Dirty, The Boston Globe
- The Work College Revival, New Yorker
- Sterling College: Environmental and Community Stewardship, Vermont Magazine
- Where the action is: Vermont’s Sterling College serves as role model for a sustainable future, Shelburne News
- The Town Saved by Food, Edible Green Mountains
- Hardwick Electric Ups Net Metering Cap, Vermont Public Radio
- Vermont’s Sterling College to Inaugurate New President, New England Cable News
- Yale and Harvard Are Losing the Fossil Fuel Divestment Game, Institutional Investor
- Sterling College Launches a Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Center, WAMC
- Schools Addressing Students’ Fossil Fears Without Divesting, Bloomberg BNA
Blog Posts, Articles & Presentations
- The Civic Role of Higher Education (Huffington Post)
- Why Sterling College Divested From Fossil Fuels (Huffington Post)
- Sterling College: Aligning Our Investments with Our Values (Trillium Investment newsletter)
- Endorsement for Civil Rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People Among Heterosexual College Students: Informing Socially Just Policy Advocacy (Journal of Community Practice)
- 24/7: The New Role of Food in American Life (presentation at New York University, October 2013)
- Where the Opportunities Exist for Improved Socially Responsible Investing and Environmental Social Governance Returns (11th Annual Foundation, Endowment, & Not for Profit Investment Summit, January 2014)
Contact the Office of the President
We welcome your interest in Sterling College and invite you to contact us. If you wish to arrange a meeting with the President, please contact Katie Lavin, Assistant to the President, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew Derr Sterling College Office of the President PO Box 72, 16 Sterling Drive Craftsbury Common, VT 05827 (802) 586-7711 x 111 email@example.com