Bill Hosley came to Vermont Academy to ski. Growing up in Rochester, New York, Bill had travelled with his parents to ski areas around New England. When it came time to decide on a boarding school, Vermont was Bill’s promised land. Bill toured Vermont Academy because it featured a former Olympian as a ski coach. On arrival he found an inner humility that was lacking at other schools.
Bill’s bicycle rides and hikes around Saxtons River and beyond led to his passion for place and past. He was fascinated by old photographs in the school library that illustrated Saxtons River’s connection to Bellows Falls by trolley a half century earlier. He was first stumped by the presence of stone walls in the woods where he ran cross county. “Why would someone build stone walls in the woods?” he asked at age 14. “Because it was a treeless sheep farm a century ago,” he learned. Bill’s choice of Vermont Academy changed the trajectory of his life. His newfound love for “the local” started what became a nationally recognized career as a curator, author, historian, and protector of real places where history still surrounds us.
Bill credits many Vermont Academy faculty and staff for giving him all the tools he needed to become a life-learner. Ski coach and lifelong student of natural history, Warren Chivers, was the embodiment of an old New England ethic. Science teacher Pete Sargent was curious and engaged with the environmental revolution just bursting forth during Bill’s time at Vermont Academy. Jack Peters instilled a passion for literature, writing, and critical thinking. Arnold Castagner ignited Bill’s flame for history. Math teacher, dorm-master and cross-country coach Franklin Geist, and his wife Roberta, inspired Bill’s love for the roving geography of Saxtons River. Bill worked joyfully for 3 of his 4 years for food service impresario Freda Adams, and she ended up writing one of his college recommendations. And he especially appreciated librarian Kat Shepard, who shared and nurtured Bill’s passion for local history.
After graduating from Vermont Academy, Bill earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Middlebury and then a master’s degree in American Studies from a University of Delaware program at the Winterthur Museum. His dream job was to become a curator at a historic museum in the Connecticut River Valley, and the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut offered him just that position. He stayed there for 17 years, mounting two nationally recognized exhibits and becoming chief curator of American decorative arts along the way.
Bill left the Wadsworth to become the director of Connecticut Landmarks, a state-wide network of eleven significant historic properties that span four centuries of New England history. This position allowed Bill to focus on the combination of history, place, and heritage. He worked to preserve traditions and make them available to everyone and anyone, regardless of background. He helped people feel more kinship and appreciation for the places where they live while developing a strong sense of community and connectedness.
Bill then created an independent consulting practice that provides museums, businesses, educational institutions and communities with marketing, planning and educational services, including spoken word performance, exhibition development, historic preservation and estate and art brokering. Through this practice he fosters appreciation for regional art and culture while using the power of place and heritage to inspire citizenship and civic engagement.
We are proud to award William N. Hosley, Jr. the Florence R. Sabin Class of 1889 Distinguished Alumni Award.
~awarded September 28, 2019