Chalk it up to local pride, but we’re pretty impressed by the incredible people who make up the fabric of Vermont. From cool and quirky to downright legendary, there’s no shortage of stars tied to this tiny state. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 generations deep or a transplant from far away—the Green Mountain State of Mind unites us all, and that mind is open and down to do things differently. Here are a few of our home state heroes who have each made an impact in their own unique way.
Photo credit: Heather Katsoulis
Arguably the world’s most iconic jam band, Phish got its start in the college bars of Burlington where guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman, and keyboardist Page McConnell crafted their genre-defying sound. Today Phish is still playing sold-out shows while giving back by supporting non-profits in the communities where they play, and through its Phish Food-powered WaterWheel Foundation, which aims to clean up Vermont’s Lake Champlain.
As Vermont’s first and only female governor, and the first woman in US history to be elected governor 3 times, Madeleine M. Kunin is an inspiration for women everywhere. During her time as governor, she focused on the environment, education and children's issues; appointed the first woman to the state supreme court; and created the family court system. A Superwoman by all accounts, she also served as Deputy Secretary of Education under President Clinton, and US Ambassador to Switzerland.
Photo credit: John Lemieux
With a radiant smile and awe-worthy halfpipe moves, Hannah Teter, from Belmont, is most noted for her high-flying snowboarding and Olympic gold and silver medals. Off snow, she’s just as sweet, selling Vermont maple syrup through her charity, Hannah’s Gold, to benefit the children of Kirindon, Kenya. Adding to her philanthropic efforts is her line of underwear, Sweet Cheeks, which raises funds for Children International.
Photo Credit: River Arts
A dairy farmer from Tunbridge, Fred Tuttle starred in the 1996 cult classic, “Man with a Plan,” a fictional story that finds Tuttle (who plays himself) running for the US House of Representatives. The film poked fun at Vermont politics, but life imitated art when, in 1998, he was persuaded to run in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Upon defeating his opponent in the primaries, he immediately endorsed incumbent Democrat Patrick Leahy and continued to endorse Leahy throughout the campaign (partly because a win would’ve meant leaving Tunbridge for Washington, D.C.).
We don’t always name drop celebrities, but when we do, it’s Jonathan Goldsmith. Yes, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” known for his appearances in commercials for a certain beer brand, lives right here in Vermont. Goldsmith worked in Hollywood for years, but now prefers the quiet countryside with his wife and their two dogs. Arguably even more interesting in real life, he has saved a man from hypothermia, a girl from drowning, rescued Siberian tigers, and actively supports charitable work and services for a wide range of causes.
World-renowned environmentalist and activist, Bill McKibben authored The End of Nature, the first book about global warming for a common audience. He also founded 350.org, the planet’s first grassroots climate change movement, which is currently working with 188 countries. McKibben was the winner of the 2013 Gandhi Prize (yes, that Gandhi), and was described by The Boston Globe as "probably America's most important environmentalist."
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
A politician for the people, Sanders went from mayor of Burlington to the longest serving independent in American congressional history, all before recently announcing his 2016 presidential bid. He has devoted untold energy to revealing and combating the widening income gap in America, as well as environmental issues, universal health care, fair trade policies, and protecting the rights of women, minorities, and the gay community.
Photo Credit: Paul Stein
Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield
What would this list be without Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield? Not to toot our own cone, but these two have done a whole lot more than just start an ice cream brand. They have helped lead a movement that is inspiring businesses to think differently. By building their values-led business around a social mission, these two guys have intrinsically linked profitability with responsibility towards both people and the planet. Not bad for two guys from New York!