About What You're Reading

Dennis O'SheaIn July 2011, a dozen or so Williams alumni and other folks got on a conference call. You are holding the result of that conversation in your hands. Well, half the result, actually. The other half-the new Williams Magazine – also appeared in your mailbox not long ago.

The new look for the magazine and for Williams People is, to my mind, bold, dramatic, engaging, attractive – and almost entirely beside the point. That phone call launched an 18-month “redesign,” but the actual graphic design work came at the very end.

“Why do it, then? Simple: to do what magazines do better than anything. To tell you stories. Stories that bring you closer to Williams and Williams closer to you.”

Our real job was to rethink the magazine. Not entirely from scratch; the century-plus history of the Williams Alumni Review was the starting point. But we had to rethink the Review – and that history – in light of where we are: a world where so much of what print journalism has done can now be done better by other means.

So we started off by talking about the point of it all. Why, in this day and age, should Williams bother to put together 40 pages worth of content, consume ink by the barrel to transfer that content to paper, and pay the Postal Service to ship that paper to you? Well, the college shouldn’t do it, certainly, to tell you sports scores you’ve known for weeks. Williams shouldn’t do it to tell you about breaking news or campus events that can get to you quicker and cheaper if someone shoves a few electrons around. Why do it, then?

Simple: to do what magazines do better than anything. To tell you stories. Stories that bring you closer to Williams and Williams closer to you. Stories about its people; stories about issues it faces; and stories that respond to your hunger to learn constantly.

The magazine should tell those stories with honesty, integrity, creativity, and style. It should tell them in a way that reflects what Williams is: a place dedicated to advancing humanity through teaching and scholarship.

Once we’d decided all that, the rest flowed pretty naturally: departments and feature wells; templates and style rules. That’s all important, but secondary. It’s all in service of the magazine’s mission. And it’s that mission that Williams Magazine editor Amy Lovett and her team will keep foremost in mind when they construct each issue.

One more thing worth addressing: the name change, from Williams Alumni Review to Williams Magazine. Others will tell you I resisted it a bit. Hey, I’m a sucker for tradition. But I relented easily enough, and I do get the point. Though alumni are the largest and most important segment of the magazine’s readership, it’s always been read by others – like parents and the on-campus community. More to the point, it’s a magazine that aims to do much more than a traditional alumni publication does.

So Williams Magazine it is. And Williams People. What do you think? As always, you can reach me with your thoughts and suggestions – on the magazines or anything else – at doshea55@comcast.net.

Dennis O’Shea ’77
President, Society of Alumni


Thanks to the members of the Magazine Working Group:

  • Joe Cruz ’91, associate professor of philosophy
  • David Edge, senior designer/art director
  • Jennifer Grow, assistant editor
  • Ernie Imhoff ’59; Liza Johnson ’92, professor of art
  • Sulgi Lim ’06, associate director of admission
  • Kate Stone Lombardi ’78
  • Amy Lovett, editor
  • John Malcolm ’86, VP for college relations
  • Dennis O’Shea ’77
  • Kate Boyle Ramsdell ’97
  • Angela Schaeffer, director of communications
  • Rob White, deputy director of communications.