An Energizing Time

Brooks Foehl '88I want to share a few thoughts about the Williams Alumni Fund. Stay with me for a little history, expressions of gratitude and observations about our alumni community in 2016.

The Williams annual giving model is unique in higher ed—and the envy of it, too. A small number of schools may have similar volunteer-driven
structures, but none can touch the culture borne out of a group of alumni coming together in 1821 to save our college. The ownership stake that alumni volunteers have in keeping us all connected to each other and the college is impossible to replicate when starting from scratch, as so many institutions might want to do.

The debt we owe to the thousands of alumni volunteers who serve or have served as head agents or associate agents is incalculable. You’re the engine of front-line connection that makes the Alumni Fund go. The Alumni Fund Vice Chairs provide top-line volunteer leadership, and all work in conjunction with the Alumni Fund staff, led by Director of Annual Giving Laura Day ’04, creating a powerful and successful team effort.

Williams Alumni Fund participation results are in rarified air in higher ed. Historically reaching 60 percent or more, Ephs lead the charge and show their support for alma mater on an annual basis in unparalleled fashion. For this, we owe a debt of gratitude, too.

To be clear, giving to Williams is a personal choice, and there are any number of reasons why alumni choose to do so—or not. To that end, we receive excellent feedback from alumni about their giving decisions, primarily through class agent teams. This year, the ongoing national discourses on freedom of speech and historical representation were factors for some Ephs in deciding whether to give. Divestment and sexual assault response and prevention, both on campus and nationally, were also issues of interest.

Yet for all these complications, we see this as an energizing time. It’s hard to imagine 29,000 alumni being in agreement on any subject (besides beating Amherst). And like all of us, our college isn’t perfect. What we hope for Williams is the same thing we hope for ourselves: to continually learn, to be open to perspectives other than our own and to grow and evolve in positive ways. Williams taught us these lessons when we were young, and we continually look to the college to reinforce these ideals at a time they seem to be needed most.

This is the remarkable service Alumni Fund volunteers perform for Williams, their classes and their friends. Agents know that at the heart of their responsibility is their connection with fellow alumni. As one appreciative classmate shared with his class agent, “[Your outreach] reminds me that the bonds between dear friends never age, and it says to me that if I have such a friend as you, I have at least one saving grace.”

With best wishes from Williamstown,

Brooks Foehl ’88
Director of Alumni Relations
bfoehl@williams.edu