A Bicentennial Celebration

Our Society of Alumni has a significant milestone in the not-too-distant future. Founded on Sept. 5, 1821, the society was established “for the promotion of literature and good fellowship among ourselves and the better to advance the reputation and interests of our Alma Mater.” Here we are, almost 200 years later, with an opportunity to celebrate the bicentennial of the society in a manner befitting its storied history with a keen eye to its future.

2021 will be here before we know it. Those of us of a certain age recall the college’s bicentennial celebration in 1993. The Bicentennial Commission, chaired by Dusty Griffin ’65, operated with a five-year planning window. Similarly, the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni began preliminary conversations about our own bicentennial earlier this year and is now in the process of shaping the organizational structures that will drive planning and execution over the next few years.

This is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the society and its more than 28,000 alumni.

Initial conversations have surfaced some common themes. First and foremost, this is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the society and its more than 28,000 alumni. We are a diverse group, in the broadest definition of the term, whose contributions to society and our college are many and varied. We should trumpet the cumulative impact of Williams alumni in our communities all the time—not just when prompted by campaign initiatives and milestone celebrations.

The bicentennial is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of the ground the college and its alumni have traveled together and to prepare for the guideposts ahead. The 50th reunion is a seminal moment for the classes reaching that milestone. It’s also been virtually all-male forever, and while the Society of Alumni won’t reach equal gender balance until approximately 2040, the advent of co-education merits its own 50th celebration and with it the need for necessary change and evolution in how we operate.

The Williams culture of volunteerism can be traced back directly to the founding of the Society of Alumni in 1821, so it will be natural to celebrate the contributions of Williams volunteers past, present and future. Of course, the society’s creation was precipitated by the founding of a school due east of Williamstown. That Amherst will celebrate its college’s bicentennial at the same time is all the reminder needed that the history of the Williams Society of Alumni is forever linked to the founding of our friendly rival nearly 200 years ago. Thanks, Amherst— we owe you one!

There will be ample opportunity to share your insights, thoughts and perspectives with the Society of Alumni bicentennial planning committee. Please consider this message your first invitation to do so. You can email me directly at the address below.

—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director, Alumni Relations

bfoehl@williams.edu