Much to Talk About

I take up residence on this page for the next two years as the new president of the Society of Alumni. I’m mighty honored to serve in this role and at this time—at the dawn of the Maud S. Mandel era.

Along with this writing gig, I’m invited to attend trustee meetings, another honor that will certainly be instructive. But my main role is to lead the Executive Committee (the “EC”) of the Society of Alumni (“SoA”).

My bet is that most of you have never heard of the Executive Committee. I hadn’t, either, until I was asked to join it. So, this seems like a good opportunity to tell you who we are and what we do—and how I hope you’ll think about us.

The EC is the governing board of the SoA. We essentially advise the college on its alumni relations efforts, seeking to increase alumni engagement with the college and enhance the volunteer experience. We work closely with our crack Alumni Relations staff, headed by my great friend Brooks Foehl ’88, and in parallel with our Alumni Fund colleagues, led by Laura Day ’04.

Please tell us what’s on your mind regarding the college. … We’re good listeners, and we do have a voice.

The EC has 20 members: myself, VP Kate Ramsdell ’97 and 18 other alums who serve three-year terms. (Six members roll on and off each year.) We range from the Class of ’57 to the Class of ’15, as diverse a body as you can imagine. We meet three times a year, covering topics of import to the college.

We do a pretty good job with the “advising.” We’re all devoted Williams volunteers, and we bring our experiences as reunion chairs, class officers, regional association officers, Alumni Fund agents and the like to this role. But a role we’re also supposed to play, and one I’d like to enhance, is to facilitate a dialogue with and among alums on issues facing Williams College.

We surely have much to talk about. College campuses nationwide have become hotbeds of controversy, with recent national debates on contentious campus monuments, free speech and, indeed, the very value of a liberal arts education. These issues and others have touched Williams, some directly, some indirectly. And who knows what lies ahead!

These are complex issues, politically charged and prone to emotional responses. As such, they’re petri dishes for misunderstanding. They’re best served by in-depth, constructive discussion—in the best spirit of a Williams education—which can only lead to better understanding, no matter what your point of view.
I urge you to think of the EC as one avenue to foster these discussions. Please tell us what’s on your mind regarding the college, good and bad. We’re not decision-makers per se, but we’re good listeners, and we do have a voice. And we’re here to serve you, our members.

So that’s my promise, and my priority, in my term. The EC is easy to find on the college website (http://bit.ly/williamsEC); my email address is below. I thank you for the privilege of serving you in this capacity, and I look forward to hearing from you!

—Tom Gardner ’79, President, Society of Alumni
tgards79@gmail.com