Mountain Day is Ours

Dennis O'SheaIt’s a clear, crisp, chilly early fall morning. That cusp-of-autumn sort of morning when most college students want to roll over and go back to sleep.

But not today. Not this morning. Not these students. Not at this college.

The chapel bells ring out the alma mater. Somebody somewhere is banging on pots and pans. Something is happening. A quick check of email confirms it: This is Mountain Day!

The president makes the call at 6:06 a.m. Soon after, students are outside, preparing, as another president put it nearly two centuries earlier, to “go upon the mountain.” Groups of hikers take off for Mount Greylock and Stone Hill. Rock climbers scale Chapin Hall (no pitons, please!). There’s apple cider and singing and an all-campus picnic.

Eventually, hundreds of Ephs tramp up leafy trails and converge on Stony Ledge. There is more singing, and celebrating. Vistas are admired. Memories are made.

Meanwhile, shortly after 7 a.m., those of us outside 01267 are starting to hear the news. Twitter and Facebook heat up with references to a holiday that Ephs understand and others can only wonder about. Officers relay the news to classmates by email. Around the globe, President Falk’s early morning haiku proclaiming the day provokes alumni responses in five-seven-five form. Some are a bit wistful, perhaps:

Step outside and breathe.
Pretend you’re there, sunshine, leaves.
Mountain Day is ours.

Others are frankly jealous:

The only mountains
HERE are in the laundry room.
I miss the Berkshires.

Man, I love Mountain Day. It’s a gift to the students, of course. But I love it because it’s also a gift from the students to us, a chance for alumni to take a quick peek at their lives. The videos, the photos, the Mountain Day stories students tell: It’s a privilege and a joy to watch them making the most of the Williams experience. It’s a privilege and a joy to watch them forming friendships and building community. It’s especially a privilege and a joy to watch them becoming the Williams women and men who will join us out here in the world and help make it a better place.

They remind us who we were, where we came from and how we became what we are. They remind us to remember. They remind us to return. (In fact, a classmate of mine shared this year’s Mountain Day video with friends; two loved it so much they had to be in Williamstown for Homecoming.)

So: Thanks, students. Thanks for taking us with you to the mountains. Like you, we greet them with a song.

Dennis O’Shea ’77
President, Society of Alumni
[email protected]

PS: If you missed the video, photos and stories from Mountain Day 2013, see and