Two years ago next month, I climbed the stairs onto a stage in Chandler Gym, took my seat and watched reunion classes march in.
It was fun to look at—carefree and festive. My classmates and fellow alumni were full of energy and life. Balloons flew, kids ran around, and the place was buzzing.
A half-hour later, I was elected president of your Society of Alumni. I left my chair to run the rest of the annual meeting. And things suddenly looked a whole lot different.
It’s hard to explain, really, but everything was bigger, more serious, more… well, just more. Standing at that podium, it somehow wasn’t just the reunion classes out there. It looked like all of you had marched into Chandler and were gazing up at me.
It was partly, of course, how honored I felt. But it was more than that: It was the responsibility that had just become mine. Responsibility to build on the work of 133 predecessors. Responsibility for a 191-year Society of Alumni tradition of service to Williams and each other. Responsibility, in some small measure, for the connections between Williams and more than 27,000 of you.
Thank goodness the college has such a dedicated and creative alumni relations staff. Thank goodness also for the society’s Executive Committee, my VP—Leila Jere ’91—and so many of you who work for Williams every day in so many ways. I have reason to hope that, together, we have fulfilled those responsibilities.
We’ve worked on new ways to link alumni with students and prospective students. We’re making better use of technology and will continue to improve. We’re starting to use data to drive alumni programming in a way that Williams has never done before. We’re rededicated to serving every alumnus and alumna, no matter their age, sex, background or location on the globe, and we will make real, systemic advances in that area. We’re just now launching new initiatives to bring together alumni with similar professional interests. We’re re-examining the recruitment, training and stewardship of those who volunteer for the college and the society.
Most important, by the time I retire next month and Leila steps up to the podium for her first look out at assembled alumni, we will have in place an overall strategic plan. That plan will pull together all this work and tie it to specific goals to be achieved between now and the society’s bicentennial in 2021.
So what have I learned in these two years? A lot more than I have room for in this space. But here’s some of it: I’ve learned that you’re served by an incredible professional alumni relations office led by director Brooks Foehl ’88 and backed by all of college relations; by the entire administration, faculty and incredible college staff; and by the trustees. My thanks go to all of them.
And I’ve learned—relearned and had reinforced, actually—that you, my fellow Williams alumni, are among the most amazing people on the planet. On top of everything else you do in and for this world, you are fiercely dedicated to your college, to its students and to your fellow alumni.
Thanks for the ride. Keep bleeding purple. Go Ephs!