At this year’s reunion, I was honored to be named the 143rd president of the Society of Alumni. I was humbled to stand before the gathering of incredible alumni, all of whom have had different life experiences and yet are connected to each other because of this place, Williams College. I am sure that many of you feel, as I do, a quickening of your heartbeat as you drive into Williamstown and see the familiar buildings and gorgeous views. However, in my own journey of volunteerism for Williams, what keeps me coming back are the connections I have made with other people.
In my professional life, I am a pediatric nurse practitioner responsible for a school-based health center in a high school near Boston that’s attended primarily by students from lower-income families. The students are often new arrivals to the U.S., and many have significant trauma histories that play out in their academic and private lives. Graduation is a triumphant affair—many of my students are the first in their families to complete high school. College is never a given; many students can’t continue their studies for personal or financial reasons. I often reflect on how fortunate we all are to have had the opportunity and privilege to spend four years in the Purple Valley, learning and growing with each other in an amazingly beautiful setting, forming bonds with students and professors that last a lifetime.
My work world and volunteer world don’t often intersect, but when they do, the experience only underscores for me the unique institution and community that is Williams. Several years ago, I arranged a summer internship at the college for three of my students who were Afghan refugees. Dave Edwards, the James N. Lambert ’39 Professor of Sociology, welcomed the opportunity to engage the young women as interns in his Williams Afghan Media Project. The college was supportive and thoughtful of the students and their families as they navigated the Berkshires, and each student had an experience that changed her life.
Alumni need not combine the personal and professional in order to engage with the college and with each other. You can attend reunion or a regional event, connect on Facebook or through an affinity group, have dinner with some old entrymates, mentor a Williams student interested in your field, or just introduce yourself to a stranger you see wearing Williams gear. While many of us may have struggled as students to figure out who we were or how we fit in, it never ceases to amaze me that as we venture forth from campus, our differences begin to fall away. At a time when divisions within our country and communities are glaringly evident, the commonality we share of simply being Williams alumni is something that I treasure.
I want to thank my predecessor, Leila Jere ’91, for her strong and committed leadership and for her thoughtful engagement with the alumni body. I look forward to continuing the conversation with many of you over the next two years. I can’t wait to get to know you better.
Jordan Hampton ’87
President, Society of Alumni