Climb Far

This is the final time I will inhabit this space, as my two-year term ends in June. Naturally, it is a time for reflection. My stated goal in this role was to facilitate a dialogue with and among alums on the issues facing Williams. Two years later, I feel energized by the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with you. Your desire to see the college succeed, and the passion you feel for the issues of the day, are so characteristic of our alumni body. These discussions have been extraordinary.

Your desire to see the college succeed, and the passion you feel for the issues of the day, are so characteristic of our alumni body.

To be productive in these exchanges, we, the Executive Committee (EC) of the Society of Alumni (SoA), have immersed ourselves in campus issues. We’ve met many times with President Maud S. Mandel and with faculty, staff and students. We’ve covered a breathless array of topics, including student mental health, free speech, inclusion and sustainability. Much dialogue has been stimulated by a bi-annual “EC Update” letter we launched to share what we’ve learned.

We’ve also been busy with alumni business: nominating SoA alumni trustee candidates; helping Maud select Bicentennial Medal winners; and working with the Office of Alumni Relations to re-invigorate the annual SoA meeting held over Reunion Weekend. We created an alumni leadership team to take on the enormous challenge of planning the SoA’s Bicentennial, which will kick off in January 2021. EC members are among the over 100 alumni volunteers now conceiving what will be a fantastic year of celebration, on and off campus, virtual and global. Stay tuned!

And we are now in the midst of following the college in creating a strategic plan for the SoA, to help us think through how the society is changing and what we need to do to remain vital and relevant to all alums as we enter our third century. We’ll be seeking your input!

It has been gratifying to serve at such an auspicious time in Williams’ history. With applications at soaring in recent years, the success of the Teach It Forward campaign, a campus bursting with intellectual vitality and achievement, alumni engagement at 88% and, most of all, the promise of Maud’s tenure as president, these are exciting times.

As I have said frequently to alumni groups, I am Maud’s number one fan! This is not a requirement of my role; rather it is an accolade well earned. Maud is simply an outstanding leader, and with her strategic planning process nearing completion, we have a better sense of where she intends to lead the college—and how far we can climb.

I depart with deepest thanks to my great friend Brooks Foehl ’88 and his amazing alumni relations team, quite simply the best in the business. You will absolutely love my successor, Kate Boyle Ramsdell ’97, who currently serves as vice president of the SOA and my partner these last two years. She will be superb! And how else to conclude but to say it has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you all!

—Tom Gardner ’79, President, Society of Alumni
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