From my home, the drive into Williamstown presents a choice: Take Route 43’s serpentine path, punctuated by peeks at the Green River, or cave to the allure of Route 7’s purple mountain-flanked vistas. Do you know the view?
“This drive is magical,” I think as I crest over the first hill. My memory releases a sensory flood: the first bite of a bagel supreme; the glint of dawn on snow as I trudge up Mission hill to a work-study job; the smell of the women’s swimming locker room; the soft dent in every stair underfoot in Williams B.
It took me time—at Williams—to reconcile with my own privilege. It was my privilege that allowed me to love, unabashedly, my Williams experience.
I first saw Williams in 1992. My mom and I drove up together. We got stuck in construction on Route 7. Late for the tour, we ran across campus to catch up. Afterward, my interviewer—an alumnus—and I discussed what I’d read that year (The Scarlet Letter, In Watermelon Sugar), my family (the oldest of three, I’d lost my dad when I was 11) and what my summer entailed (a full-time job, a National Outdoor Leadership School course).
Upon closing, I asked, “Did you like your time at Williams?” He shared, “Not really.” His reply caught me off guard. Why? I thought. Why would you come back? I was unsure that I should ask, so I didn’t.
It took me time—at Williams—to reconcile with my own privilege. It was my privilege that allowed me to love, unabashedly, my Williams experience. In fact, it took me many drives back to Williamstown to touch what Toni Morrison refers to as “rememory”—memories I forgot I had, experiences I forgot I knew.
My Williams memories were not shaped by the trauma that roots Morrison’s word in her novel, Beloved. But my rememories were gradually informed by a deeper and clearer understanding of the Williams that my interviewer knew. It was not magical, but perhaps it was worth coming back to.
Society of Alumni Bicentennial Co-chairs Aroop Mukharji ’09 and Laura Moberg Lavoie ’99 recently shared, “To fully tell the story of the Society of Alumni … a full and honest recognition of the past 200 years is critical. … We are committed to raising up voices that historically have not been heard and facing with humility the experiences of those who have suffered. We hope that, in doing so, we will strengthen our community for all alumni.”
As I enter this role as the president of the Society of Alumni, we are embarking on the creation of a strategic plan for the society, a necessary task at this milestone moment to guide our work forward. Our mission is to foster a global, inclusive alumni community. The work may be hard, but it is necessary. A reconciliation of our past is necessary. A strong vision for our inclusive future is also necessary. Please share your memories and rememories of Williams so that we may do our work well, together. My hope is that Williams, if it is not already, will always be a place to which you want to come back.