Dear Ephs everywhere,
For generations, Williams alumni have gone out into the world, building community and supporting one another. We honk at purple and gold bumper stickers, hoist felt banners at weddings and mystify our friends, families and coworkers with our collective enthusiasm for all things Eph. We travel long distances to be together; we share life’s joys and sorrows with one another. And, through it all, we continue to challenge our college, each other and ourselves to grow. To do better. To be better.
This year, the Williams College Society of Alumni turns 200 years old. The world’s oldest college alumni society began when the college nearly collapsed in 1821, and Williams alumni came together to save it. Thank goodness, it worked! The history of the SoA has been written ever since by all of us: everyday moments shared in class notes; annual trips with Williams friends; chance encounters in unexpected places. We happily go out of our way to connect with fellow alumni, building new relationships with Ephs whose paths we may not have crossed before. All because we once spent time in a certain purple valley.
These interactions and connections are the very lifeblood of the SoA, which has evolved in ways the founders would never have imagined. Most significantly, who we are has changed drastically over generations. We have become a more diverse collective across socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender identity and geography. And precisely because of these changes and the perspective they afford us, we are stronger and better equipped to enrich our communities and help the SoA and Williams continue to grow.
We are the personal beneficiaries of the college and the SoA’s commitment to growth and change. This realization inspires what we believe this year should signify and drives the way we think about how to commemorate it.
As leaders of the Bicentennial celebration, we appreciate that we embody this living history. A few generations ago, neither of us would have been members of this community. We are the personal beneficiaries of the college and the SoA’s commitment to growth and change. This realization inspires what we believe this year should signify and drives the way we think about how to commemorate it.
The SoA should be a place where every Eph can see themselves and find a home, no matter where they came from or what their futures may hold. It should be a place of warmth, of welcoming, of support. For many Ephs, this is already the SoA experience; we follow in the footsteps of countless alumni leaders who have striven toward that very goal. But as we have listened to the hundreds of alumni who have felt compelled to lift their voices, particularly throughout 2020, we know there is still work to do. We see the Bicentennial not only as an opportunity to celebrate—and there is much to celebrate!—but also as an opportunity to acknowledge and grapple with discomfort, to pave a path toward progress, and to emerge better and more closely connected to each other as a result.
You—yes, you!—are an important part of this journey and the SoA story. The most important part. If you were ever a Williams student, whether for a semester, for four years, for grad school or for an exchange year, you are a member of the Society of Alumni. The SoA Bicentennial year will celebrate you along with all the Ephs who came before you and all those who will join you in the generations to come. We hope to learn where life has taken you, with all of its twists, turns, ups and downs, and we hope to discover how the SoA has been part of your story.
Throughout 2021, you’ll be invited to connect and reconnect with people who have shaped your Williams experience. Through bicentennial programming at your digital doorstep and, we hope, in your neighborhoods and back in Williamstown, you’ll meet Ephs of different generations, geographies and lived experiences from your own. You’ll be invited to share your own Eph story, however you define it. And together we’ll deepen the dialogue as we reflect on the past, consider the present and look ahead to crafting a brighter future for the SoA.
Please visit alumni.williams.edu/200, which is home to all things bicentennial, including programming details, the SoA history brought to life and puzzles! You’ll find stories of fellow alumni and their relationships with one another over the years. You’ll have the opportunity to share your own stories about your experience as a Williams alum: about the Ephs in your life; how the Williams community has shaped who you are; and how you hope to engage with the SoA in the future.
We hope you will share your perspective during our bicentennial year and beyond! Your voice will help the SoA to build and strengthen ties among Ephs everywhere, contributing to a more perfect society and a more perfect Williams.
Thank you for being part of the Williams College Society of Alumni—and for all that you give to your fellow Ephs, to the college and to the world.
With echoes rebounding,
—Laura Moberg Lavoie ’99 & Aroop Mukharji ’09,
Williams College Society of Alumni Bicentennial co-chairs