Reflection and Reconnection

We are now about a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, and I am craving connection. In early November, a scroll through Instagram pictures of Homecomings past piqued a longing I had not yet felt this year: an urge to reconnect with the place that is Williams. I imagined scooping messy ladles of chili as I donned my purple cow apron in the Society of Alumni tent, chatting with old friends and my former students—and of course meeting new Eph folks—as they came to grab a warm halftime snack. For now, it seems that our connections will remain virtual. I’m making peace with that reality, mostly in an effort to (fingers crossed) return to campus for Homecoming in 2021.

One benefit of this need to seek new points of connection has been my desire to read, cover-to-cover, every Williams publication that comes my way. I reveled in the September edition of Williams People as I meandered through 60 or so years of alumni storytelling. (Is it me, or do we all seem a little more comfortable with sharing life beyond the highlights?) Then, I discovered “Virtual Ephs,” a page on the Williams Alumni website dedicated to keeping us connected when we cannot physically be together. The easy-to-navigate calendar links you to every offering: a book club, lectures by Williams professors, job networking opportunities, Williams podcast links and even virtual WCMA content. “This could not be easier!” I thought.

It is my hope that as we find ways to reconnect and celebrate the longevity of the SoA, we also … reframe, renew or redefine our relationships with one another and Williams.

And yet, my most moving Williams experience arrived in the form of the fall 2020 Williams Magazine. The issue deserves to be savored and revisited. Being proud of Williams is not hard for me. Yet this collection of stories and voices—filled with juxtapositions of the broken and the healing, fear and love, despair and hope—made me swell with pride at the same time that it required a pause for reflection and a call to action. I loved how Eunice Lin Nichols ’97 taught us lessons about the positive impacts of cross-generational connection; Lynn Gerwig Lyons ’87 asked us to become more malleable and flexible in the face of uncertainty, so as to build our resilience; and Virginia Cumberbatch ’10 posited, “Let’s ask ourselves how we will allow our history to shape our future.”

As Professor Thomas Kohut shared in his magazine essay, “Experience and Expectation”: “Experience and expectation exist only in the moment and are constantly changing. Interplay between experience and expectation as they change over time produces change in history.” You’ve already read about the Bicentennial of the Society of Alumni from co-chairs Laura Moberg Lavoie ’99 and Aroop Mukharji ’09 on the preceding pages of this publication. It is my hope that as we find ways to reconnect and celebrate the longevity of the SoA, we also take an opportunity to reframe, renew or redefine our relationships with one another and Williams.

—Kate Boyle Ramsdell ’97, President, Society of Alumni