The Bicentennial and Beyond

Welcome to 2021! In all the rays of light we see ahead in the coming year, I hope you’ll count our alumni community among them. The Williams College Society of Alumni turns 200 this year, and our hope and aspiration is for this bicentennial milestone to be one of celebration, reflection and action.

The origin story of the Society of Alumni is, of course, tied to the founding in 1821 of another college 53 miles to the east of Williamstown. Were it not for Zepheniah Swift Moore absconding with a group of professors, students and perhaps some library books, Williams alumni would not have banded together to save the college. That group formed the first alumni association in North America and quite possibly the world. The Society was created “for the promotion of literature and good fellowship among ourselves and the better to advance the reputation and interests of our Alma Mater.” Like all things in life, there’s been evolution in how that original mission is carried out, but at its heart the SoA continues to keep alumni connected to each other and their college.

We want to do our part as an alumni community to make sure every person knows their voice and perspective is seen, heard and honored.

Our responsibility at this milestone moment is to not just celebrate who we are but to ensure all alumni feel a part of our Williams community and family. We know that engagement in our alumni community is driven in large part by the power of the undergraduate experience. But here’s something we don’t talk enough about. Not everyone loves Williams or sees their time here through purple-tinted glasses. There are a lot of reasons for that, and we want to do our part as an alumni community to make sure every person knows their voice and perspective is seen, heard and honored.

There are tangible ways we hope to accomplish this; each will require action on your part. We want to hear the story of your relationship with your college and what it means to be a part of our alumni family. You can do that by visiting to submit your personal story and share your voice. We’re also asking you to participate in the first all-alumni survey in the past 30 years. Later this winter, you’ll be invited to tell us how you currently engage with Williams and fellow alumni through existing communication channels and event offerings. We want to know what’s missing from the opportunities provided and, most importantly, what impacts and influences your relationship with Williams, positively or negatively. Insights and input provided by alumni will inform the creation of a strategic plan for the SoA to be implemented as we move beyond this bicentennial moment and create a vision for our collective future. Thanks for making sure your voice is included in that process.

Best wishes from Williamstown,

—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director of Alumni Relations