Leave it to a group of williams alumni in the middle of a zoom meeting to weave together a discussion of hip flexibility (or a serious lack thereof as we age), our shared admiration for the Ephs cycling off of a three-year term on the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni (thank you, Bob Stegeman ’60, Nadra Franklin ’86, Heidi Sandreuter ’92, Anri Wheeler ’03, Cortney Tunis ’04 and Qadir Forbes ’15) and a robust discussion of American politics (which left me wishing I’d read more carefully in Poli Sci 101). As with all good meetings of a diverse set of Ephs, thoughtful work and entertaining side conversation flowed. Often in these kinds of situations, I am reminded how our Williams experience still shapes the way we synthesize and make meaning.
I am reminded how our Williams experience still shapes the way we synthesize and make meaning.
At the end of our time together, we marveled at recent posts to the now 4,100-member Facebook group “You know you went to Williams College if…”
A discussion of the Facebook group led me to read a remarkable piece by Kate Stone Lombardi ’78 written for the Every Person Has a Story (EPHS) page on the Society of Alumni (SoA) Bicentennial celebration website. Kate chronicles an honest and vulnerable Facebook post from Laurie Bennett ’99:
“Is there anyone else here who feels like a failure?”
Hundreds of Ephs have responded to her post. I’m certain they don’t all know Laurie; yet the authenticity of their replies—a candor I can only believe is predicated on shared experiences, albeit across decades, on the Williams campus—is striking. Of course we understand. Me, too. Thank you for asking.
The themes of the SoA Bicentennial to date—belonging, connection, support, expression—should manifest throughout the arc of a lifelong Williams experience, often in the most unexpected places. Moments of connection with our fellow Ephs, planned or serendipitous, online or in person, are central to the SoA Bicentennial mission. In June, the bicentennial theme will be community.
I imagine we all began our Williams experiences believing we would thrive. Many of us felt the sense of support, belonging and connection that the bicentennial celebrates. Yet some of us encountered an environment that did not provide us with all that we needed to be whole. The work of the SoA is to make good on the promise of the college to be an inclusive community. As we seek to offer reconciliation, to celebrate and to grow, we ask that you share your story. The Williams stories we carry with us, in all their joy, pain and pride, will help us to cultivate, nurture and propagate the idea that there will forever be a place for you—failures, flaws, inflexible hips and all—in the Williams College Society of Alumni.
—Kate Boyle Ramsdell ’97, President, Society of Alumni