How We Connect

In anticipation of our 25th reunion in june 2022, I climbed into my attic this past June to find shoeboxes, carefully cataloged with index cards from 1993 to 1997, filled with photographs taken with disposable cameras. There were hundreds of snapshots—my WOOLF trip, mid-’90s fashion at Wood House semiformals, Stone Hill panoramas, my frosh in Williams C, the legendary women of Lambert House. The rabbit hole of images snapped half a lifetime of connections into focus.

Tucked between pictures, I found a handwritten card from my mom, dated near the end of my first year. Having written and received many letters during my time at Williams, I’m grateful to have slipped in under the wire before email and iPhones took hold. I love discovering these little pieces of ephemera (more accurately, Ephemera), whether they’re postcards, party invites or homecoming tickets. In Mom’s recognizable script, she asks, “How are you getting home at the end of the semester? Do you need me to come pick you up?” I imagine I called her back using the shared phone in my frosh suite a few weeks after she wrote to ask.

 

The connections shared among Ephs … underscore why I have loved staying connected to Williams.

 

One of the great privileges of volunteering for Williams in my current role is the time I have gotten to spend with Ephs from across many decades, particularly those on the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni (SoA). A recent conversation in a Zoom breakout session with committee members underlined how much things have changed since the time my mom sent that card. It went something like this:

“When I was at Williams,” said a ’95 grad, “we had touch-tone phones in our rooms, and I think I had to pay off my bill to graduate …”

Not to be outdone, a ’70s-era alum countered, “We had one phone in the Entry hallway that we all shared. I called home twice my freshman year!”

“I’ll top that!” declared someone from the Class of 1960. “We had to call the switchboard in North Adams, and my roommate asked the operator out on a date!”

A recent grad laughed and said, “I don’t know how y’all got anything done without iPhones.” Our discussion transitioned to how, lacking social media, we fortunately kept our gaffes to a small circle.

Today, even ’90s-era communication feels ancient. My mom’s card makes me think about how much daily life at Williams has evolved. The connections shared among Ephs—stored in attics or Snapchatted into oblivion—underscore why I have loved staying connected to Williams.

As we officially celebrate the SoA Bicentennial in September, highlight Ephs’ sustainable relationships with the natural world in October and return home in November, I invite you to join the festivities and look ahead with me as we begin to shape the SoA for generations of Ephs yet to come. No matter how future technologies allow us to stay in touch—whether we’re Zooming or teleporting—our connections will remain strong, with all the warmth of a handwritten letter from home.

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