One of the fascinating statistics about our alumni community is this: When you count up all the graduates of Williams College since its founding, almost 70% are alive today. I’ll give you a second to process that. Graduating class size is obviously the main factor, as that number was under 100 before World War I, under 200 until World War II and under 300 until the early ’70s. For the past few decades, we consistently welcome 500-plus alumni to the family every year.
I mention this in the context of an accounting of how many of us can say we were here to experience the Bicentennial of the Society of Alumni in 2021. Our alumni family today now numbers more than 31,000, and you participated in the recently concluded milestone from all corners of the globe—engaging in programming, submitting your stories and embodying the over-arching message that made clear: “There’s a place for you in the Society of Alumni.”
At its heart, the bicentennial was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our alumni community.
When you are the oldest continuing alumni association in North America, and perhaps in the world, there is no roadmap for how to properly celebrate and honor a bicentennial moment. That map was created by alumni volunteers and college staff starting five years ago, when the question was first posed of how to make the most of the opportunity presented.
At its heart, the bicentennial was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on our alumni community, the people who comprise it and the impact you have on each other and your college. It was also a moment to celebrate, to grapple, to give thanks and to reflect. I hope you did just that, surrounded by your Williams community, whether in person, from a distance or both.
There are two groups who deserve collective thanks—my Williams colleagues and the scores of bicentennial volunteers they stewarded. What they accomplished together in service to Williams and its alumni community is awe-inspiring and now etched into the college’s history and the legacy of the SoA Bicentennial. Words can’t capture how grateful I am for their creativity, ingenuity, dedication and resilience.
There are two people in need of individual thanks. Bicentennial Co-chairs Laura Moberg Lavoie ’99 and Aroop Mukharji ’09 have dedicated thousands of hours of their time, thought and energy since the summer of 2018, when they made the commitment to lead the bicentennial celebration. What they’ve experienced and accomplished in that time can’t ever be properly accounted for or appreciated. As part of our virtual reunion program this year, Laura and Aroop were recipients of the college’s highest award for alumni service, the Rogerson Cup. Few alumni have been as deserving of this honor as Laura and Aroop.
The bicentennial website remarkably captures the past year of celebration. If you haven’t done so already, do yourself a favor and explore all the recorded events, stories, perspectives and history it has to offer at alumni.williams.edu/200/.
Sending best wishes from Williamstown,
—Brooks Foehl ’88, Director of Alumni Relations