The Place We Come From

Home. The Bicentennial’s last theme was aptly celebrated virtually and in person over Williams Homecoming Weekend in November by thousands of alumni, students, staff and faculty. By the time I got to Williamstown on Friday night, revelry had already begun as alumni from the classes of 2020 and 2021 celebrated together for the first time since their less-than-ideal departures from Williams in the midst of the pandemic. 

“Williams isn’t a place I went to; it’s the place I come from.”

Finally being in the place—on campus after a too-long hiatus—was just a slice of what made my weekend in Williamstown so satisfying. The best part of all was what I continue to believe makes Williams Williams: the people. Alumni bicentennial volunteers literally squealed with the excitement of meeting Ephs in person whom we’d only seen on a screen for 18 months. Real hugs were a huge hit! 

I started my Saturday by ticking off an item that had been on my Williams bucket list for more than two decades: a sunrise hike up Pine Cobble. The legendary Scott Lewis was at Paresky to greet us in the dark, equip us with headlamps and thermoses of warm drinks, and send us off safely. The three students who led the adventure settled right in with the dozen alumni who joined. At the top, a thick early morning frost gave way to a brilliant sunrise. The last of the fall’s maroon leaves blanketed the mountains in that color that makes you swear the valley really is purple. I was reminded that morning about how our Williams experiences, decades apart, still serve as common ground—even though the community is evolving in ways at which I marvel. One of our hiking guides asked if we could stay in touch, so we exchanged numbers. “Call me for anything,” I said. 

Our return to campus revealed that, seemingly overnight, our friends at the college had dusted the campus with balloons and festooned Weston Field’s tables and tents with cow tattoos, cider donuts and Eph decals. I spotted a slightly older cohort of football alumni sporting yellow baseball caps in the stands of the game. It turns out they were celebrating 50 years of “The Walk,” and, lucky for all of us, the team earned another one with a decisive and long-overdue victory over Wesleyan. When I scurried into the packed stands, I sandwiched myself between those yellow-capped alumni and a gaggle of first-years who, it turns out, were entrymates of the kicker, Ivan Shuran ’25. He made three flawless field goals to open up our lead. We all cheered for Ivan that day. That night, I snuck into a 90th birthday party for my former coach, Carl Samuelson, who was being fêted by his Eph swimming family, before making it over to a Bicentennial thank-you gathering where volunteers from the classes of 1958 to 2018 raised a glass to all of you.

As we celebrated, I recalled an idea that Mariam Naficy ’91 once shared: “Williams isn’t a place I went to; it’s the place I come from.” Our homes help to make us who we are. Our relationships with people and places, over time, solidify that sense of family, and I have never before felt quite so sure about that. 


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