Celebrating Coeducation

Although we honor one moment in time that marks the start of coeducation at Williams more than 50 years ago, this milestone was years in the making and represents the most significant evolution in the college’s history since its founding. Doing justice to the many people who transformed the Williams community—students, faculty and staff—requires a broad lens through which we examine and celebrate this period of time and the impact that it carries forward to this day.

Wheels were set in motion in spring 1967 with the formation of the Committee on Coordinate Education and Related Questions. The committee, composed of faculty and trustees, concluded its work in January 1969 with a faculty vote to recommend that Williams “include undergraduate women in its educational program in significant numbers at as early a time as is feasible.” That same month, 30 exchange students arrived from Vassar. Committee work continued apace that semester, culminating in another faculty voice vote, without dissent, recommending the inclusion of undergraduate women. The trustees followed shortly after, voting unanimously to admit women as undergraduates beginning in fall 1971. Female transfer students graduated with the classes of 1972, 1973 and 1974 before the first fully coed Class of 1975 crossed the stage at Commencement.

This history is shared to honor those who lived it and to remind us of how the path to co-education was forged.

This history is shared to honor those who lived it and to remind us of how the path to coeducation was forged. The collective institutional goal of the coeducation milestone is to uncover, highlight, communicate and celebrate the evolution and experiences of five decades of Williams women. I encourage you to explore alumni.williams.edu/women/, a space curated to share stories, photographs, history and programming content. I draw your attention specifically to the Women of Williams Conference scheduled for May 19-21, 2023, in Williamstown. Alumnae of every age and stage are invited to share their journeys and be their most authentic selves in a space that will offer inspirational and engaging programming and provide an opportunity for Williams women to learn from one another and leave with meaningful, memorable takeaways. Please save the date, and invite an entrymate to join you.

Alumni gathered together for the first time on campus for Reunion Weekend in June after a three-year, pandemic-induced hiatus. The classes of 1970 and 1971 had their make-up reunion moments over the summer, and the Class of 1972 was fortunate to celebrate its 50th reunion on the proper timeline. What these classes, and those that surround them going forward, have in common is the presence and influence of women, and we celebrate and honor that fact, not just as a milestone but as a meaningful, permanent occurrence.

With best wishes from Williamstown,

—Brooks Foehl ’88, Executive Director of Alumni Relations; Secretary, Society of Alumni

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