Report from the Field

Bill wagnerI should probably stop talking behind your backs.

Among the experiences that serving as interim president has given me are more frequent opportunities to meet with groups of alumni, both on campus and far afield. When I return, colleagues ask my impressions of you all, and here is what I have been telling them.

I have found these alumni interactions to be both surprising and gratifying. Having taught at Williams for almost 30 years, I had known that our alumni are fiercely loyal. But I did not know the nature of that loyalty. I had assumed it was based largely on nostalgia for the College that alumni knew as students; it turns out to be much more than that.

Most alumni do recall fondly their time here, but, based on their comments and questions to me, few want the College to go back to what it was, and almost all are not only proud of what Williams has become but also are focused keenly on how it can still improve.

Among the most frequent questions alumni have asked me has been, “How is Williams changing?” They want to know how the College can do what it does even better.

In particular, though they want to be reassured that the College is meeting its current financial challenges effectively and is maintaining its commitments to accessibility and diversity, they also ask how our academic and co-curricular programs are responding to changes in the national and international environments, expanding opportunities for students to experience the world and encouraging them to be publicly engaged.

Of all the ways that alumni support the College, this concern for progress is one I have found especially gratifying.

Another way to put it might be to say that the College’s alumni support is “critical” in both senses of the word: It is essential to our institutional well-being and comes with a wonderfully inquiring spirit of the kind that Williams worked hard to imbue in these alumni when they were students.

This strikes me as the healthiest kind of support possible, for which, on behalf of all my colleagues, I can now thank you with a much deeper understanding.

– Bill Wagner, interim president