Comment

Editor’s Note

Williams Magazine Fall 2012

I’m pleased to share with you the fall issue of Williams Magazine. The new design and name reflect an approach to coverage that is complex and multilayered, offers readers something unexpected, showcases the best of the Williams community, and challenges us all to move beyond our comfort zones.

It’s an approach rooted in Williams’ enduring values and dedication to the advancement of humanity through great teaching and scholarship across the liberal arts. And it reflects more than a year’s worth of thoughtful conversation with alumni, students, faculty, and staff as we worked to re-envision the magazine. Special thanks to the Magazine Working Group and the executive committee of the Society of Alumni, who were integral to this process!

We’d love to know what you think. Send feedback to [email protected].

Additionally, Williams Magazine welcomes letters about articles or items published in recent issues. Please send comments to [email protected] or Williams Magazine, P.O. Box 676, Williamstown, MA 01267- 0676. Letters may be edited for clarity and space.

—Amy T. Lovett, editor

Inspiring and Impressive

"10 in 2012," Williams Magazine Summer 2012

"10 in 2012," Williams Magazine Summer 2012I loved the feature of the 10 graduating seniors (“10 in 2012,” July 2012). Each had such different paths, but all of them were inspiring and impressive. It brought to life everything we love about Williams. Also, I really enjoyed the president’s essay about the trip with the Williams Outing Club (“Learning: 2,500 Miles from Home”)— sounds like a fun and rewarding trip. The articles on Kevin White ’52 (“A World-Class Mayor”) and the interfaith trip (“Alabama Calling”) were also great. I always love reading about Williams, but the July issue was even better than usual.
—Yvonne Hao ’95, Cambridge, Mass.

The bios of the 10 graduates were outstanding. I can’t think of a better way to share the value of Williams today with its alumni than through the focus on these diverse and remarkable graduates. You mention that Niralee Shah ’12 is teaching math at King’s Academy in Manja, Jordan, “the New England-style prep school founded by Deerfield’s Eric Widmer ’61.” Eric was one class behind me at Williams and is an outstanding man. But you didn’t mention that the current head of King’s Academy (who hired Niralee) is John Austin ’87, who in 1983 graduated from St. Andrew’s School (Delaware), where the current head is Tad Roach ’79.
—Jonathan O’Brien ’60 (headmaster of St. Andrew’s School from 1977-97), Westport, Mass.

A Mayor’s Legacies

"A World-Class Mayor," Williams Magazine Summer 2012

Mayor Kevin White ’52 didn’t lose interest in 1983 in healing Boston and making its neighborhoods—including South Boston—part of a world-class city (“A World-Class Mayor,” July 2012). In fact, there’s also a Williams twist!

Columbia Point, a former city dump, is now home to the Kennedy Library, UMass-Boston, Boston College High School, and the Harbor Point residential development. In 1983, the Harbor Point site was a 1,200-unit public housing project with only 300, mostly minority-occupied, substandard, and federally subsidized apartments.

At the time, I was assistant secretary for housing in the Reagan administration, with responsibility for public housing. As a Bostonian, I was aware of the living conditions of Columbia Point’s residents. I had worked since 1981 with the Boston Housing Authority’s (BHA) court-appointed receiver and with Mayor White’s Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to redevelop the site into a privately developed, mixed-income neighborhood with guaranteed units for 300 low-income families.

In 1983 the redevelopment was at an impasse, with the BHA and BRA each insisting on its preferred developer. Mayor White called me at my office in Washington and began by referring to us as “fellow Ephmen” who should work together. I agreed, and we came up with the resolution to force a joint venture between the opposing developers.
Mayor White regarded the success of Harbor Point as his crown jewel for the waning days of his tenure as mayor.
—Phil Abrams ’61, Delray Beach, Fla.

Your article on Kevin White (“A World-Class Mayor”) talked glowingly about his role in the modernization of Boston. The comments on the mayor’s role in the school desegregation crisis, however, were a bit misleading. The late mayor himself, on numerous occasions and? in settings including the documentary series Eyes On the Prize, regretted his failure to address the crisis as a “moral” issue. It wasn’t that he was powerless; he did have power because of the office he held. He just failed to use it.

Ruth Batson, whose career as a civil rights and education activist began with the NAACP Boston Branch, often remarked that no political leader stepped forward to say that having students of all races and classes learning together was a good thing and should be encouraged. Mayor White, for all of his achievements, was not out in front during that polarizing time. He later regretted his own failure to take action.
—Steve Cohen ’73, Cambridge, Mass.

Serving Others

"Alabama Calling," Williams Magazine Summer 2012

The story of Williams’ four chaplains serving others in a time of great need (“Alabama Calling,” July 2012) reminded me of four chaplains of WWII fame. Two Protestants, a Catholic, and a Jew were sailing to war as chaplains on the S.S. Dorchester in 1943 when their ship was hit by a German torpedo. They gave up their life jackets to soldiers, in doing so going down with the ship. We honor their memory in our chapel on our still- operating Baltimore Liberty ship, the S.S. John W. Brown. I think the four chaplains of the Dorchester would have appreciated the four Williams chaplains—two Christians, a Muslim, and a Jew—doing good works in another kind of trouble.
—Ernie Imhoff ’59, Baltimore, Md.