A Powerful Network

The difference our alumni make—to the world, to Williams and to our students—is astonishing.

Adam Falk

President Adam Falk

After the last of this year’s seniors walked across the stage at Commencement to accept a diploma and a  handshake (or a hug) from me, Dennis O’Shea ’77, president of our Society of Alumni, took to the podium to address the new graduates. This is no formality. It’s a sincere and warm welcome to the oldest and, dare I say, best college alumni association, with nearly 29,000 members worldwide. For a great majority of graduating seniors, it’s also the beginning of a lifelong relationship with their fellow alumni and with Williams that benefits us all. The difference our alumni make—to the world, to Williams and to our students—is astonishing.

Indeed, many of the members of the Class of 2014 have already benefited from the legendary Williams alumni network. In “The Alumni Network” feature, you can read a few stories about the power of our career network. That power is demonstrated time and again—through the internships, jobs, mentoring and advice our alumni provide to fellow Ephs, and through the incredible reach and influence of our alumni around the world, in every field, in every part of society, in ways far disproportionate to their numbers.

Our alumni are shaping policy, advancing technology, educating our children, healing the sick and feeding the hungry, protecting our country and the environment, leading industries and movements, raising families and social consciousness, creating art and opportunity. All the while, they are incredibly devoted to each other and to Williams.

This means not only that Williams students are making connections with alumni that lead to fulfilling careers, but also that alumni are endowing internships that enable students to explore career fields, perform public service and gain valuable experiences that might not otherwise be available to them. About 100 such alumni-sponsored opportunities currently exist, including the one you’ll read about in these pages that helped launch the film career of Guy Danella ’03, now a VP at Gold Circle Films, who is paying it forward by opening the door to many Williams students and alumni.

Then there are the stories, which every alumnus has, of dashing across a room in Santa Fe or a square in Kathmandu, having spotted someone who seemed different from them in every way except that they were wearing a Williams T-shirt or cap. The connection is immediate.

Of course, it’s the dedication of Williams alumni to which we are all indebted. After Zephaniah Swift Moore resigned as Williams’ second president to found Amherst College in 1821, Emory Washburn (1817) and Daniel Noble (1796) put notices in newspapers throughout the region, calling upon graduates for help. Two weeks later, nearly a quarter of the college’s living alumni met and formed the world’s first society of alumni. Their work sustained the college in its greatest moment of peril. Today, about 10 percent of living alumni serve as Williams volunteers. Among other things, they’re engaging 6 out of 10 Williams alumni to give to the college each year and, in that work, through personal emails and phone calls to classmates, reconnecting alumni with their alma mater.

I know our students, including those we’ve just sent out as graduates, are grateful for the support of Williams alumni. It’s a powerful network, to be sure—as powerful in its caring for students as in its influence in the world. Ultimately, Williams alumni care so deeply about students because they were shaped by the same wonderful educational experience, and they know what Williams students go on to achieve.

Image credit: Kate Drew Miller