Williams Women

With regard to “Williams Women” (summer 2015), I was there for the first year of the 10 College Exchange Program, 1969-70, when roughly 40 female students from women’s colleges attended Williams. Years later, I met a young woman who graduated from Williams in the late 1990s. I mentioned I’d been with that first group. Her response: “When was that? 1945?” Ouch!

—Donna Psiaki Feldman ’72, Louisville, Colo.


As one of the first seven women to graduate from Williams in 1971 (and proud mother of a 2006 alumna), I was surprised to see no specific acknowledgement of my class. We originally came as exchange students for a semester or year. We were highly visible on a men’s campus and not exactly self-effacing. One of us was valedictorian of our class. It wasn’t a completely smooth transition for the college or for us. Williams hadn’t intended to admit us as full-time students but, to its credit, when we advocated for the opportunity to apply for a formal transfer, Williams listened and corrected mid-course. Although some members of the student and alumni bodies weren’t thrilled with our enrollment, we, along with many of our male classmates and much of the faculty and administration, took great pride in Williams’ vanguard position. It’s a disservice to the Williams community past, present and future to lose this important part of the history of coeducation, bumps and all.

—Ellen Josephson Vargyas ’71, Washington D.C.


I was delighted to see Louise Ober included among those mentioned in “Early Women of Williams.” Louise completed seven full semesters with our class, was on the dean’s list, an honors English major, editor of The Red Balloon and active in Cap & Bells. She was an outstanding member of our class and an immensely gifted woman who died of cancer in 1978. We were proud to honor her at our 50th reunion by establishing a permanent award in her name for achievement in the performing arts. I am immensely grateful for what you have shared, and I know that Louise’s classmates are, as well.

Steve Doughty ‘64, Greenville, S.C.


While I applaud “Williams Women,” I refuse to accept the placement of a sexualized image of Madonna in the midst of their portraits as benign. Even if she was a client of Cheryl (Robinson) Joyner ’85, is this appropriate? We are so used to the over-sexualization of women in our culture that we don’t even see how absurd it is anymore. And this is dangerous. When we are honoring the strengths of women, their intelligence, their drive to succeed and their power to change and influence the world, let their accomplishments stand and be praised.

—Allison Orsi ’93, Wantage, N.J.

Greener Than Green

The project team for the Class of 1966 Environmental Center admitted that it will be nearly impossible to get everything right in the first year of operation to meet the Living Building Challenge (“Greener than Green,” summer 2015). And such is the brilliance of the professors, trustees, Class of ’66 alumni and President Adam Falk in committing to a project that’s destined to “fail” in its first year but be a brilliant winner in its decades-long teaching as a living building laboratory. The intense advocacy by Bill Moomaw ‘59 and the design team to push the regulatory barriers is exemplary. The deep collaboration between the physics, chemistry, geology, economics, political science and computer science departments is unprecedented. Such risk-taking rarely happens— except, apparently, at Williams. Thank you to Williams Magazine for placing this iconic building front and center in the minds of our alumni. Well done!

—Betsy Harper ‘79, Newton, Mass.


I applaud Williams’ effort to take on the Living Building Challenge as the standard for the new Class of 1966 Environmental Center. Action speaks louder than words. I am, however, concerned that a portion of that effort focused too sharply on the “trees” and not on the “forest.” Perhaps the college should have modified the architectural design parameters for the building siding to allow for the use of local lumber rather than insisting on FSC-certified lumber—in this case red cedar that needed to be shipped from British Columbia. I suspect that the carbon and chemical footprint produced by shipping the red cedar siding 3,000 miles exceeded the minor environmental advantages of other design innovations including the utilization of less toxic light sockets. As a society we seem all too willing to measure our performance against a yardstick provided by others rather than taking a step back to see if there is an even better way. The FSC has been publicly criticized for favoring large companies, which if true is counterintuitive and counterproductive. When we ignore local resources we put local businesses and skills at great risk. We are usually more thoughtful and responsible when our actions are immediate and nearby, especially when cutting trees.

—Richard H. Remmer ’77, Oakdale, N.Y.

Udderly Eph

I thoroughly enjoyed the photos in “Udderly Eph” (summer 2015) and the link to the many udders. As one of few Ephs who made dairying a career, it’s great to see the Williams bovine tradition continue with creativity and serious whimsy. I raise my cup of milk “To Williams, To Williams, To Williams!”

—John W. Malcolm ‘72, Pawlet, Vt.

Summer Kudos (And a Complaint)

The summer 2015 issue is, as always, top notch: layout, white space, expansive articles, great photos, things that make me smile. And a logical use of serif and sans-serif typefaces. When is the last time a reader gave you an “atta gal, editor” for type? However, the array of six photos on p. 8 (“Bon Voyage, Class of ’15!”) is not reader-friendly.

—David Hall ‘61, Nellysford, Va.