Constant and Valued

by Greg Williams '73

Greg Williams and friends golfing
L to R: 1973 Classmates Kent Hoffman, Ken Bate, Greg Williams, Richard Small, Doug Morrell & Chris Zook

October 1969. Professor Stephen Lewis ’60. Econ 101. Steve Lewis was almost anachronistic in those days, and the Vietnam War was causing rampant civil unrest on campuses everywhere. Williams College was no exception. Despite the liberal leaning of the college world, Professor Lewis still had his flat top crew cut and wore button-down short sleeved shirts, displaying the arms that made him a varsity wrestler at Williams.

Since most (all?) of us had never studied economics, Professor Lewis’ terminology—most notably his pronunciation of resources as “rezources”—quickly drew us in (but made us no smarter). Our classroom row consisted of Economic Emlen Drayton, Tom Long Run Lee, Techno Tommy Hyndman, Widget Williams, Johnny Demand Curve Gallagher, Capital Ken Bate and Richard Short Run Small. All names that we selected in our desire to be big Econ 101 players.

He began to call us “Murderers Row,” and the genesis, I suspect, is that we were murdering any accepted economic thoughts and our GPAs as well—and not in a good way. My midterm performance was evidenced by a 38 (out of a possible 100), which I think did two things—landed me somewhat in the lower half of Murderer’s Row results (It is tough to get scores from the others) and led me to George Benson ’70, the TA charged with making the illiterate literate. George was a great guy, very patient, and helped me crest at a C or C-minus for the semester. Three things really stood out: academically I was not in Kansas anymore, in that decent grades had not been hard to come by in high school; Professor Lewis was very comfortable in his own skin and persona; and I was making friends. 

To this day those friendships are constant and valued, and when we come together we easily slip back into meaningful relationships. On the redemptive side of the less famous Murderer’s Row, three are/were successful attorneys, one had a career as an entertainer, one was CFO of a large household biotech company and two had successful runs in the corporate world. Williams College did the job in terms of helping develop its students. 

In a more interesting twist of fate, I spent some time as the board chair of a public company and was in receipt of a letter on behalf of the IDS (enormous investment fund) Chairman, Steve Lewis! My reply to Professor Lewis was that I hoped my response was more cogent/worthy than my last submission to him! I did not hear back from him, so my guess is probably not—but I remain optimistic, as Williams did teach me that you can overcome a lot in life through perseverance and support from others. Thank you, Professor Lewis.

Footnote: I have a young nephew who is currently a professor at Williams, and not once have I asked him to visit the Registrar’s Office to perhaps redact my C-minus and bump it up to today’s minimum B-minus.

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