Dear Ephs Everywhere,
For generations, Williams alumni have gone out into the world, building community and supporting one another. We honk at purple and gold bumper stickers, hoist felt banners at weddings and mystify our friends, families and coworkers with our collective enthusiasm for all things Eph. We travel long distances to be together; we share life’s joys and sorrows with one another. And, through it all, we continue to challenge our college, each other and ourselves to grow. To do better. To be better.
This year, the Williams College Society of Alumni turns 200 years old. The world’s oldest college alumni society launched when the college nearly collapsed in 1821 and Williams alumni came together to save it. Thank goodness, it worked! The history of the SoA has been written ever since by all of us: everyday moments shared in class notes; annual trips with Williams friends; chance encounters in unexpected places. We happily go out of our way to connect with fellow alumni, building new relationships with Ephs whose paths we may not have crossed before. All because we once spent time in a certain purple valley.
These interactions and connections are the very lifeblood of the SoA, which has evolved in ways the founders would never have imagined. Most significantly, who we are has changed drastically over generations. We have become a more diverse collective across socioeconomic status, race, religion, gender identity and geography. And precisely because of these changes and the perspective they afford us, we are stronger and better equipped to enrich our communities and help the SoA and Williams continue to grow.
The SoA should be a place where every Eph can see themselves and find a home, no matter where they came from or what their futures may hold. It should be a place of warmth, of welcoming, of support. For many Ephs, this is already the SoA experience; we follow in the footsteps of countless alumni leaders who have striven toward that very goal. But as we have listened to the hundreds of alumni who have felt compelled to lift their voices, particularly throughout 2020 and beyond, we know there is still work to do. We see the bicentennial not only as an opportunity to celebrate—and there is much to celebrate!—but also as an opportunity to acknowledge and grapple with discomfort, to pave a path toward progress, and to emerge better and more closely connected to each other as a result.
You—yes, you!—are an important part of this journey and the SoA story. If you were ever a Williams student, whether for a semester, for four years, for grad school, or for an exchange year, you are a member of the Society of Alumni. The SoA bicentennial year will celebrate you, along with all the Ephs who came before you and all those who will join you in the generations to come. We hope to learn where life has taken you, with all of its twists, turns, ups and downs, and we hope to discover how the SoA has been part of your story.
Throughout this year, you are invited to connect and reconnect with the Williams community through virtual programming and, eventually (we hope!), in your neighborhoods and back in Williamstown. We invite you to explore this website for information about these opportunities, and to learn about the history and the people who have comprised the SoA since its founding. We hope that you will tell your own Eph story, however you define it, and that you find meaningful interaction with other Ephs across generations and geographies.
Together, during this bicentennial year and beyond, we will reflect on our shared past, consider the present, and look ahead to crafting a brighter future for the SoA and its citizens. Thank you for being part of the Williams College Society of Alumni—and for all that you give to your fellow Ephs, to the college and to the world.