Col. Ephraim Williams dies during the "Bloody Morning Scout" near Lake George, N.Y. (September 8). His remains are buried at the battle site, but they are moved to Williamstown in 1920 and interred in the crypt of Thompson Memorial Chapel.
Williams College is chartered and admits its first class of students, as the college operates in a single building: West College, on land that was part of the traditional ancestral homelands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, the indigenous people of the region now commonly called Williamstown, Massachusetts.
The members of the Class of 1795 - Samuel Bishop, John Collins, Chauncey Lusk and Dan Stone - become the first alumni of Williams College.
Origins & Growth
The SoA's first century saw the establishment of formal structures for creating community within the alumni constituency while shaping the voice and role alumni would play in supporting the college.
Answering the call of Emory Washburn (Class of 1817) and Daniel Noble (Class of 1796), 70 alumni - nearly one-quarter of all then-living Williams graduates - convene in Williamstown on September 5, 1821, to form the Society of Alumni of Williams College in the wake of the defection of Pres. Zephaniah Swift Moore, many faculty members and many students (and many library books?) to start a new college in the Pioneer Valley of central Massachusetts. Asa Burbank (Class of 1797) is elected as the first president of the Society of Alumni.
The Society of Alumni directs it governing committee to appeal to alumni and friends of Williams to raise funds for prizes in elocution to be awarding to graduating seniors. The appeal is the first general fundraising effort in Williams' history.
Williams begins its first-ever capital appeal, for the purchase of scientific equipment, and successfully raises a total of $4,000 from alumni by the time the campaign ends in 1836.
President Mark Hopkins (Class of 1824) calls alumni devotion "the best security for the continued prosperity of the college."
The Society of Alumni organizes the 50th anniversary of Williams College.
The Society of Alumni purchases the sites of the "Bloody Morning Scout" and Eph Williams' original grave near Lake George, NY, and erects a centennial monument in memory of Col. Williams. (After the monument deteriorates from exposure, a replacement monument is built in 2005.)
Washington Gladden (Class of 1859) composes "The Mountains."
A new Chapel (now known as Goodrich Hall), which also contains a meeting space known as "Alumni Hall," is completed with funds contributed by alumni and is dedicated at the annual meeting of the Society of Alumni held on August 2, 1859. The Society of Alumni holds its annual meetings in Alumni Hall for many years to come.
The Society of Alumni requests formal alumni representation on the Board of Trustees of the College. The following year the position of Alumni Trustee is established. The first three Williams regional alumni associations are organized in New York City, Boston, and Troy, NY.
The Soldier’s Monument in front of Griffin Hall is dedicated on Alumni Day, as Williams becomes the first college to commemorate its Civil War dead in this way.
The Society of Alumni creates a "board of visitors" (later called the advisory committee, the precursors of the current SoA Executive Committee) with members holding 3-year terms.
At the annual dinner of the Society of Alumni in New York City, then-U.S. Congressman James A. Garfield (Class of 1856) proclaims that "The ideal college is Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other."
The Society of Alumni appoints a committee to "examine the expediency of admitting women as students to the college," whose members are David Dudley Field (Class of 1825), Francis H. Dewey (Class of 1840), Prof. John Bascom (Class of 1849), Clement Hugh Hill (Class of 1856), and Rev. Henry Hopkins (Class of 1858). In the committee report issued in 1872, the majority recommends deferral of "the further consideration of the subject to another generation,” while the minority report by Bascom and Field supports the admittance of women. Could one vote have changed the course of Williams' history?
Emanuel Cohen graduates and becomes the first Jewish member of the Society of Alumni.
U.S. President James A. Garfield (Class of 1856) is fatally wounded in Washington, D.C., as he departs for his 25th Williams class reunion.
Williams establishes quinquennial on-campus alumni gatherings.
Gaius Bolin graduates and becomes the first Black member of the Society of Alumni.
The Society of Alumni recommends the creation of an ongoing annual alumni fund to the Board of Trustees.
More than 600 alumni attend the on-campus celebration of Williams' Centennial.
For the first time ever, every Williams class with living alumni is represented at the annual Alumni Day.
Talcott Miner Banks (Class of 1890) starts the Williams Alumni Review.
The word "Reunion" is first used to refer to the on-campus gatherings of Williams alumni.
Assembled by an editorial staff comprised of Williams alumni from the 20 classes most directly involved in World War I, Williams publishes its commemorative volume, "Williams College in the World War," and the following year it awards The Williams Medal to all alumni (or their next of kin) who served during the war.
Society & College Align
In the middle of the 20th century, the college and SoA saw their visions for alumni engagement and support come fully into alignment. Administrative staff began to grow alongside the gifts of money and volunteer commitment from alumni.
Williams establishes the "Loyalty Fund" as its first official alumni fund, and hires E. Herbert Botsford (Class of 1882) as its first paid staff member to handle alumni relations and development duties.
The 1914 Loan Library opens, established by the Class of 1914 to commemorate its loss of the most members of any Williams class during service in World War I.
The Society of Alumni marks its 100th anniversary.
The Rogerson Cup, Williams' highest award in recognition of alumni service, is established by the family of James Rogerson (Class of 1892), and is first awarded to Lewis Perry (Class of 1898).
The Alumni House (now known as The Log) is established on Spring Street.
1,500 alumni veterans attend a World War II victory celebration in Williamstown.
The Joseph's Coat - the loudest, liveliest, flashiest available, in reference to the biblical Coat of Many Colors - is established to recognize a member of a post-50th Reunion class who is held in high esteem by Williams and fellow alumni. Its first recipient is Karl E. Weston (Class of 1896).
For the first time, annual Alumni Fund participation surpasses 50%.
Reunions, formerly celebrated during Commencement Weekend, are given a separate weekend of their own. Many alumni return to campus later in the summer for the first annual Williams-Alumni Guest Golf Tournament at Taconic Golf Club.
The Special Committee headed by Jay Angevine (Class of 1911) recommends the abolition of fraternities, and the Board of Trustees agrees, with fraternities to be terminated no later than 1967. Later in 1962, Williams begins the Williams Today program, under the leadership of Alumni Secretary John English (Class of 1932), to better inform alumni about the mission and evolution of the college.
The Board of Trustees votes unanimously to implement full coeducation.
Seven women admitted as transfers into the Class of 1971 receive their B.A. degrees (including Joan Hertzberg, who graduates as valedictorian), marking the start of a period of significant expansion in the membership of the Society of Alumni.
The Society of Alumni celebrates its 150th Anniversary, as the college welcomes the first four-year class of women to the Class of 1975.
Expansion & Representation
For 150 years, the college and its alumni community was predominantly, white, male and Christian. 50 years ago, that began to change; our college and the SoA have become more representative of the demographics of our society with more evolution to come.
Dan Pinello graduates and becomes the first openly LGBTQ member of the Society of Alumni.
As the first four-year coeducational class graduates, Katharine Berry is recognized as the first woman to complete her Williams B.A. degree requirements and receives her degree at Commencement as a member of the Class of 1957.
Pamela G. Carlton (Class of 1976) becomes the first woman graduate of Williams to serve as a Trustee of the college.
The Alumni Fund surpasses $1 million in annual giving for the first time.
Janet Brown (Class of 1973) becomes the first woman graduate of Williams to serve on the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni.
The Thurston Bowl, recognizing distinguished service by a class secretary, is established and first awarded to Theodore K. Thurston (Class of 1912).
The annual Frederick C. Copeland Award, named for the the legendary member of the Class of 1935 and long-time Dean of Admissions, is established to honor a Williams graduate who has helped bring together prospective students and Williams College. The first recipient is William C. Baird (Class of 1929).
Surviving spouses of alumni who died during the preceding year are elected for the first time as honorary members of the Society of Alumni, a practice that continues at each annual meeting.
Williams launches its first Alumni Travel Study trips, one a Mediterranean cruise with Profs. Whit Stoddard (Class of 1935) and Anson Piper (Class of 1940), and the second a trip to the Rocky Mountains with Prof. Bud Wobus.
Beatrice Acly is honored at Commencement as the first woman to have received a degree from Williams, 50 years earlier.
A secretary in the Dean's office, she successfully petitioned the Board of Trustees to undertake a course of study leading to her receipt in 1931 of a degree as Master of Arts in American Literature.
The annual Kellogg Award, named for James C. Kellogg (Class of 1937, a former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange), is established to recognize a distinguished career, and is first given to Edward L. Stanley (Class of 1937).
The Williams Black Alumni Network (WBAN) is founded.
Graduates of the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art are accorded full membership in the Society of Alumni.
The Alumni Center addition to the Faculty Club opens.
The Williams Gay & Lesbian Alumni/ae Association (now known as Williams LGBTQIA+ Alumni Network (BiGLATA)) is founded.
Katharine Berry (Class of 1957) becomes the first woman elected as President of the Society of Alumni.
The Williams Black Alumni Network hosts the first Bolin Weekend in honor of Williams' first Black graduate, Gaius Charles Bolin (Class of 1889)
The Williams Asian Alumni Network (now known as the Williams Asian and Asian American Alumni Network) is created.
The Williams Latino Alumni Network (now known as the Williams Latinx Alumni Network) is founded.
Commemorating its 200th anniversary, Williams establishes the Bicentennial Medals to honor members of the Williams community for distinguished achievement in any field of endeavor.
Graduates of the Center for Development Economics are accorded full membership in the Society of Alumni.
Edward C. Coaxum (Class of 1966) becomes the first person of color elected as President of the Society of Alumni.
Wendy W. Hopkins (Class of 1972) becomes the first woman to serve as Director of Alumni Relations and Secretary of the Society of Alumni.
The Williams Alumni Review is separated into two publications, Williams Magazine and Williams People, beginning with the August 2005 Issue.
The Society of Alumni establishes its social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
The Williams First Generation Alumni network is created.
To view the demographic make-up of the Society of Alumni- its past, present and future - click the bar below. Numbers to the right represent make-up percentage of the alumni community at the particular moment in time.
Slide to see historical and projected demographics
The data utilized to create the projections of the SoA’s ethnic composition were pulled from the ethnic composition of the Class of 2019, which was the most recent class year for which we have complete ethnicity data. These projections do not account for the changing demographics of the U.S., which could impact the ethnic composition of future class years. Data from the National Vital Statistics System were used in order to estimate alumni age-specific death rates.