Making Communities Better

by William Leininger '86

In early May 2020, the class of 1986 had a “minireZoomiun.” We checked in with each other and provided mutual support. Class President Sally Hart Peterson hosted the event and ensured that everyone had the chance to share a bit about themselves. During the gathering classmate Robin Flagg spoke about her work as a professor in health policy at UC Berkeley, while I described my activities in healthcare advocacy. Robin and I soon started a sidebar chat, and then exchanged some e-mails, later speaking over our own Zoom about me guest lecturing in her fall course. 

My lecture was well received, providing real-world perspective to Robin’s students, especially during a year in which health and policy and advocacy have all been at the forefront of peoples’ lives. I’ve since mentored two of the pre-med students in Robin’s course, and she and I plan to work together again.

I feel that this Williams connection is emblematic of my Williams experience—education, community, service and shared experiences. Robin was so enthusiastic about teaching her students and making sure they embraced the bigger picture of their studies, and this made me want to do better. I didn’t want to disappoint Professor Flagg, just like there were professors at Williams whom we respected and whose expectations we wanted to meet. Further, our shared Williams experiences—as students as now as alumni—have given us a grounding that improved and accelerated our collaboration, based on the friends and courses and values we have in common. Ultimately, the Williams community continues to create opportunities for new and unexpected connections that make us and our communities better.

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