On sharing Williams and all that remains constant even amid change

by Hiroko Imamura ’82, P’22, P’22

My Williams College experience has shaped many of the major events of my life after graduation, including my decision to immigrate to the United States, my career choice to become an American lawyer, my marriage to a Williams classmate, my professional experience at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., and now our daughters’ enrollment at Williams.

Hiroko Imamura with her Husband Kamla
Hiroko Imamura '82, P'22, P'22 (right) and husband, Kamla Prasad '82, P'22, P'22 (left) wearing Japanese kimono and yukata in 1980

In 1978 I came to Williams as an international student (called “foreign student” back then) from Tokyo, Japan, thinking that getting a high-quality liberal arts college education in the United States would be more interesting and useful than attending a university in my home country, where I felt that undergraduate students did not take academic studies seriously and post-graduation opportunities for women were still quite limited. I was hoping that an American college education would equip me with good English-language skills, which I could use to get a job in Japan as a translator or interpreter, should my plan to become a full-time housewife and mother fail to materialize for some reason.

As my years at Williams went by, however, my thinking drastically changed. My interactions with classmates spurred an interest in pursuing a more serious career for myself. In particular, I was struck by the fact that many classmates were planning to go on to law school even though they were not necessarily interested in becoming lawyers, as a way to enter a variety of professional careers in American society, including politics, business and international affairs. (Going to business school was not yet very popular among Williams students back then!)

So, instead of returning to Japan upon graduation from Williams, I attended Columbia Law School in New York City. After graduating from Columbia, I married Kamla Prasad ’82, P'22, P'22. While I was attending law school and then working in a law firm in New York City, Kamla was attending medical school in Connecticut and then working as an anesthesia resident in Philadelphia, so we went through most of our twenties in physical separation, with landline telephone calls as a primary means of communication. (No emails, internet or cell phones existed back then!)

Working in an international law firm in NYC for several years, with clients from all over the world with different time zones and business trips all over Europe and Asia, was challenging and interesting, but it also left me with no time or energy to enjoy other things in life or to raise family. So I started to look for other legal opportunities and remembered the stimulating conversations I had 10 years earlier in my senior-year Winter Study course with Mr. Eugene Webb  ’41, who had just retired from the legal department of the World Bank and had become its first ombudsman. Even though Mr. Webb was no longer there, I decided to apply to the legal department of the World Bank. I was hired and thoroughly enjoyed working there for 17 years until I took early retirement in 2010.

Now our twin daughters are juniors at Williams. Their “Class of 2022 Williams experience” is of course very different from our “Class of 1982 Williams experience.” Now the student body is much more diverse, and so are the curriculum, faculty and student activities. Forty years ago, I was literally one of a handful of Asian students at Williams. There were no freshman orientation activities, so classes started abruptly right after I arrived from Japan. Tutorials, which our daughters love, did not exist back then and were probably not even considered to be feasible.

And yet, whenever I visit our daughters on campus now, I feel that certain things have not changed and have withstood the test of time. It’s not just the purple mountains, Route 2, my favorite Thompson Memorial Chapel and grilled honeybuns at the snack bar that have remained constant. It’s also the spirit of adventure, curiosity, discovery, excitement and the pure joy of learning that have endured and continue to grow in each of us who call ourselves “Ephs.”

Last but not least, all of my Williams 1982 classmates should be proud to know that according to our daughters, the pizza at the ’82 Grill is the best food on campus!

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