Women's Equity in Leadership at Williams

It's been fifty years since the first women attended Williams as undergraduates and three years since the College inducted its first woman president. In 2018, eleven women came together to form WE Lead (Women's Equity in Leadership) with the goal of dramatically growing women’s leadership giving and creating a clear pathway for women to lead the next generation of Eph philanthropy.

Portrait of Anne Melvin
Ann Melvin '85 P'19

Anne Melvin ‘85 P‘19
I have worked as both a volunteer and a professional in the field of development for nearly 30 years. At Harvard University, I have run the gamut of development teams in various Harvard entities since 1994, including the annual fund, major gifts, stewardship, and gift planning. During this journey, I found my way into the training of fundraisers, and for the past seven years, directed learning and development for the 350+ person fundraising staff at Harvard’s central fundraising office. 

I speak regularly around the country to professional development organizations specializing in donor motivation, gift solicitation, and other topics critical for successful frontline work. I train non-profit development staff nationwide through my private practice, Dynamic Fundraising Training.  I am currently serving on the board of Ethiopia Education Initiatives, Inc. and the Columbus Beach Club, and enjoy a ‘busman's holiday’ fundraising for my alma mater in Massachusetts and Little Traverse Conservancy in Michigan. Prior to joining Harvard, I practiced real estate law in the Boston area. I am a cum laude graduate of Williams College and hold a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law. 

Haley Tone ‘07
I was determined not to follow in my parents’ footsteps and attend Williams College - “I want my own sticker” was my refrain, referencing stickers on car windows, so typical of a 16 year old focused on getting her driver’s license. I eventually relented, and found an incredible community at Williams. It was cool to go to the library, in fact we debated the best seats! It was exciting to attend lectures, in fact we went back multiple times to our favorite art history lecture days! And it was thrilling to be in such a beautiful environment, in fact there was a day that celebrated hiking! Now again living in California, I pine often for the natural beauty of the Purple Valley, but I retain to this day the close relationships that I formed on campus. Sharing my love and appreciation of Williams now as a volunteer, and working with this incredible group of women to strategize and further support the College, gives me so much joy.

Portrait of Haley Tone
Haley Tone '07
Lee Shackelford ‘80 P‘14
Lee Shackelford ‘80 P‘14

Lee Shackelford ‘80 P‘14
When I was the age my granddaughter is now, I could not have dreamed of going to Williams. I remain grateful to Williams for opening its doors to women and doing it thoughtfully and better than any of the newly 'co-educational' colleges I visited in the mid 70's. I completed a pre-med curriculum while majoring in political science which has prepared me to be a psychiatrist and participate actively in the development of community crisis services in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. I have enjoyed friendships with Ephs who continue to enrich my perspective and learned how an organization can evolve to maintain excellence and relevance over time. As I embrace new roles (grandparenting, instructing yoga, arts advocacy) I use my Williams experience to make unique contributions that bring meaning and delight to my life. I give to Williams to keep a good thing going for generations to come.

Leigh Winter Martin ‘99
I care deeply about women having an equal seat at the table, so the opportunity to help close this remaining gender gap is very motivating to me. It was my mom who encouraged me to step up to the leadership level of giving at my 10th reunion, challenging me to think about what kind of longer term impact I wanted to have. WE Lead expanded my thinking from individual impact to collective impact, and the power of a coalition of women coming together for Williams.

Twenty-some years later and 3,000 miles away at my Los Altos, CA home, Williams continues to give me so much--friendships across generations, a community of resources, and ongoing intellectual inspiration. I give because I want to make the Williams experience, both as a student and an alum, accessible for future generations of Ephs.

Leigh Winter Martin ‘99
Leigh Winter Martin ‘99
Martha Coakley ‘75
Martha Coakley ‘75

Martha Coakley ‘75
I was excited to enter Williams in the fall of 1971, in the first class of women to start as Frosh. I worked on the newspaper, WCFM, and co-founded Williams Women to address issues of health, sex and full participation in the Williams community. I was aware that critics of co-education argued that women alums wouldn’t give to Williams but rather their spouse’s schools. I vowed to do my part to prove them wrong. 

I served for thirty years in public service including as the first female District Attorney of Middlesex County,MA and first female Attorney General of MA. My major at Williams, the History of Ideas, helped me address such problems of child abuse, domestic violence and predatory lending from a multidisciplinary perspective. Women have been and will continue to be important voices to shape Williams’ future and this effort to keep women engaged.

Michele Rogers ‘79 P‘04
Oh, how times have changed for women at Williams. In 1976 our athletic director, Coach Peck, kindly reached into his pocket to give us gas money to drive our cars to the varsity volleyball game… The football team rolled away in a luxury coach bus.

Today, Williams is among the academies allocating significant resources and effort to enroll, hire, promote, and support women in every way. And thanks to the generosity of our donors, first generation women and Black students like me can join travel, social, and other activities at Williams, rather than working long hours to buy necessities. In fact, every Williams student can now enjoy the full academic and social experience. How wonderful!

I must say, despite my jobs, I had a great Williams experience. There were challenging times with work study, academics, sports, and friends, but it was worth it for the incredible resources and lifelong relationships with very cool, good people.

Williams women have a vital and vibrant part of our community and I’m so proud to be working with even just a small group of them as part of WE Lead!

Michele Rogers ‘79 P‘04
Michele Rogers ‘79 P‘04
Susan Costanzo ‘97
Susan Costanzo ‘97

Susan Costanzo ‘97
If you’d told me in 1993 when I arrived on campus in Williamstown that I would one day find myself the sole female at the table in the boardroom at a global medical device company, I would have looked at you like you had two heads. I was a shy double major in English and Psychology, went to a public high school, had never heard of Williams until my English teacher said that I should look at it when I was first generation college-bound. I am also introverted and female. Yet this was exactly my experience approximately 20 years later.

I know first-hand how important it is to have women at the table in leadership because I witnessed first-hand the dynamic at that table with and without equal female representation. Many organizations – most if we’re honest – still have a long way to go to reach gender parity in leadership. Williams has now celebrated 50 years of coeducation and has its first female president.

I recently learned that there was a time when the prospect of opening Williams to women raised concerns that an increasingly female alumni base would be unable or unwilling to financially support the college in perpetuity. Today we view that as absurd. However, women are less often invited to make Leadership Gifts, in the same way they have historically been less often invited to the table. I have always given to the Williams Alumni Fund in gratitude to the alumni who made my own attendance possible through financial aid - and to pay it forward to future generations of students like me. Now I am part of the WE Lead effort as well with a desire to see women equally present at the table anywhere and everywhere leadership discussions are being had.

Suzy Akin ‘84
Williams taught me to think, and by introducing me to people from backgrounds and perspectives that differed from what I knew, fundamentally shaped the way I see and interact with the world. It helped me build the confidence to engage constructively and creatively with the problem solving and communication that bring people forward together in shared appreciation of a mission. There’s a hopeful optimism in that, and it’s something I believe my Williams peers all share. I deeply value the way in which the company of Williams friends -- those from my college days as well as the great people I’ve come to know through my volunteer work -- allows me to connect intimately with that spirit of possibility, the place in which we become and share our best selves. WE Lead is a powerful extension of that, and I’m so excited to be part of it.

Suzy Akin ‘84
Suzy Akin ‘84
Tracy Heilman ‘88
Tracy Heilman ‘88

Tracy Heilman ‘88
A true Midwesterner, Williams opened up a whole new world for me. I majored in economics and psychology, but I truly believe I could have taken any subject at Williams and it would have prepared me equally well for my professional experience growing small organizations and startups. I continue to employ that “skillset” as I volunteer with a range of different nonprofits. Williams helped fuel a lifelong curiosity to learn and explore new ways of creating. Williams was - and continues to be - one of the greatest and most positive influences on my life. In addition to learning how to think and write during my time at Williams, I also gained access to an incredible community that continues to work magic for me, both, personally and professionally. I give to Williams as a way of paying it back
and paying it forward. I give because I want to help ensure that kids like me, who would not otherwise have been able to attend such a quality institution due to extremely limited financial circumstances, are able to receive the gift of a Williams education and experience.

Veronica Mendiola ‘05
I am an ’05 graduate with a double major I English and Political Science. During my time at Williams, I was deeply involved in student government, all-campus entertainment, and I danced with several groups. As a graduate, I have continued my service to Williams through volunteering on various committees. I am also a proud member of WE Lead. With a career in finance and specifically investor relations, I have taken a real interest in ensuring the future of Williams philanthropy through a focus on women’s giving.

I give at the leadership level for two reasons - where my money goes, my heart follows.  By giving at an LD level, I can commit to engaging with Williams and honor what Williams has done for me. Additionally, a leadership gift is a targeted setpoint where you can plan and you can aim for - sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t, but making the ask is the start.

Veronica Mendiola ‘05
Veronica Mendiola ‘05
Zhaoning (Nancy) Wang ‘11
Zhaoning (Nancy) Wang ‘11

Zhaoning (Nancy) Wang ‘11
Originally from Beijing, China, I graduated from Williams College with a bachelor’s degree (with Highest Honors) in Economics and Mathematics in 2011. I then obtained my Ph.D. degree in Economics from Harvard University in 2016 and currently work as a Senior Economist at one of the largest economic consulting firms in the world.

My Williams experience has shaped my life in tremendous ways. As Head Agent for my class since graduation, I have helped raise nearly $200,000 from 84 percent of the class in ten years. I also take a particular interest in education-related topics. In 2014, I published a book (originally written in Chinese), The Ivy in the Mountains, where I discuss my thoughts and observations of the American liberal arts education through the lens of my Williams experience. Prefaced by former President of Williams, Morton Schapiro, this book has been well received by students, parents, and educators in China. In June 2019, I established the Zhaoning Wang 2011 Scholarship as a way to “pay it back” and “pay it forward” — acknowledging the invaluable support I received in my earlier years and providing continued financial assistance to future generations of Williams College.

In addition to my engagement with the Williams community, I also enjoy playing the piano/guitar, listening to classical music, and practicing yoga. During non-COVID times, I am an avid international traveler and have set foot in more than ten countries across four continents.

One comment on Women's Equity in Leadership at Williams

  1. Very moving stories from so many impressive women. My dad was at the forefront of change and equity in 1952 when he entered Williams from a small midwestern public high school in what was Phinney Baxter’s early attempt to diversify away from rich kids from Northeastern prep schools at the time. It’s great to see the results of the same foresight that began in the early 60’s when the college began the process of eliminating fraternities to make Williams a more welcoming school for the divers backgrounds, ethnicities, races and genders to come in its future. I salute all the Williams women who continue to teach me so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *