Bolin Legacy Weekend 2020



Williams College and our alumni of color networks (WAAAAN, WBAN & WLAN) welcome Williams alumni and their guests to Bolin Legacy Weekend 2020!


The Williams Asian and Asian American Alumni Network (WAAAAN), Williams Black Alumni Network (WBAN), and the Williams Latinx Alumni Network (WLAN) have supported, advocated for, and celebrated alumni and students at Williams for decades. Connecting Ephs with shared experiences across generations is more important than ever before, as we work to foster a sense of belonging for alumni and future alumni of color.  Following an important WBAN tradition, we celebrate the legacy of Gaius Charles Bolin Sr. (Class of 1889), the first Black graduate of the college, and the first in his family to go to college.


Words like tradition and legacy carry a lot of weight at Williams; and more often than not, they conjure images, ideas and feelings of exclusion. We are working with our networks to continuously rethink and redefine what tradition and legacy mean for us, a global community made up of alumni who claim every possible intersection of race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status and citizenship. The tradition of alumni of color at Williams is one of anti-racism, diversity, inclusion, activism, volunteerism, cooperation and support. It’s a legacy of keeping the college accountable for historical and ongoing challenges and imagining radically prosperous, equitable and ethical futures.


Thank you for joining us as we endeavor to honor the Bolin legacy in new ways. Though we are not able to gather on campus this year, we look forward to connecting virtually over the next few days in honor of his inspirational spirit of community service, excellence, and mentorship.


Check out who’s attending this weekend, and please contact us at [email protected] for any questions.


PHONECAST | THURSDAY, MAY 7 | 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT

Engaging Students and Community: The Davis Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion


Leticia Smith-Evans Haynes ’99, Vice President for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Carmen Whalen, Interim Director of the Davis Center and Professor of History and Latina/o/x Studies; Aseel Abulhab ’15, Post Graduate Inclusion Fellow of the Davis Center; Julius ’21; Maria ’20; Mohammed ’21; Sonia ’21; in conversation with Norma Lopez ’95 and George Creppy ’97.


Listen on Demand

EPH CONNECT EVENT | FRIDAY, MAY 8 | 4:30 pm – 5:30 pm EDT

Virtual Networking Session


A network – even one as legendary as the Williams alumni network – begins with finding the right contacts. Our Eph Connect virtual networking platform allows you to make new connections with Ephs of every age and personal/professional stage from the comfort of your laptop, smartphone or tablet. Expect to be matched with both alumni and students. No video, just text-based chat as you share your experiences and offer one another advice around your choice of discussion topics – please note that you are welcome to participate in one, two or all three:

  • Tapping into the Alumni Network
  • Empowerment and Support in Moments of Transition
  • Bring Your Whole Self? Navigating Identity and Space


Find Career Connections


’68 Center for Career Exploration Panel: Pay, Power and Privilege


Decolonizing how people of color navigate and achieve success in the workforce: What prescriptions or recommendations can we develop and share with students who are about to enter the workforce? Join us for a shared exchange of narratives from alumni of color on how they deconstruct and analyze privilege, power, and pay in the workforce by introspective examination of their careers! Panelists include Kenneth R. Alleyne ’88, Esq., Jeff Delaney ’95, Marisa Cabrera ’07, and Lauren Hobby ’10; moderated by Anthony Pernell-McGee, Associate Director/Director of Inclusive Career Exploration.


Watch on Demand


Sisterhood: Womxn of Color Adulting Panel


The Adulting Panel aims to offer students and young alums an opportunity to gain insights on post-grad life directly from WOC alumni. In collaboration with the ‘68 Center, Sisterhood invites you to hear from WOC alums from across a multitude of industries as they share their stories and lessons about building a life and navigating “adulthood.” Panelists include Barbara Sanders ’79, Cortney Tunis ’04, and Nichole Alcántara Beiner ’09; moderated by Valerie Oyakhilome ’18, founder of Sisterhood.


Watch on Demand


Men of Color: The 3 C’s: Change, Commitment, and Community


Our community has a wealth of knowledge on navigating change and uncertainty. Hear from alumni as they share their perspectives and experiences on adapting to change, finding purposeful work/careers, commitment to education, and the importance of building community together. Panelists include Bobby Walker Jr. ’95, Billy Green ’03, Marquis Daisy ’05, and Stevon Cook ’08; moderated by Raph Johnson II ’88.


Watch on Demand

Join the conversation by following #Bolin2020 on our social media channels on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook 

And continue the #Bolin2020 conversation in real time on EphLink, Williams’ first-of-its-kind mentoring platform where students and alumni are invited to build community through purposeful connections. EphLink has a variety of community features, including Groups that provide alumni and students the opportunity to gather virtually around a common interest, affinity, or identity. Some examples include First Generation Students & Alumni; International Students & Alumni; LGBTQ+ Students & Alumni; Students & Alumni of Color; Veteran Students & Alumni; and Women Students & Alumnae. Throughout Bolin weekend, attendees are encouraged to post updates in Groups about their #Bolin2020 experience as you connect and continue these valuable conversations. More info and FAQs about EphLink can be found here.


Join via EphLink

SNEAK PEEK | Register Now
Purple Prose: A Book Club for Ephs 

Williams has partnered with Professional Book Club (PBC) Guru to create a virtual book club for the Eph community, covering lifelong learning, personal growth, novels and other topics in which the participants are interested. The book club will connect through a private forum where all participants can discuss the current book and network with each other. Joining is completely free; you just have to get a copy of the book. The book club will read one book every two months so that you will have plenty of time for each.


Discussion of our first book, A Gentleman in Moscow, begins on May 21 – so register now and grab your copy of the book to get started!


Join via Purple Prose


Watch the Full Playlist


Clarence Otis Jr. ’77

ALUMNI KEYNOTE ADDRESS | Reflections on Leadership Effectiveness

Clarence Otis Jr. ’77 shares suggestions for thinking about career preparation and becoming an effective and successful leader, regardless of what you choose as your life’s work.


Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and raised in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, Clarence Otis graduated from Williams College (1977) and Stanford Law School (1980). Following four years practicing law and 13 years as an investment banker, he spent 20 years at Darden Restaurants, a Fortune 500 company that owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Capital Grille and several other national restaurant chains. During his last ten years at Darden he was its Chief Executive Officer.


Watch on Demand

Sean Saifa Wall ’01


Sean Saifa Wall ’01 shares his story as an intersex activist and linking it with the continuous fight for justice during this pandemic.


Sean Saifa Wall ’01 is an intersex activist and public health researcher. Born and raised in the Bronx, he attended Williams College and after a short stint in New York City, moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he lived for nine years. He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his dog, Justice. He is the former board president of InterACT, a legal advocacy organization protecting the human rights of intersex young adults and is a co-founder of the Intersex Justice Project (IJP), a project whose mission is to #endintersexsurgery.


Watch on Demand

Sa-kiera Hudson ’11

ALUMNI KEYNOTE ADDRESS | Abandoning Normalcy

Sa-kiera Hudson ’11 shares her personal story about how she got to Williams and learned to follow the path that was right for her instead of what was normal for others.


Sa-kiera Hudson is a recent doctoral graduate from the (Social) Psychology department at Harvard University. She completed her BA in Biology and Psychology from Williams College in 2011 and is headed to Yale University as a postdoctoral associate. She is currently one of the head class agents for Class of 2011.


Watch on Demand

ART & INCLUSION | Highlights from WCMA’s “Acquiring Art” Course

As the final project in the “Acquiring Art” course, students research and propose a work to be purchased by the Williams College Museum of Art. After consideration by WCMA staff, one work is accessioned into the museum’s collection. For the first time in the course’s history, all five proposed works were by artists of color and, because of their deep aesthetic and educational value, all five were acquired. With an introduction from Kevin Murphy, Eugénie Prendergast Senior Curator of American and European Art, hear from current students about their selected works.


Watch on Demand

EPHCASTS | Opportunity Gaps in Today’s Educational Landscape

Ephcasts is a new series of short videos developed by Williams faculty and staff to help connect the community during this extraordinary time. Christopher Sewell ’05, Associate Dean of the College, talks about his research with gifted and talented Black students and its connection to opportunity gaps. He talks about things we need to consider for students in this population and similar backgrounds / experiences as we navigate life with school at home.


Watch on Demand

ABOUT GAIUS C. BOLIN, Class of 1889

Gaius C. Bolin, Class of 1889, was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on September 10, 1864 to Ann and Abraham Bolin. One of thirteen children, he was a product of both public and private secondary schooling in the city. He graduated from Poughkeepsie High School in 1883 and proceeded to spend the following two years receiving training in Latin and Greek from John R. Leslie’s Select Classical School. While there, the school’s president, a graduate of Williams College, took note of Bolin’s affinity for learning and encouraged him to consider sharpening his intellect at his alma mater. He entered with a class of 81 other students in the fall of 1885 and graduated in June of 1889 as the College’s first Black graduate.


While a student at Williams, Bolin carved out space for himself as a Black man, but he was also intentional about assuming the status and prestige of a Williams man. Because of residential college policies that did not allow Black students to live on campus, he lived with the Dunsett family for a brief time as one of less than twenty Black people in Williamstown in the late 1880s.


Still, this did not deter him from laying claim to the Williams College campus and community. Even before accommodations were made for him to live on campus during his final year, Bolin sought to find ways to make the most of his time in Williamstown as a student. He continued taking courses in Latin and Greek, apparently finding much comfort in the curriculum. He played football throughout all four years, occasionally participated in tug-of-war matches with other students, and frequently found time to cheer for the baseball team when they traveled to Harvard or Amherst. He was even nominated as the pipe orator by his classmates for the commencement exercises of 1889.


He saw his peers—and himself—as Williams graduates who would become some of the country’s best doctors, lawyers, judges, and ministers. If there was racial discord during Bolin’s time at the College, he never spoke openly of it, choosing instead to cite the desperately cold winter weather and muddy grounds as some of his most vividly unpleasant memories. Perhaps he found comfort in the presence of Abe Bunter, a Black man who found his way to Williams after having been enslaved in the South. Perhaps the Black women with whom he lived made him feel a little less isolated. Perhaps his younger brother, who entered Williams a year after him, afforded him a sense of home. However he fashioned a sense of belonging while at the College, Bolin made it clear that his experience at Williams was one that he was happy to reflect on. “I am eternally proud that I am a graduate of Williams College, Williamstown, Mass., in as fine a class as ever emerged from that institution, the beloved Class of 1889,” he wrote to his class secretary in the spring of 1939.


Immediately after graduation, Bolin returned to Poughkeepsie to labor with his father in the poultry and produce business. Though he enjoyed working with him and their efforts were fairly successful, Bolin left after a year to study in the law office of Fred E. Ackerman. There, he learned the contours of American law, how to apply it practically, and how to practice it fairly. Two years later, on December 15, 1892, he was admitted to the bar. He held his law office in the same city that he had been born and raised in, the same city that his family had called home for more than 200 years. Seven years later, he married Matilda Ingraham Emery, an Irish woman who had been educated in the public schools of Troy. From their marriage came four children: Anna Amy, Gaius, Jr., Ivy Rosalind, and Jane Matilda.


He attempted to use his legal training not to enact the harshest forms of punishment possible, but to temper justice with mercy. He also used the Dutchess County branch of the NAACP, of which he was a founding member, as a vehicle to achieve racial justice for Black people in upstate New York. His daughter, Jane Bolin—the first Black woman to both graduate from Yale Law School and become a federal judge—described him as a man who “helped every Black person who sought his help, whether financial, economic or free legal services. He always subscribed to Black newspapers from New York, Chicago and Baltimore… My father instilled in us great pride in ourselves and our race.” Gaius Charles Bolin died a resident of Poughkeepsie, New York at the age of 81 on April 16, 1946. He had been a practitioner of the law and an advocate for its utility for fifty-one years.


A proud graduate of Williams, he never ceased to name the importance of community in shaping his time while at the College; the significance of those relationships in his life after graduation; and his appreciation for having had those experiences as a Black man. In many ways, every student that has attended Williams after Gaius who was not a “young [white] Christian man” owes a debt of gratitude to him for being the first and paving the way for students of color, sometimes the first in their family to attend college, to be apart of the Williams community. In honor of Gaius Bolin’s lifetime commitment to social justice, his dedication to his community and his love of Williams and Eph camaraderie, we invite you to enjoy this weekend to create spaces but also use it as a moment to reflect on how we can honor his memory and build on our Bolin Legacy.


Written & researched by Cinnamon Williams ‘16 & Sharifa Wright ‘03