You ARE dear to me, believe it or not, all of you – even those of you I never really knew, and those of you I actively disliked. Because all of you were part of the community that formed me, in some very essential ways, all those years ago.
When I arrived in Williamstown in the fall of 1977, I wasn’t so much coming TO Williams as I was running away FROM my native San Francisco. There were all kinds of reasons for that, but one of them was a vague sense (which I couldn’t have articulated at the time) that I was still unformed, and unlikely to grow unless I really challenged myself. And somehow I knew that Williams was a place that would give me that opportunity.
Did I take full advantage of it? No and hell no. I drank a lot of beer. (Could I really have been at the Log every night for four years?) I failed calculus, bumbled through Latin American history, and had the hell scared out of me by Lynda Bundtzen in a course called Pyschoanalytic and Myth Criticism. In the spring of our senior year, looking to ease out with a minimum of effort, I took Music 101 and Fred Rudolph’s course on The History of Williams College. In short, I suspect I was about as mediocre and lazy a student as ever managed to graduate from the college.
And yet, despite my best efforts, the place and the people did have a positive, maturing effect on me. I learned how to think, and read, and debate. I learned how to write. (Man, that was painful.) I learned how to live with others, tolerating their annoying habits and having them tolerate mine. I learned to appreciate the seasons, a real novelty for a California boy: the surreal blaze of autumn, the (apparently) endless cold of winter, the welcome blossoming of lilacs in the spring. And yes, I fell hopelessly and distractedly in love with my future wife, the lovely and talented Heather Catto.
All of these experiences, and all of you, combined to begin the process of turning me into an adult. I am profoundly grateful to you, and to the institution, for undertaking this long, arduous (and still unfinished) process.
Having a daughter who graduated from Williams in 2008, and having moved back to Williamstown last summer, I’ve had an opportunity to see how the place has changed since we graduated. Is it perfect? Uh, no; it’s a human institution. But I believe that Williams College today is stronger, more diverse, and more engaged with the outside world than ever, and I hope you’ll join me in supporting the Alumni Fund to help ensure that that continues to be the case. Our participation will help the college continue to grow and improve, and continue that remarkable alchemy by which it helps gormless adolescents turn into something resembling competent adults.
Let me know if/when you make to the Purple Valley (which is currently more white than purple), and I’ll buy you a “traditional refreshment” (or other beverage of your choice) at the renovated Log.
PS – You can make a donation to the Williams College Alumni Fund by following this link.