Why I Give (Class of 1987)

Dear [sal],

It’s not uncommon that Williams alumni question whether the college really “needs my money” and whether other charities might be “more worthy.” I think the answer is complicated.

No, Williams is neither on the brink of bankruptcy nor wondering how it’s going to pay the electric bill. It’s fortunate enough to enjoy a substantial endowment – thanks mostly to the generosity of its alumni. (Although it’s worth noting that roughly 85% of the endowment is restricted.) And Williams also benefits from excellent resource management and has been able to responsibly limit its spending during the difficult years. Should Williams be your only charity? No. Is it worthy of strong support? I think so. Here’s why:

Our classmates give to Williams in overwhelming numbers because they value the formative years they spent there and the way Williams put them on rewarding personal and career paths. They give to Williams because of their support of excellence. Our tiny school in the Middle of Nowhere, Massachusetts consistently ranks at the very top among colleges and universities in the entire world. I don’t know about you, but I’m not associated with very many endeavors that achieve and maintain that type of performance. And, finally, they give to Williams because of the substantial “multiplier effect” of the college on the lives of its students.

Every year I try to attend the Bicentennial Medal ceremonies. The Bicentennial Medals are given to distinguished alumni every year at Convocation in the presence of that year’s graduating seniors. It’s a unique chance to model the behavior that Williams seeks to encourage and the accomplishments it values. Who are the recipients? Not captains of industry or generous donors to the school. By and large, the Bicentennial Medals are given to alumni who have used their Williams education to educate the underserved, preserve the planet, cure disease, and stretch the frontiers of knowledge in science, medicine and the arts.

So these are the values you are supporting by giving to Williams – excellence, humility, service. It “pops” for me, and I hope it does for you too.


Class of ’87 Head Agent