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Williams College

Williams College

Williams College is a private liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams, a colonist from the Province of Massachusetts Bay who was killed in the French and Indian War in 1755.

Williams is on a 450-acre (1.8 km2) campus in Williamstown, in the Berkshires in rural northwestern Massachusetts. The campus contains more than 100 academic, athletic, and residential buildings.[7] There are 349 voting faculty members, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. As of 2018, the school has an enrollment of 2,073 undergraduate students and 54 graduate students.[4] The college competes in the NCAA Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference, and competes in the conference as the Ephs. The athletic program has been highly successful, as Williams College has won 22 of the last 24 College Directors' Cups for NCAA Division III.[8]

Following a liberal arts curriculum, Williams College provides undergraduate instruction in 25 academic departments and interdisciplinary programs including 36 majors in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. Williams offers an almost entirely undergraduate instruction, as there are two graduate programs in development economics and art history. The College maintains affiliations with the nearby Clark Art Institute and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and has a close relationship with Exeter College, Oxford University. Undergraduate admission is highly selective, with an acceptance rate of 12.1% for the Class of 2022.[9]

The college has produced many prominent alumni, including 9 Pulitzer Prize winners, a Nobel Prize Laureate, a Fields medalist, 3 chairmen of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 10 billionaire alumni, 71 members of the United States Congress, 22 U.S. Governors, 4 U.S. Cabinet secretaries, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a President of the United States, 3 prime ministers, CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 companies, high-ranking U.S. diplomats, foreign central bankers, scholars in academia, literary and media figures, numerous Emmy, Oscar, and Grammy award winners, and professional athletes. Other notable alumni include 39 Rhodes Scholars,[10][11] 17 Marshall Scholarship winners,[12] and numerous Watson Fellows and Fulbright scholarship recipients.[13]

Williams College
MottoE liberalitate E. Williams, armigeri (Latin)
Motto in English
"Through the Generosity of E. Williams, Esquire"[1]
TypePrivate liberal arts college
Endowment$2.75 billion[2] (2018)
Budget$224.5 million[3] (2017)
PresidentMaud Mandel
ProvostDavid Love
Academic staff
312 (2018)[4]
Undergraduates2,073 (2018)[4]
Postgraduates54 (2018)[4]
United States

42°42′47″N 73°12′11″W [119]
CampusRural, college town; total 450 acres
ColorsPurple and gold[5]
AthleticsNCAA Division III – NESCAC
  • Annapolis Group
  • Oberlin Group
  • CLAC
  • 568 Group
MascotThe Purple Cow[6]
Websitewww.williams.edu [120]
Williams College wordmark.svg
University rankings
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[57]1
Washington Monthly[58]12


Depiction of West College, which composed the entire College in its early years.

Depiction of West College, which composed the entire College in its early years.

Zephaniah Swift Moore, the second President of the College and first President of Amherst College

Zephaniah Swift Moore, the second President of the College and first President of Amherst College

Colonel Ephraim Williams was an officer in the Massachusetts militia and a member of a prominent landowning family. His will included a bequest to support and maintain a free school to be established in the town of West Hoosac, Massachusetts, provided the town change its name to Williamstown. Williams was killed at the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755.[14]

After Shays' Rebellion, the Williamstown Free School opened with 15 students on October 26, 1791. The first president was Ebenezer Fitch. Not long after its founding, the school's trustees petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to convert the free school to a tuition-based college. The legislature agreed and on June 22, 1793, Williams College was chartered. It was the second college to be founded in Massachusetts.

At its founding, the college maintained a policy of racial segregation, refusing admission to black applicants. This policy was challenged by Lucy Terry Prince, who is credited as the first black American poet,[15] when her son Festus was refused admission on account of his race.[16] Prince, who had established a reputation as a raconteur[17] and rhetorician, delivered a three-hour speech before the college's board of trustees, quoting abundantly from scripture, but was unable to secure her son's admission.[16]

More recent scholarship, however, has highlighted there are no records within the college to confirm this event occurred, and Festus Prince may have been refused entry for an insufficient mastery of Latin, Greek, and French, all of which were necessary for successful completion of the entrance exam at the time, and which would most likely not have been available in the local schools of Guilford, Vermont, where Festus was raised.[18]

In 1806, a student prayer meeting gave rise to the American Foreign Mission Movement. In August of that year, five students met in the maple grove of Sloan's Meadow to pray. A thunderstorm drove them to the shelter of a haystack, and the fervor of the ensuing meeting inspired them to take the Gospel abroad. The students went on to build the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first American organization to send missionaries overseas. The Haystack Monument near Mission Park on the Williams Campus commemorates the historic "Haystack Prayer Meeting".

By 1815, Williams had only two buildings and 58 students and was in financial trouble, so the board voted to move the college to Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1821, the president of the college, Zephaniah Swift Moore, who had accepted his position believing the college would move east, decided to proceed with the move. He took 15 students with him, and re-founded the college under the name of Amherst College. Some students and professors decided to stay at Williams and were allowed to keep the land, which was at the time relatively worthless. According to legend, Moore also took portions of the Williams College library. Although plausible, the transfer of books is unsubstantiated. Moore died just two years later after founding Amherst, and was succeeded by Heman Humphrey, a trustee of Williams College.[19]

Edward Dorr Griffin was appointed President of Williams and is widely credited with saving Williams during his 15-year tenure. A Williams student, Gardner Cotrell Leonard, designed the gowns he and his classmates wore to graduation in 1887.[20] Seven years later he advised the Inter-Collegiate Commission on Academic Costume, which met at Columbia University, and established the current system of U.S. academic dress.[21] One reason gowns were adopted in the late nineteenth century was to eliminate the differences in apparel between rich and poor students.[22] During World War II, Williams College was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[23]

Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this period, beginning in 1962.[24]

Construction and expansion

The college's Morgan Hall

The college's Morgan Hall

In the last decade, construction has changed the look of the college. The addition of the $38 million Unified Science Center to the campus in 2001 set a tone of style and comprehensiveness for renovations and additions to campus buildings in the 21st century. This building unifies the formerly separate lab spaces of the physics, chemistry, and biology departments. In addition, it houses Schow Science Library, notable for its unified science materials holdings and architecture. It features vaulted ceilings and an atrium with windows into laboratories on the second through fourth floors of the science center.

In 2003, Williams began the first of three massive construction projects. The $60 million '62 Center for Theatre and Dance was the first project to be successfully completed in the spring of 2005. The $44 million student center, called Paresky Center, opened in February 2007.

Construction had already begun on the third project, called the Stetson-Sawyer project, when economic uncertainty stemming from the 2007 financial crisis led to its delay. College trustees initially balked at the Stetson-Sawyer project's cost, and revisited the idea of renovating Sawyer in its current location, an idea which proved not to be cost-effective.[25] The entire project includes construction of two new academic buildings, the removal of Sawyer Library from its current location, and the construction of a new library at the rear of a renovated Stetson Hall (which served as the college library prior to Sawyer's construction). The academic buildings, temporarily named North Academic Building and South Academic Building, were completed in fall of 2008. In the spring of 2009, South Academic Building was renamed Schapiro Hall in honor of former President Morton O. Schapiro. In the spring of 2010 the North Academic Building was renamed Hollander Hall. Construction of the new Sawyer Library was completed in 2014, after which the old Sawyer Library was razed.

After several years of planning, the college decided to group undergraduates starting with the Class of 2010 into four geographically coherent clusters, or "Neighborhoods".[26] Since the fall of 2006, first-years have been housed in Sage Hall, Williams Hall and Mission Park, while the former first-year dormitories East College, Lehman Hall, Fayerweather, and Morgan, joined the remaining residential buildings as upperclass housing. During the spring 2009 semester, a committee formed to evaluate the neighborhood system, and released a report the following fall.[27] From 2003 through 2008, Williams conducted a capital campaign with the goal of raising $400 million by September 2008. The college reached $400 million at the end of June 2007. By the close of the campaign, Williams had raised $500.2 million.[28]

As of the 2008/09 school year, the College eliminated student loans from all financial aid packages in favor of grants. The College was the fourth institution in the United States to do so, following Princeton University, Amherst College, and Davidson College.[29] However, in February 2010, the College announced it would re-introduce loans to its financial aid packages beginning with the Class of 2015 due to the college's changed financial situation.[30][31][32] In January 2007 the board voted unanimously to reduce college CO2 emissions 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, or roughly 50% below 2006 levels.[33] To meet those goals, the college set up the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives and has undertaken an energy audit and efficiency timeline. Williams received an 'A-' on the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card, following 'B+' grades on both the 2008 and 2009 report cards.[34] In December 2008, President Morton O. Schapiro announced his departure from the college to become president of Northwestern University.[35]

On September 28, 2009, the presidential search committee announced the appointment of Adam Falk as the 17th president of Williams College. Falk, dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, began his term on April 1, 2010.[36] Dean of the Faculty William Wagner took the position of interim president beginning in June 2009, and continued in that capacity until President-elect Falk took office. In 2014, Williams College brought their endowment above the 2 billion dollar mark.


Williams is a small, four-year liberal arts college[37] accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.[38] There are three academic curricular divisions (humanities, sciences, and social sciences), 24 departments, 35 majors, and two small master's degree programs in art history and development economics. Students may also concentrate in 12 additional academic areas that are not offered as majors (e.g., environmental studies). The academic year follows a 4–1–4 schedule of two four-course semesters plus a one-course "winter study" term in January. During the winter study term, students study one of various courses outside of typical curriculum for 3 weeks. Students typically take this course on a pass/fail basis. Past course offerings have included: Ski patrol, Learn to Play Chess, Accounting, Inside Jury Deliberations, and Creating a Life: Shaping Your Life After Williams, among many others. Williams students often take the winter study term to study abroad or work on intensive research projects.

The college's 2015-2016 Comprehensive Fee was $64,790;[39] or $63,290 (if study abroad program is not pursued).[40] 53% of students were given need-based financial aid, which averaged $46,006.[41]

Williams sponsors the Williams–Mystic program at Mystic Seaport; the Williams–Exeter Programme at Exeter College of Oxford University;[42] and Williams in Africa. Williams has a close relationship with Exeter College, one of the oldest constituent colleges of Oxford University. In the early 1980s, Williams purchased a group of houses, today known as the Ephraim Williams House, on Banbury Road and Lathbury Road, in North Oxford.[43]

The Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford (WEPO) was founded in 1985. Every year (except 2010–2011, when 24 students attended), 26 undergraduate students from Williams spend their junior year at Exeter as full members of the college.[44]


*Fall Admission Statistics*
Admit rate12.4%12.2%14.6%17.6%17.6%19.3%
SAT range (Math + Reading)N/A1410-15501400–15701330–15401330–15501350–1560
ACT rangeN/A32-3531–3531–3431–3431–34

Williams is classified as "most selective" by U.S. News & World Report[51] and "more selective" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.[52]

For freshmen students admitted in fall 2019, the average redesigned SAT are 733 in evidence based reading and writing and 749 in math. The average ACT Composite score was 33.[53][54]


Chapin Hall

Chapin Hall

In Forbes' 2014 college rankings, Williams was ranked the #1 best undergraduate institution in the United States (in prior years it was ranked #2 in 2012[59] and #9 in 2013[60]). In 2015 and in 2016, it was ranked the second best undergraduate institution in the United States.[61] In 2017, it ranked thirteenth, and eleventh in 2018.[62]

As of 2019, Williams has been ranked first in U.S. News & World Report's rankings of Best National Colleges for seventeen years in a row. [63] This list does not include universities: unlike Forbes, US News ranks universities and liberal arts colleges on separate lists. Williams is also ranked 1st by the National Collegiate Scouting Association, which ranks colleges based on student-athlete graduation rates, academics, and athletics.[64]

Williams was chosen by 37 other institutions as a peer with a similar level of academic quality, making it ranked 9th overall and 5th among liberal arts colleges.[65] Williams selected 10 colleges as its peers, namely Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Carleton, Dartmouth, Grinnell, Middlebury, Pomona, Swarthmore, and Wesleyan.[66] Williams ranked 8th among colleges and universities in the percentage of students who graduate in four years.[67]

Winter Study

Williams follows a 4-1-4 schedule with the month of January dedicated to "Winter Study," a time where students take at least one course at Williams or engage in an international program, an internship, or independent research project. A significant number of courses are taught by Williams College alumni and Winter Study feature courses in topics otherwise not covered in a traditional liberal arts curriculum such as financial accounting, entrepreneurship, journalism, and yoga. Winter Study courses change yearly, the catalog features international programs in public health (where students travel to Nicaragua or Liberia), cultural immersion (for example, programs in Morocco and France), and political work (for example, a three-week internship program in the government of the Republic of Georgia).

Oxbridge tutorials

Certain portions of the Williams education are modeled after the tutorial systems at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Although tutorials at Williams were originally aimed at upperclassmen, the faculty voted in 2001 to expand the tutorial program.[68] There is now a diverse offering of tutorials, spanning many disciplines, including math and the sciences, that cater to students of all class years. In 2009–2010 alone, 62 tutorials were offered in 21 departments.[69] Enrollment for tutorials is capped at 10 students, who are then divided into five pairs that meet separately with the professor once a week. Each week, one of the students writes and presents a 5–7-page paper while the other student critiques it. The same pair reverses roles for the next week. The professor takes a more limited role than in a traditional lecture class, and usually allows students to steer and guide the direction of the conversation. Professor (and former Dean and English Department Chair) Stephen E. Fix was one of the early advocates for expanding the tutorial system at Williams and worked to increase support for the concept and the number of tutorial classes offered to students.

Student course evaluations for tutorials are typically very high. In a survey of alumni who had taken tutorials, more than 80% found their tutorials to be "the most valuable of my courses" at Williams.[70]

Organization and administration

The Board of Trustees of Williams College has 25 members and is the governing authority of the College.[71] The President of the College serves on the Board ex officio. There are five Alumni Trustees, each of whom serves for a five-year term. There are five Term Trustees, each elected by the Board for five-year terms. The remaining 14 members are Regular Trustees, also elected by the Board but serving up 15 years, although not beyond their seventieth birthday. The current Chair of the Board of Trustees is Liz Robinson.

The Board appoints as senior executive officer of the college a President who is also a member of and the presiding officer of the faculty. Nine senior administrators report to the President including the Dean of the Faculty, Provost, and Dean of the College. Adam F. Falk is the 17th president of Williams, and took office on April 1, 2010.

College Council (CC) is the student government of Williams College. Its members are elected to represent each class year, the first-year dorms, and the student body at large. CC allocates funds from the Student Activities Fee, appoints students to the faculty-student-administration committees that oversee most aspects of College life, and debates issues of concern to the entire campus community. College Council is the forum through which students address concerns and make changes around campus. CC is led by two co-Presidents.

To manage its endowment the college started the Williams College Investment Office in 2006. The Investment Office is located in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2014, the endowment had a rate of return of 9.9%. The endowment-per-student ratio is currently $1.17 million, without adjusting for inflation, while in 1990 it was $151,000. Adjusting for inflation, the endowment-per-student ratio has still increased to almost $600,000.[72] The Chief Investment Officer of the Investment Office is Collette Chilton.


West College- the oldest building of Williams' Campus.

West College- the oldest building of Williams' Campus.

Old Hopkins Observatory

Old Hopkins Observatory

Public art common the College's campus in the foreground and Lawrence Hall, home of the Williams College Museum of Art, in the background.

Public art common the College's campus in the foreground and Lawrence Hall, home of the Williams College Museum of Art, in the background.

Williams is on a 450-acre (180-hectare) campus in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the Berkshires in rural northwestern Massachusetts. The campus contains more than 100 academic, athletic, and residential buildings.[7]

The early planners of Williams College eschewed the traditional collegiate quadrangle organization, choosing to freely site buildings among the hills. Later construction, including East and West Colleges and Griffin Hall, tended to cluster around Main Street in Williamstown. The first campus quadrangle was formed with East College, South College, and the Hopkins Observatory.[73]

The Olmsted Brothers design firm played a large part in shaping the campus design and architecture. In 1902, the firm was commissioned to renovate a large part of campus, including the President's House, the cemetery, and South College; as well as incorporating the George A. Cluett estate into the campus acreage. Although these campus renovations were completed in 1912, the Olmsted Brothers would advise the gradual transformation of campus design for six decades. The present-day grounds layout reflects much of the design intent of the Olmsted Brothers.[74]

Williams College is the site of the Hopkins Observatory, the oldest extant astronomical observatory in the United States.[75] Erected in 1836–1838, it now contains the Mehlin Museum of Astronomy, including Alvan Clark's first telescope (from 1852),[75] as well as the Milham Planetarium, which uses a Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B optomechanical projector and an Ansible digital projector, both installed in 2005. The Hopkins Observatory's 0.6-m DFM reflecting telescope (1991) is installed elsewhere on the campus.[76] Williams joins with Wellesley, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Colgate, Vassar, Swarthmore, and Haverford/Bryn Mawr to form the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium, sponsored for over a decade by the Keck Foundation and now with its student research programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation.[77] Hopkins Hall serves as the administration building on campus, housing the offices of the president, Dean of the Faculty, registrar, and provost, among others. There is a Newman Center on campus.

The Chapin Library supports the liberal arts curriculum of the college by allowing students close access to a number of rare books and documents of interest. The library opened on June 18, 1923, with an initial collection of 9,000 volumes contributed by alumnus Alfred Clark Chapin, Class of 1869. Over the years, Chapin Library has grown to include over 50,000 volumes (including 3,000 more given by Chapin) as well as 100,000 other artifacts such as prints, photographs, maps, and bookplates.[78] The library is currently located on the fourth floor of the recently reopened Sawyer Library.

The Chapin Library's Americana collection includes original printings of all four founding documents of the United States: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Additionally it houses George Washington's copy of The Federalist and the British reply to the Declaration of Independence.[79]

The Chapin Library's science collection includes a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, as well as first editions of books by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Isaac Newton, and other major figures.[80]

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), with over 12,000 works (only a fraction of which are displayed at any one time) in its permanent collection, serves as an educational resource for both undergraduates and students in the graduate art history program.[81]

Notable works include Morning in a City by Edward Hopper,[82] a commissioned wall painting by Sol LeWitt,[83] and a commissioned outdoor sculpture and landscape work by Louise Bourgeois entitled Eyes.[84]

Although often overshadowed by the neighboring and much larger Clark Art Institute and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, WCMA remains one of the premier attractions of the Berkshires. Because the museum is intended primarily for educational purposes, admission is free for all students.[81]

Located in front of the West College dormitory, the Hopkins gate serves as a memorial to brothers Mark and Albert Hopkins. Both made lasting contributions to the Williams College community. Mark was appointed as president of the college in 1836,[85] while Albert was elected a professor in 1829.[86] The Hopkins gate is inscribed with an inspirational motto that is familiar to all in the Williams College community.

Climb High, Climb FarYour Goal the Sky, Your Aim the Star.

Student activities and traditions

Student media

The longest-running student newspaper at Williams is the Williams Record, a weekly broadsheet paper published on Wednesdays. The newspaper was founded in 1887, and now has a weekly circulation of 3,000 copies distributed in Williamstown, in addition to more than 600 subscribers across the country. The newspaper formerly received no financial support from the college or from the student government and relied on revenue generated by local and national ad sales, subscriptions, and voluntary contributions for use of its website, but the paper went into debt in 2004 and is now subsidized by the Student Activities Tax. Both Sawyer Library and the College Archives maintain more than a century's worth of publicly accessible, bound volumes of the Record. The newspaper provides access free of charge to a searchable database of articles stretching back to 1998 on its website.

The student yearbook is called The Gulielmensian, which means "Williamsian" in Latin. It was published irregularly in the 1990s, but has been annual for the past several years and dates back to the mid-19th century.[87]

Numerous smaller campus publications are also produced each year, including The Telos, a journal of Christian thought; The Haystack, a humor magazine; the Williams College Law Journal, a collection of undergraduate articles; the Literary Review, a literary magazine; and Monkeys With Typewriters, a magazine of non-fiction essays.

91.9 WCFM

WCFM is a college-owned, student-run, non-commercial radio station broadcasting from the basement of Prospect House at 91.9 MHz.[88] Featuring 85 hours per week of original programming, the station features a wide variety of musical genres, in addition to sports and talk radio.[89] The station may also be heard on the Internet via SHOUTcast.com. Members of the surrounding communities above the age of 18 are allowed to DJ on the station, which, as part of its mission, seeks to serve the surrounding community with news and announcements of public interest.[90] The board of the radio station holds a concert every semester.[91]

Trivia contest

At the end of every semester but one since 1966, WCFM has hosted an all-night, eight-hour trivia contest. Teams of students, alumni, professors, friends, and others compete to answer questions on a variety of subjects, while simultaneously identifying songs and performing designated tasks. The winning team's only prize is the obligation to create and host the following semester's contest.[92]

The precise date of the debut contest is uncertain. Most spring contests occur in early May, but during its first decade, Williams Trivia was sometimes held in March or February. Assuming a May date, Lawrence University's 50-hour-long Great Midwest Trivia Contest, first held on April 29, 1966, would be the oldest continuous competition of its sort in the United States, but if the first Williams contest was held earlier, it would be the oldest. The distinction is, appropriately, trivial.[93]

While other college-based trivia contests in the United States emphasize marathon endurance and revel in the obscurity of their arcana, the aim of the Williams contest is to cram as much evocative and entertaining material into as concentrated a space as possible. Lasting just eight hours, a typical Williams Trivia contest will demand between 900 and 1,200 separate "bits" of trivial information,[92] delivering twice as much content as its "competitors" in a fraction of the time. No discernible rivalry exists between any of the various contests. The contest has occasionally received outside media coverage, including in the Sunday New York Times.[94]

School colors and mascot

Williams's school colors are purple and gold, with purple as the primary school color.[95] A story explaining the origin of purple as a school color says that at the Williams-Harvard baseball game in 1869, spectators watching from carriages had trouble telling the teams apart because there were no uniforms. One of the onlookers bought ribbons from a nearby millinery store to pin on Williams' players, and the only color available was purple. The buyer was Jennie Jerome (later Winston Churchill's mother) whose family summered in Williamstown.[96]

The Williams college mascot is a purple cow.[96] The mascot's name, Ephelia, was submitted in a radio contest in October 1952 by Theodore W. Friend, a senior at Williams.[97] The origins of the cow mascot are unknown, but one possibility is that it was inspired by the Purple Cow humor magazine, a student publication begun in 1907, which used the college color along with a cow.[97] The title of the humor magazine was in reference to Gelett Burgess's nonsense poem known as the "Purple Cow":

I never saw a purple cow I never hope to see one; But I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one!

The Williams College athletic teams are referred to as the Ephs (rhymes with chiefs) in honor of Colonel Ephraim Williams.

Alma mater

Williams claims the first alma mater song written by an undergraduate, "The Mountains," was by Washington Gladden of the class of 1859.[98][99]

Mountain Day

On one of the first three Fridays in October, the president of the college cancels classes and declares it Mountain Day. The bells ring, announcing the event, members of the Outing Club unfurl a banner from the roof of Chapin Hall and students hike up Stony Ledge. At Stony Ledge, they celebrate with donuts, cider and a cappella performances.

The first known mention of Mountain Day was made by Williams president Edward Dorr Griffin in his notebook on college business. He wrote, under 'Holidays': "About the 24th of June a day to go to the mountain. If not then about the 14th of July. Prayers at night."[100]

In 2009, with the threat of bad weather for each of the first three Fridays of the month, Interim-president Wagner declared "Siberian Mountain Day." Festivities were relocated from Stony Ledge to the much more accessible Stone Hill.[101]


The school's athletic teams (except for the men's rugby team, the White Dawgs) are called the Ephs (rhymes with "chiefs"), a shortening of the first name of founder Ephraim Williams. The mascot is a Purple Cow. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Williams also competes in skiing and squash at the Division I level. Williams is ranked first among Division III schools for athletic spending per student.[102]

Williams has a traditional rivalry with Amherst College and Wesleyan University. The "Little Three", a subset of NESCAC, comprises the three schools[103] Although Williams College typically sports purple and gold as their school colors, purple is in fact the only school color. The gold was added in order to differentiate its colors from that of rival school Amherst's purple and white uniforms. On May 3, 2009, Williams and Amherst alumni played a game of vintage baseball at Wahconah Park according to 1859-rules to commemorate the 150th-anniversary of the first college baseball game, which was played on July 2, 1859, between the two schools.

Until 1994, Williams was not permitted, by NESCAC rules, to compete in team NCAA competition. The Williams women's swimming and diving team won the school's first national title in 1981, and claimed the title in 1982 as well. Williams played in the 2003, 2004, 2010, and 2014 men's basketball Division III national championship games, winning the title in March 2003. Men's basketball also played in the 1997, 1998, 2011, and 2017 Final Fours. Williams was the first New England basketball team to win a Division III championship, and since they have been eligible to compete in the NCAA tournament, no team in the country has played in more Final Fours.

Williams teams to win national titles since Williams began participating in NCAA tournaments in 1994 include women's crew (nine titles, including eight straight from 2006–2013), men's tennis (four), women's tennis (nine, including six straight from 2008–2013), women’s soccer (three, 2015, 2017-18), men's cross country (two), women's cross country (three), men's basketball, women's indoor track and field (two), women's golf (2015), and men's soccer (1995).

Williams has won the NACDA Director's Cup 22 of the 24 years since its inception, including 13 years in a row from 1999 through 2011.

Williams also has an active club and intramural sports program, offering 14 club sports including ultimate, rugby, horseback riding, cycling, fencing, volleyball, gymnastics, sailing, and water polo. Approximately 50% of Williams' students compete on at least one varsity, junior varsity, or formal club team.

Athletic facilities

The Towne Field House

The Towne Field House

Renovation of Weston Field Athletic Complex - January 2014. The wooden grandstand behind the excavator was built in 1902. It was moved in 1987 to the new Plansky Track and football field and was moved again during the renovations that were completed in September 2014.

Renovation of Weston Field Athletic Complex - January 2014. The wooden grandstand behind the excavator was built in 1902. It was moved in 1987 to the new Plansky Track and football field and was moved again during the renovations that were completed in September 2014.

Williams College has had major updates or renovations of its athletic facilities during the past several decades.

The Lansing Chapman hockey rink, built in 1953 and originally uncovered, was canopied in 1963, enclosed in 1969 and has been periodically upgraded to the present (2014) with rink, roof, locker room and lighting improvements.

The Towne Field House, constructed in 1970, is a multipurpose facility, which includes an indoor track, tennis courts and a climbing wall. The latter was initially constructed in 1974 and updated to a state of the art climbing wall in 1995. Towne Field House's track was resurfaced in 2019. The field house also accommodates pre-season baseball, softball and lacrosse.

The Lasell Gym built in 1886 was renovated and expanded with the addition of the Chandler Athletic Center in 1987. It provides a state of the art 50-meter swimming pool, a gymnasium primarily for basketball, squash facilities, wrestling rooms, various fitness centers and administrative offices.

In 1987, the Weston Field cinder running track and baseball field were replaced: the Anthony Plansky 400-meter track was built around the refurbished football field and the Bobby Coombs baseball field was re-located at Cole Field. The Renzi Lamb Field for lacrosse and field hockey, built with artificial turf, was added to Weston Field in 2004.

In November 2013 Williams College began its $22 million renovation of the Weston Field complex. This upgrade includes an artificial turf football field, relocation of the Plansky Track and Lamb Field, new bleachers, improved lighting and the addition of support buildings for the athletes. The completed facility, which reopened in September 2014, allows year round athletic events and practice.[104]


Student body

*Student body composition of Williams College*[[CITE|47|https://provost.williams.edu/files/williams_cds_1718.pdf]]
UndergraduateU.S. Census[105]
Non-Hispanic White American51.3%61.8%
African American8.2%13.2%
Asian American12.5%5.3%
Hispanic American12.8%17.8%
Native American0.1%0.9%
Multiracial American5.6%2.6%
International student8.2%(N/A)
Unknown Race1.3%(N/A)

Williams enrolled 2,061 undergraduate students and 56 graduate students in 2017.[47] Women constituted 47.3% of undergraduate students and 57.4% percent of graduate students.[47] 51% of students received need-based financial aid averaging $54,932 in 2017, and 22% qualified to receive Pell Grants.[106][47] Williams has a 98% freshman retention rate and an 86% four-year graduation rate.[47] 88% of first-years enrolled in the Class of 2021 graduated in the top tenth of their high school graduating class, and their inter-quartile range on the new SAT was 710-780 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 690-790 on Math. The inter-quartile range on the ACT was 31-35.[47]


Notable former and present faculty include:

  • Andrea Barrett, National Book Award winning author and MacArthur Fellow

  • Gene H. Bell-Villada, fiction writer, critic of Latin American literature, and historian of aesthetics

  • Raymond Chang, who has written high school and college textbooks in chemistry.[107]

  • Charles B. Dew, author and Ephraim Williams Professor of American History

  • Keith Fowler, who founded and directed professional repertory theaters in Virginia, and was later Chief of Directing at the Yale School of Drama and Head of Directing at the University of California, Irvine

  • Robert Gaudino, former Professor of Political Science

  • Louise Glück, winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in poetry

  • Kermit Gordon of the economics department, who became Director of the United States Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget) during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.[108]

  • Harlan Hanson, former professor at Williams and Director of the Advanced Placement program from 1965 to 1989:[109]

  • Elizabeth Kolbert, staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction for her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

  • Clara Claiborne Park (1923–2010), author who raised awareness of autism, and was, among her colleagues, perhaps the best essayist—literary critic—during her time.[110]

  • Jay Pasachoff in the astrophysics department, who uses solar eclipse observations to study the sun.[111]

  • Mark Taylor, who has studied with Jacques Derrida and taught religion classes at Williams before moving to Columbia University.[112]

  • Frank Morgan, the Webster Atwell '21 Professor of Mathematics and former vice president of the American Mathematical Society

  • William Wootters, theoretical physicist known for proving the no cloning theorem.

  • Edward Burger, mathematics professor, 2010 recipient of the prestigious Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching

  • Colin Adams, mathematics professor and knot theorist, 2003 recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teachers

  • Darra Goldstein, Russian professor, founding editor of Gastronomica (2012 James Beard Best Publication) and author of award-winning cookbooks including The Georgian Feast (1994 IACP Julia Child Award) and Fire and Ice (2016 IACP Best International Cookbook nominee)


The Society of Alumni of Williams College is the oldest existing alumni society of any academic institution in the United States.[113] The Society of Alumni was founded during the "Amherst crisis" in 1821, when Williams College President Zephaniah Swift Moore left Williams. Graduates of Williams formed the Society to ensure that Williams would not have to close, and raised enough money to ensure the future survival of the school. This fund formed by alumni served as the first college endowment in the United States, and as a result, Williams has maintained a legacy of high alumni involvement.

As of August 2017, there are 30,115 living alumni of record, and 60 regional alumni associations nationwide and overseas. Alumni participation in the 2016-17 Alumni Fund was 54.6%. More than 61% of the alumni from the classes of 1980 to 2000 have earned at least one graduate or professional degree. The most popular graduate disciplines for alumni are management, education, law, and health care.[114]

See also

  • List of Williams College presidents

  • List of Williams College Commencement Speakers

  • List of Williams College Bicentennial Medal Winners

  • List of Williams College people

  • Williams-Mystic

  • Taconic Golf Club


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