Eiko Maruko Siniawer ’97, Associate Professor of History
The Induction of Adam F. Falk as the 17th President of Williams College
Convocation, September 25, 2010
At his inauguration in 1872, President Paul Ansel Chadbourne — the only other scientist who has served as this College’s president — was less than complimentary of the faculty. President Chadbourne warned that without care, “There is no more dangerous place for a man, no place where he will grow more narrow and more unlike other men, than in a College professorship,” and he contrasted professors to those outside of the College, the “best men of the busy world.”
The difference between two presidents can be striking. In President Falk, the faculty have and recognize someone who not just understands what animates our work, but who embodies and supports that which we value. Teaching attracted him early; far before graduate school he taught junior high and high school students (not theoretical, high-energy physics as it turns out, but math and French). Conversations about big ideas were part of daily life with a father who was a philosophy professor, and they inspired an appreciation of the humanities and of the liberal arts commitment to broad and multidisciplinary inquiry. The allure of administration was and continues to be the intellectual challenge of grappling with complicated questions. And his collaborative leadership style was shaped by his experience in the theoretical physics community in graduate school and beyond, where he witnessed first-hand what creativity could be born when the quality of your ideas, not age or status, earns you a place in the discussion.
Adam, when you arrived on campus this past spring, you immediately began to ask thoughtful questions so as to get to know this place with all of its virtues and eccentricities. One of Williams’ virtues is its strong tradition of faculty governance, and so we on the faculty look forward to working with you as you take the helm of this institution at a time when financial uncertainty makes especially difficult the challenge of preserving what is at the very heart of a Williams education while encouraging it to evolve.
On behalf of the faculty, I extend the warmest welcome to you and your family — your wife, Karen, and your children Briauna, David, and Alex. We are so happy that all of you have become a part of this community and very much hope that you will soon consider Williams and Williamstown your home.