The Passing of Colleen Little

Williams faculty and staff,

With a heavy heart I write to share the news that Colleen Little, special assistant to the vice president for the Office of College Relations and director of principal giving strategy, passed away this morning at the age of 48.

Colleen’s life was cut short by metastatic breast cancer. Yet it was a life full and well-lived. Proud of her roots on the Jersey shore, she earned her Bachelor’s degree in business management summa cum laude from Lesley University in Boston before embarking on serial, successful careers: Her first was as a high-level consultant and executive in the hospitality industry, concluding as chief operating officer and executive director of the Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox, Mass. She then shifted into higher education, initially as director of development at Southern Vermont College and then joining Williams in 2016 as principal giving coordinator. She was soon promoted to special assistant and director, in which capacity she facilitated the college’s partnerships with our top donors and provided leadership and support for a complex, multi-faceted fundraising program.

Never one to rest on her laurels, in 2020 Colleen and her husband David also created Spoon Café in the Williams Bookstore. In the midst of a pandemic they magically made the business a vibrant center of community life. Steve and I have happily joined many students, faculty, staff, neighbors and tourists in enjoying their treats.

Colleen took great pride in her involvement as a member of the Williams community, too, dedicating herself to service on the OCR Committee on Diversity and Community, Staff Advisory Committee and Campaign Homestretch Committee. As a member of the Covid Testing Committee, she was instrumental in helping us quickly develop a major testing operation when the pandemic started—an operation that continues to operate efficiently and effectively two years on.

Those of us who knew Colleen appreciated her gifts as an organizational thinker, strategist and team player, as well as a kind and loving person. When you worked with Colleen, you knew that spreadsheets and analytic reports would be involved. Everything she participated in was done with full attention and care: she was capable of simultaneously considering projects at a high strategic level and scrutinizing them in microscopic detail.

On a personal level, Colleen gave her all to family, friends and community. She was active in the Girl Scouts and served on the board of multiple youth programs and community organizations. She and Dave shared a love for travel, motorcycles, golf and music, and were frequent subscribers to performances at Jacob’s Pillow, Tanglewood and the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Colleen is survived by her beloved family, including her parents, Robert and Teresa Stiers; brothers Robert (Kathryn), Michael (Claudia) and Dennis (Jillian) Stiers; her husband, David Little; son Willie Jacobs; stepchildren Connor, Abigail, Alexa and Emily Little; and grandchild Tesla Jacobs, as well as a large and devoted extended family of aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and in-laws.

We will share news about a memorial service via Daily Messages once the details are set. In the meantime, in lieu of flowers, the family asks for consideration of a gift in Colleen’s name to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the world’s largest funder of metastatic breast cancer research.

Our thoughts are with Colleen’s many family members, friends, colleagues and admirers. She will be deeply missed.