As the Semester Ends

To the Williams Community,

The end of my first full semester here at Williams seems an appropriate moment at which to reflect on some of the events of the fall and to express thanks to all who’ve helped make this such a productive time for our students and for the College as a whole.

The clear highlight for me was being able to announce the beginning of construction this spring of the new Sawyer Library. I’m convinced that this completion of the Stetson-Sawyer project will transform teaching and learning throughout the humanities and social sciences. Our thanks go not only to the donors whose generosity enables us to move forward but to the many people who’ve worked together for many years to make this such an exciting project.

I was impressed by the thoughtful discussion that took place this fall on the reorganization of our administrative processes and in particular of the realignment of senior administrative responsibilities. This kind of structural change warranted the close examination that it received and that helped refine a plan I believe will serve the College well for many years. With the search for a Vice President for Finance and Administration now underway, we’re on track to make these adjustments by July 1.

Many administrative offices have been reorganizing what they do and how they do it. I’d point, as one of many examples, to the great work that our Dining Services staff have done to launch, in a compressed time frame, their new program as seamlessly as possible. In particular, the front line dining workers, who with fewer colleagues than in the past have had to adapt to new procedures and new technology, represent the kind of staff dedication we benefit from across campus.

While our faculty’s teaching achievements tend to be visible only to their students, at least two recent occurrences have shown the world how exceptional the level of teaching is here. Professor of Romance Languages Leyla Rouhi was named Professor of the Year for the state of Massachusetts by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, while Math Professor Ed Burger has been serving, and wowing audiences, at Baylor University this semester as the most recent recipient of the Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching.

Great teaching has also continued in the Athletics Department, epitomized perhaps by the perfect season registered by the football team and the first-place votes received in the national poll by women’s golf.

The mid-term elections sparked discussion on campus, none more lively than the conversation that Mika Brzezinski ’89 and Joe Scarborough of the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” had with students here as the returns began to come in.

The College heads now into the process by which we’ll set next year’s budget. Thanks to the hard work of many people in guiding the College’s response to the global financial crisis, we’ve reached the milestone at which, after two years of contraction, we can anticipate spending roughly the same amount on managers’ budgets next year as this. The College’s ride through this financial storm mirrors that of the country as a whole: we dropped fast, adjusted, and now anticipate, barring unforeseen outside circumstances, a recovery that’s slow but steady.

Somewhere back in the busy-ness of this fall we held Convocation, which included my formal induction. The honor of that occasion was enhanced greatly for me by its being shared with such an impressive group of Bicentennial Medalists, whose inspiring presence made the event, as it should be, a celebration of the College rather than of a person.

For that and for so much else I am deeply grateful. Best wishes to all for this holiday season. I hope you have an enjoyable and refreshing break and return in January as eager as I am to carry forward our important, and communal, work.

Adam Falk