Summary of the June 2019 Board meeting

This year, as always, the Board of Trustees scheduled their last meeting of the academic year to coincide with Commencement. Following is my usual brief summary of their topics and votes. You can find archived reports in the News from the Board section of

  • The Board reviewed campus events over the prior semester and spoke of on-going work to address cultural climate and our efforts to support free inquiry and inclusion.
  • I provided the trustees with an update on strategic planning, including the draft charges that are now available on the Strategic Planning website. The Board also hosted a dinner for members of the strategic planning coordinating committee and working groups.
  • Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 presented to the trustees about the college’s admission processes and priorities.
  • The board voted on “degrees in course”, the official list of graduates, which they must approve before degrees can be granted. Other Board votes included approval of a lease for the Williams Inn and the appointment of new trustees to the board of the Clark Art Institute.
  • Wendy Adam, director of Integrative Wellbeing Services, gave a presentation about her team’s innovative programs to promote wellbeing while also making great strides to meet growing demand for counseling and support. Her report included good news about staffing in the coming year, including the fact that we now have at least seven counseling staff members and trainees who identify as people of color.
  • Landscape architect Reed Hilderbrand presented a draft version of their new Campus Landscaping Study. We’ll share the final report with campus in the fall as part of the strategic planning process. Relatedly, trustees received an update on Spring Street improvements, including stormwater and streetscape projects and progress on the new Inn.
  • Chief Investment Officer Collette Chilton provided data on the endowment, including our ongoing commitment to seek impact investments. Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Fred Puddester gave his regular report on the college’s finances.
  • Vice President for College Relations Megan Morey shared the latest news on fundraising and the Teach It Forward campaign, which concludes on June 30. Nearly 75 percent of living Williams alumni have made a gift over the last eight years, creating $680 million in new support for financial aid, faculty recruitment and retention, science education, programming beyond the classroom, and the Alumni and Parents Funds, which are a source for ongoing investment in the quality of a Williams education. Recent highlights include gifts from Black alumni, including strong support for the Bolin Fellows program, and our dynamic women’s leadership giving initiative. On that latter note, the trustees noted the approaching 50th anniversary of the Board’s vote to admit women to Williams, which happened on June 8, 1969.
  • Society of Alumni President Tom Gardner ’79 provided his annual report, which included the happy fact that last Sunday’s Commencement put us at over 30,000 Ephs worldwide! He also described planning for the Society’s 2021 bicentennial celebration.
  • The Board honored two of their members who completed their terms at this meeting: trustee Clarence Otis ’77 P’15 and board chair Michael Eisenson ’77, P’07. Michael and Clarence have provided extraordinary leadership and support for the college over many years, improving our financial health and growing our commitments to financial aid, sustainability, and the arts, among other areas. We’ll miss them as wise counselors and partners. Trustee Liz Beshel Robinson ’90 succeeds Michael as board chair on July 1, and I’m excited to begin working with her in her new role.

Following the June meeting the trustees attended a host of Commencement weekend events, including Baccalaureate, a dinner honoring our Olmsted Prize and honorary degree recipients, and of course graduation on Sunday—a wonderful occasion for all!

I hope you, too, enjoyed the weekend if you could participate. Our graduates and continuing students, our wonderful faculty and staff, our loyal alumni and families all remind me of how much we have to be thankful for here.

I’m grateful to the trustees for their dedication to helping make this community the special place of learning that it is. My deepest thanks, too, to all the staff and faculty who work so hard through May and June to organize Commencement and Reunion, finish the semester and their grading, and prepare for an array of summer programs. Williams is truly a team effort.