To Alumni: A Message from Williams President Maud S. Mandel

To the Williams alumni family,

Earlier today I sent a community-wide message, a copy of which you will find below, announcing the decision to cancel this spring’s in-person commencement and alumni reunion. However disappointing, the news is unlikely to come as a surprise, and we can now begin looking at alternate ways to honor your milestones. I will enjoy celebrating them with you in any format.

While I have been communicating steadily with students, faculty, staff and families about the college’s effort to address and respond to the huge challenges posed by COVID-19 (you can read those messages here), this message, even with the sad news about reunion, gives me a welcome opportunity to speak with you directly for the first time during the pandemic.

First and foremost, I want you to know I have been thinking about you and your fellow alumni even more than usual these last few months. Each of you is in some way joined in the fight against this pandemic: some as frontline healthcare providers or public health experts, others as policymakers and advocates for the sick and vulnerable, and all of you as family members and friends caring for people around you. My heart and gratitude go out to you all.

I hesitate to single out any one person’s work amidst so much dedication. But there is inspiration and wisdom to be found in the blog of Dr. Craig Smith ’70, chair of surgery and surgeon-in-chief at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Hospital. Dr. Smith’s writings, published from a tragic center of the COVID-19 crisis, evince a spirit of compassion, wisdom and leadership that can make us all proud to count him as a member of our Williams family.

Second, I want you to know that, no matter where you are in the world or what your circumstances, your college is a community to which you can turn for support. For many of you, your Williams friends and connections are already helping you weather these exceptional times. Our duty is to help facilitate those connections when we can. To that end, I invite you to explore the list of COVID-19 resources collected for you by our Alumni Relations team. It includes links to social media channels, a growing list of resources offered by fellow alumni, and a form that you can use to share additional resources that you think would be helpful. I also encourage you to look at EphLink, the college’s online career mentoring platform, which offers a great way to support undergrads and your fellow alumni. However you prefer to engage, thank you for doing what you can to support each other and your college.

Sadly, we have begun to hear about members of our Williams alumni family who have lost their lives because of COVID-19. The situation is heartbreaking, and my condolences go out to the loved ones of those who have passed away or are ill. More than at almost any other time in our recent history, this feels like a moment when we need reaffirm our bonds and support each other as a community.

Reunions help strengthen those bonds. And while we unfortunately cannot reunite on campus in June, college staff are already thinking about other ways to bring us together. We will aim to confirm any new plans once we regain a stable sense of the future—a level of normalcy that is hard to imagine right now, but which will come in due course. When it does, it will give us yet another reason to honor and celebrate this great Williams family of ours.

Until then, I wish you good health and strength from Williamstown,

Maud