Williams College

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Williams College
Motto E liberalitate E. Williams, armigeri (Latin)
Motto in English
"Through the Generosity of E. Williams, Esquire"[1]
Established 1793
Type Private liberal arts college
Endowment $2.454 billion (2015)[2]
President Adam Falk
Academic staff
Undergraduates 2,052
Postgraduates 54
Location Williamstown, MA, USA
Campus Rural
Colors Purple     
Athletics NCAA Division IIINESCAC
Nickname Ephs
Mascot The Purple Cow[3]
Website williams.edu

Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this period, beginning in 1962.[4]

Williams has three academic curricular divisions (humanities, sciences and social sciences), 24 departments, 36 majors, and two master's degree programs in art history and development economics. There are 334 voting faculty members, with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1. As of 2012, the school has an enrollment of 2,052 undergraduate students and 54 graduate students.[5]

The academic year follows a 4–1–4 schedule of two four-course semesters plus a one-course "winter study" term in January. A summer research schedule involves about 200 students on campus completing projects with professors.

Williams College currently occupies 1st place in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 ranking of the 266 liberal arts colleges in the United States.[6] Forbes magazine ranked Williams the best undergraduate institution in the United States in its 2014 publication of America's Top Colleges. [7]


Haystack monument

Colonel Ephraim Williams was an officer in the Massachusetts militia and a member of a prominent landowning family. His will included a bequest to support and maintain a free school to be established in the town of West Hoosac, Massachusetts, provided that the town change its name to Williamstown. Williams was killed at the Battle of Lake George on September 8, 1755.[8]

After Shays' Rebellion, the Williamstown Free School opened with 15 students on October 26, 1791. The first president was Ebenezer Fitch. Not long after its founding, the trustees of the school petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to convert the free school to a tuition-based college. The legislature agreed and on June 22, 1793, Williams College was chartered. It was the second college to be founded in Massachusetts.

At its founding, the college maintained a policy of racial segregation, refusing admission to black applicants. This policy was challenged by Lucy Terry Prince, who is credited as the first black American poet,[9] when her son Festus was refused admission to the college on account of his race.[10] Prince, who had already established a reputation as a raconteur[11] and rhetorician, delivered a three-hour speech before the college's board of trustees, quoting abundantly from scripture, but was unable to secure her son's admission.[10] More recent scholarship, however, has highlighted how there are no records within the college itself to confirm that this event occurred, and that Festus Prince may have been refused entry for an insufficient mastery of Latin, Greek, and French, all of which were necessary for successful completion of the entrance exam at the time, and which would most likely not have been available in the local schools of Guilford, Vermont, where Festus was raised.[12]

In 1806, a student prayer meeting gave rise to the American Foreign Mission Movement. In August of that year, five students met in the maple grove of Sloan's Meadow to pray. A thunderstorm drove them to the shelter of a haystack, and the fervor of the ensuing meeting inspired them to take the Gospel abroad. The students went on to build the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the first American organization to send missionaries overseas. The Haystack Monument near Mission Park on the Williams Campus commemorates the historic "Haystack Prayer Meeting".

By 1815, Williams had only two buildings and 58 students and was in financial trouble, so the board voted to move the college to Amherst, Massachusetts. In 1821, the president of the college, Zephaniah Swift Moore, who had accepted his position believing that the college would move east, decided to proceed with the move. He took 15 students with him, and re-founded the college under the name of Amherst College. Some students and professors decided to stay behind at Williams and were allowed to keep the land, which was at the time relatively worthless. According to legend, Moore also took portions of the Williams College library. Though plausible, the transfer of books is unsubstantiated. Moore died just two years later after founding Amherst, and was succeeded by Heman Humphrey, a trustee of Williams College.[13] Edward Dorr Griffin was appointed President of Williams and is widely credited with saving Williams during his 15-year tenure.

A Williams student, Gardner Cotrell Leonard, designed the gowns he and his classmates wore to graduation in 1887.[14] Seven years later he advised the Inter-Collegiate Commission on Academic Costume, which met at Columbia University, and established the current system of U.S. academic dress.[15] One reason gowns were adopted in the late nineteenth century was to eliminate the differences in apparel between rich and poor students.[16]

During World War II, Williams College was one of 131 colleges and universities nationally that took part in the V-12 Navy College Training Program which offered students a path to a Navy commission.[17]

Construction and expansion

In the last decade, construction has changed the look of the college. The addition of the $38 million Unified Science Center to the campus in 2001 set a tone of style and comprehensiveness for renovations and additions to campus buildings in the 21st century. This building unifies the formerly separate lab spaces of the physics, chemistry, and biology departments. In addition, it houses Schow Science Library, notable for its unified science materials holdings and architecture. It features vaulted ceilings and an atrium with windows into laboratories on the second through fourth floors of the science center.

Thompson Chapel and Lasell Gym bell towers

In 2003, Williams began the first of three massive construction projects. The $60 million '62 Center for Theatre and Dance was the first project to be successfully completed in the spring of 2005. The $44 million student center, called Paresky Center, opened in February 2007.

Construction had already begun on the third project, called the Stetson-Sawyer project, when economic uncertainty stemming from the 2007 financial crisis led to its delay. College trustees initially balked at the cost of the Stetson-Sawyer project, and revisited the idea of renovating Sawyer in its current location, an idea which proved not to be cost-effective.[18] The entire project includes construction of two new academic buildings, the removal of Sawyer Library from its current location, and the construction of a new library at the rear of a renovated Stetson Hall (which served as the college library prior to Sawyer's construction). The academic buildings, temporarily named North Academic Building and South Academic building, were completed in fall of 2008. In the spring of 2009, South Academic Building was renamed Schapiro Hall in honor of former President Morton O. Schapiro. In the spring of 2010 the North Academic Building was renamed Hollander Hall. Construction of the new Sawyer Library is scheduled to be completed in 2014, after which the old Sawyer Library will be razed.

After several years of planning, the college decided to group undergraduates starting with the Class of 2010 into four geographically coherent clusters, or "Neighborhoods".[19] Since the fall of 2006, first-years have been housed in Sage Hall, Williams Hall and Mission Park, while the former first-year dormitories East College, Lehman Hall, Fayerweather, and Morgan, joined the remaining residential buildings as upperclass housing. A student vote on the names of the four "neighborhoods" selected "Currier", "Wood", "Spencer" and "Dodd" by a simple majority. Incoming first-years live in groups of approximately 20, together with two junior advisors. Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors have the opportunity to change neighborhoods each spring if they so choose. The system is an attempt to integrate all undergraduates more successfully than was previously possible, mixing students representing a variety of interests and ethnicities, as well as to foster student-faculty interaction and to de-centralize event planning. During the spring 2009 semester, a committee formed to evaluate the neighborhood system, and released a report the following fall.[20]

From 2003 through 2008, Williams conducted one of the largest capital campaigns ever undertaken by a liberal arts college, with a goal of raising $400 million by September 2008. The college reached $400 million at the end of June 2007, a year and a half ahead of schedule. By the close of the campaign, Williams had raised $500.2 million.[21]

As of the 2008/09 school year, the College eliminated student loans from all financial aid packages in favor of grants. The College was the fourth institution in the United States to do so, following Princeton University, Amherst College, and Davidson College.[22] However, in February 2010, the College announced that it would re-introduce loans to its financial aid packages beginning with the Class of 2015 due to the College's changed financial situation.[23][24][25]

In January 2007 the board voted unanimously to reduce college CO2 emissions 10% below 1990 levels by 2020, or roughly 50% below 2006 levels.[26] To meet those goals, the college set up the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives and undertaken an energy audit and efficiency timeline. Williams received an 'A-' on the 2010 College Sustainability Report Card, following 'B+' grades on both the 2008 and 2009 report cards.[27]

In December 2008, President Morton O. Schapiro announced his departure from the college to become president of Northwestern University.[28]

On September 28, 2009, the presidential search committee announced the appointment of Adam F. Falk as the 17th president of Williams College. Falk, dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, began his term on April 1, 2010.[29] Dean of the Faculty William Wagner took the position of interim president beginning in June 2009, and continued in that capacity until President-elect Falk took office.


Williams is a small, four-year liberal arts college[30] accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.[31]

There are three academic curricular divisions (humanities, sciences, and social sciences), 24 departments, 33 majors, and two small master's degree programs in art history and development economics. Students may also concentrate in 12 additional academic areas that are not offered as majors (e.g., environmental studies). The academic year follows a 4–1–4 schedule of two four-course semesters plus a one-course "winter study" term in January. During the winter study term, students study various courses outside of typical curriculum for 3 weeks. Students typically take this course on a pass/fail basis. Past course offerings have included: Ski patrol, Learn to Play Chess, Accounting, Inside Jury Deliberations, and Creating a Life: Shaping Your Life After Williams, among many others. Williams students often take the winter study term to study abroad or work on intensive research projects.

Williams granted 510 bachelor's degrees and 35 master's degrees in 2008.[32] The cost of tuition and fees for 2010–2011 was $52,340; 53% of students were given need-based financial aid, which averaged $46,006.[32]

Williams sponsors the Williams–Mystic program at Mystic Seaport; the Williams–Exeter Programme at Exeter College of Oxford University;[33] and Williams in Africa.


Fall Admission Statistics
  2015[34] 2014[35] 2013[36] 2012[37]
Admit rate
SAT range
ACT range

For the 2015 admissions cycle, the acceptance rate was 16.8%. The admitted students’ academic profile showed average SAT scores of 735 in critical reading, 727 in math, and 735 in writing. The average super-scored ACT was a 33. 82% of the students who submitted high school rank were projected to graduate in the top ten percent of their class.[38]

Williams is classified as "most selective" by U.S. News & World Report[39] and "more selective" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.[40]


University rankings
Forbes[41] 1
Liberal arts colleges
U.S. News & World Report[42] 1

In Forbes college rankings, Williams was ranked as the best undergraduate institution in the United States.[43] Williams was also ranked 1st in U.S. News & World Report's 2015 ranking of the 181 liberal arts colleges in the United States.[6] Williams is ranked 1st by the National Collegiate Scouting Association, which ranks colleges based on student-athlete graduation rates, academics, and athletics.[44]

Williams ranked 6th in Newsweek's 2011 ranking of "Brainiac" Colleges which measured the success of alumni in winning Rhodes, Marshall, and Truman Scholarships.[45] Williams was chosen by 37 other institutions as a peer with a similar level of academic quality, making it ranked 9th overall and 5th among liberal arts colleges.[46] Williams selected 10 colleges as its peers, namely Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Carleton, Dartmouth, Grinnell, Middlebury, Pomona, Swarthmore, and Wesleyan.[47] Williams ranked 8th among colleges and universities in the percentage of students who graduate in four years.[48]

Chapin Hall

Oxbridge tutorials

One of the distinctive features of a Williams education is modeled after the tutorial systems at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, a rarity in American higher education. Although tutorials at Williams were originally aimed at upperclassmen, the faculty voted in 2001 to expand the tutorial program.[49] There is now a diverse offering of tutorials, spanning many disciplines, including math and the sciences, that cater to students of all class years. In 2009–2010 alone, 62 tutorials were offered in 21 departments.[50] Enrollment for tutorials is capped at 10 students, who are then divided into five pairs that meet separately with the professor once a week. Each week, one of the students writes and presents a 5–7-page paper while the other student critiques it. The same pair reverses roles for the next week. The professor takes a more limited role than in a traditional lecture class, and usually allows students to steer and guide the direction of the conversation.

Student course evaluations for tutorials are typically very high. In a survey of alumni who had taken tutorials, more than 80% found their tutorials to be "the most valuable of my courses" at Williams.[51]

Organization and administration

The Board of Trustees of Williams College has 25 members and is the governing authority of the College.[52] The President of the College serves on the Board ex officio. There are five Alumni Trustees, each of whom serves for a five-year term. There are five Term Trustees, each elected by the Board for five-year terms. The remaining 14 members are Regular Trustees, also elected by the Board but serving up 15 years, although not beyond their seventieth birthday. The current Chair of the Board of Trustees is Michael Eisenson.

The Board appoints as senior executive officer of the college a President who is also a member of and the presiding officer of the faculty. Nine senior administrators report to the President including the Dean of the Faculty, Provost, and Dean of the College. Adam F. Falk was recently elected the 17th president of Williams, and took office on April 1, 2010.

College Council (CC) is the student government of Williams College. Its members are elected to represent each class year, the first-year dorms, and the student body at large. CC allocates funds from the Student Activities Fee, appoints students to the faculty-student-administration committees that oversee most aspects of College life, and debates issues of concern to the entire campus community. College Council is the forum through which students address concerns and make changes around campus. CC is led by two co-Presidents.

To manage its endowment of over $2 billion, the College started the Williams College Investment Office in 2006. The Investment Office is located in Boston, Massachusetts. Under the guidance of the Investment Office, the endowment has grown quickly. In 2014, the endowment had a rate of return of 9.9%, above those of Harvard University (5.8%) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (8.7%). The College's endowment only broke $1 billion in the early 2000s, but is well over $2 billion now and is predicted to surpass $3 billion very soon. The endowment-per-student ratio is currently $1.17 million, without adjusting for inflation, while in 1990 it was $151,000. Adjusting for inflation, the endowment-per-student ratio has still increased to almost $600,000.[53] The Chief Investment Officer of the Investment Office is Collette Chilton.


Thompson Memorial Chapel

Williams is on a 450-acre (1.8 km2) campus in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the Berkshires in rural northwestern Massachusetts. The campus contains more than 100 academic, athletic, and residential buildings.[54]

The early planners of Williams College eschewed the traditional collegiate quadrangle organization, choosing to freely site buildings among the hills. Later construction, including East and West Colleges and Griffin Hall, tended to cluster around Main Street in Williamstown. The first campus quadrangle was formed with East College, South College, and the Hopkins Observatory.[55]

The Olmsted Brothers design firm played a large part in shaping the campus design and architecture. In 1902, the firm was commissioned to renovate a large part of campus, including the President’s House, the cemetery, and South College; as well as incorporating the George A. Cluett estate into the campus acreage. Although these campus renovations were completed in 1912, the Olmsted Brothers would advise the gradual transformation of campus design for six decades. The present-day grounds layout reflects much of the design intent of the Olmsted Brothers.[56]

Old Hopkins Observatory

Williams College is the site of the Hopkins Observatory, the oldest extant astronomical observatory in the United States.[57] Erected in 1836–1838, it now contains the Mehlin Museum of Astronomy, including Alvan Clark's first telescope (from 1852),[57] as well as the Milham Planetarium, which uses a Zeiss Skymaster ZKP3/B optomechanical projector and an Ansible digital projector, both installed in 2005. The Hopkins Observatory's 0.6-m DFM reflecting telescope (1991) is installed elsewhere on the campus.[58] Williams joins with Wellesley, Wesleyan, Middlebury, Colgate, Vassar, Swarthmore, and Haverford/Bryn Mawr to form the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium, sponsored for over a decade by the Keck Foundation and now with its student research programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation.[59]

Hopkins Hall serves as the administration building on campus, housing the offices of the president, Dean of the Faculty, registrar, and provost, among others.

There is a Newman Center on campus.

The Chapin Library supports the liberal arts curriculum of the college by allowing students close access to a number of rare books and documents of interest. The library opened on June 18, 1923, with an initial collection of 9,000 volumes contributed by alumnus Alfred Clark Chapin, Class of 1869. Over the years, Chapin Library has grown to include over 50,000 volumes (including 3,000 more given by Chapin) as well as 100,000 other artifacts such as prints, photographs, maps, and bookplates.[60]

The most famous items in the library's collection include first printings of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, United States Constitution, and Bill of Rights, as well as George Washington's personal copy of The Federalist Papers. Other notable objects include a range of books, letters, and miscellaneous items relating to Theodore Roosevelt, who was a friend and, at one point, colleague of Chapin in the New York State Assembly.[61]

The Chapin Library's science collection includes a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus's De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, as well as first editions of books by Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, Isaac Newton, and other major figures.[61]

Charles Moore's Ironic Columns, Williams College Museum of Art

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), with over 12,000 works (only a fraction of which are displayed at any one time) in its permanent collection, serves as an educational resource for both undergraduates and students in the graduate art history program.[62]

Notable works include Morning in a City by Edward Hopper,[63] a commissioned wall painting by Sol LeWitt,[64] and a commissioned outdoor sculpture and landscape work by Louise Bourgeois entitled Eyes.[65]

Though often overshadowed by the neighboring and much larger Clark Art Institute and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, WCMA remains one of the premier attractions of the Berkshires. Because the museum is intended primarily for educational purposes, admission is free for all.[62]

Located in front of the West College dormitory, the Hopkins gate serves as a memorial to brothers Mark and Albert Hopkins. Both made lasting contributions to the Williams College community. Mark was appointed as president of the college in 1836, [66] while Albert was elected a professor in 1829. [67] The Hopkins gate is inscribed with an inspirational motto that is familiar to all in the Williams College community.

Climb High, Climb Far

Your Goal the Sky, Your Aim the Star.

Student activities and traditions

Student media

The longest running student newspaper at Williams is the Williams Record, a weekly broadsheet paper published on Wednesdays. The newspaper was founded in 1887, and now has a weekly circulation of 3,000 copies distributed in Williamstown, in addition to more than 600 subscribers across the country. The newspaper used to not receive financial support from the college or from the student government and relied on revenue generated by local and national ad sales, subscriptions, and voluntary contributions for use of its website, but the paper went into debt in 2004 and is now subsidized by the Student Activities Tax. Both Sawyer Library and the College Archives maintain more than a century's worth of publicly accessible, bound volumes of the Record. The newspaper provides access free of charge to a searchable database of articles stretching back to 1998 on its website.

The student yearbook is called The Gulielmensian, which means "Williams Thing" in Greek.[68] It was published irregularly in the 1990s, but has been annual for the past several years and dates back to the mid-19th century.[68]

Numerous smaller campus publications are also produced each year, including The Telos, a journal of Christian thought, The Cowbell, a humor magazine, the Williams College Law Journal, a collection of undergraduate articles, "the Literary Review, a literary magazine, and Monkeys With Typewriters, a magazine of non-fiction essays.

91.9 WCFM

WCFM is a college-owned, student-run, non-commercial radio station broadcasting from the basement of Prospect House at 91.9 MHz.[69] Featuring 85 hours per week of original programming, the station features a wide variety of musical genres, in addition to sports and talk radio.[70] The station may also be heard on the Internet via SHOUTcast.com. Members of the surrounding communities above the age of 18 are allowed to DJ on the station, which, as part of its mission, seeks to serve the surrounding community with news and announcements of public interest.[71] The board of the radio station holds a concert every semester.[72]

Trivia contest

At the end of every semester but one since 1966, WCFM has hosted an all-night, eight-hour trivia contest. Teams of students, alumni, professors, friends, and others compete to answer questions on a variety of subjects, while simultaneously identifying songs and performing designated tasks. The winning team's only prize is the obligation to create and host the following semester's contest.[73]

The precise date of the debut contest is uncertain. Most spring contests occur in early May, but during its first decade, Williams Trivia was sometimes held in March or February. Assuming a May date, Lawrence University's 50-hour-long Great Midwest Trivia Contest, first held on April 29, 1966, would be the oldest continuous competition of its sort in the United States, but if the first Williams contest was held earlier, it would be the oldest. The distinction is, appropriately, trivial.[74]

While other college-based trivia contests in the United States emphasize marathon endurance and revel in the obscurity of their arcana, the aim of the Williams contest is to cram as much evocative and entertaining material into as concentrated a space as possible. Lasting just eight hours, a typical Williams Trivia contest will demand between 900 and 1,200 separate "bits" of trivial information,[73] delivering twice as much content as its "competitors" in a fraction of the time. No discernible rivalry exists between any of the various contests. The contest has occasionally received outside media coverage, including in the Sunday New York Times.[75]

Student music

Music ensembles at Williams include Berkshire Symphony, Wind Ensemble, Student Symphony, Brass Ensemble, Clarinet Choir, Concert and Chamber Choirs, Handbell Choir, Gospel Choir, Jazz Ensemble, Kusika and the Zambezi Marimba Band, Percussion Ensemble, and Marching Band.[76] Both music majors and non-majors are welcome to participate in all groups.

The Berkshire Symphony is the premier full orchestra on campus. It is conducted by Ronald Feldman, a former Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist. Half of the orchestra consists of students, while the principal players and many section players are area professionals. The Berkshire Symphony prepares four concerts per year, two during the fall semester and two during the spring semester. The Symphony's final concert features several student soloists in an annual concerto competition concert. All concerts are free and open to the public and take place in Chapin Hall.

The Williams College Wind Ensemble, directed by Matthew Marsit, presents artistic programs blending traditional and contemporary wind band music. In recent years, the group has evolved to include strings and premieres and performs works by prominent contemporary composers, including members of the faculty.

Student Symphony is an entirely student-run, student-conducted group. Student Symphony rehearses weekly and performs once per semester.

Under the direction of Bradley Wells, the Concert and Chamber Choirs perform a wide range of repertoire at a variety of concerts. A choral highlight is always the Festival of Lessons and Carols held just prior to the holidays in the Thompson Memorial Chapel.

The Williams Jazz program includes academic courses, ensembles (both traditional big band, by audition, and several small ensembles), and applied lessons on primary jazz instruments.

In the Shona language of Zimbabwe, Kusika means "to create." Founded in 1989 by Professor Ernest D. Brown at Williams College, Kusika performs traditional African music, dance, and storytelling from Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Senegal. The Zambezi Marimba Band, founded in 1992 by Professor Brown, was the first African marimba band to be established in the Eastern United States. The ensemble plays marimba music from Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and from the African diaspora around the world.

Sankofa, called "Kofa" for short, is the Williams College Step Team. It is a co-ed, student-run dance company. Sankofa choreographs original material that incorporates popular song, drums, hip-hop, break dance, spoken word, poetry, and sheer creative ingenuity. Stepping features precise, synchronized, and complex rhythmic body movements, combined with singing, chanting, and verbal play. The word “sankofa,” from the Akan people in Ghana, loosely translates to “reaching back in order to move forward.” Sankofa was formed in the fall of the ‘96-’97 school year by five women from the class of 2000: Dahra Jackson, Maxine Lyle, Mya Fisher, Melina Evans and Samantha Reed. In 2005, Lyle founded Soul Steps, a professional step company.[77]

Williams' coed hip hop dance group "Nuttin' But Cuties", usually shortened to NBC, is one of the more prominent groups on campus with well-attended shows in the fall and spring semesters.

The Williams Percussion Ensemble, led by Matthew Gold, explores the masterworks of twentieth century percussion music, experimental music, music of many of the world's traditions, and the most up-to-date works by contemporary composers for percussion instruments.

The Marching Band, named "The Moocho Macho Moocow Military Marching Band", serves as a cheering section at the football games, as well as an entertainment show for halftime.

Williams also hosts nine student-organized a cappella singing groups. All nine groups are among the most-watched performing arts groups on campus. There are two all-female groups, the Accidentals and Ephoria. The two all-male groups are the Williams Octet (the oldest group at the college) and the Springstreeters, and the two co-ed groups are Ephlats and Good Question. The seventh group, the Elizabethans, are a mixed-voice Renaissance ensemble. Another recently formed a cappella group is the Aristocows, sings only Disney songs. The newest a cappella group is called the Far Ephs Movement and specialize in Asian pop songs.

The Williams Gospel Choir has served the college since 1986. Their performances are usually at the end of the semester, right before finals start, and serve to provide a spiritual and emotional courage to students during this difficult time of the semester.

School colors and mascot

Williams's school colors are purple and gold, with purple as the primary school color.[78] A story explaining the origin of purple as a school color says that at the Williams-Harvard baseball game in 1869, spectators watching from carriages had trouble telling the teams apart because there were no uniforms. One of the onlookers bought ribbons from a nearby millinery store to pin on Williams' players, and the only color available was purple. The buyer was Jennie Jerome (later Winston Churchill's mother) whose family summered in Williamstown.[79]

The Williams college mascot is a purple cow.[79] The mascot's name, Ephelia, was submitted in a radio contest in October 1952 by Theodore W. Friend, a senior at Williams.[80] The origins of the cow mascot are unknown, but one possibility is that it was inspired by the Purple Cow humor magazine, a student publication begun in 1907, which used the college color along with a cow.[80] The title of the humor magazine was in reference to Gelett Burgess's nonsense poem known as the Purple Cow:

I never saw a purple cow

I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one!

Alma Mater

Williams claims the first alma mater song written by an undergraduate, "The Mountains," was by Washington Gladden of the class of 1859.[81]

Mountain Day

On one of the first three Fridays in October, the president of the college cancels classes and declares it Mountain Day. The bells ring, announcing the event, members of the Outing Club unfurl a banner from the roof of Chapin Hall and students hike up Stony Ledge. At Stony Ledge, they celebrate with donuts, cider and a cappella performances.

The first known mention of Mountain Day was made by Williams president Edward Dorr Griffin in his notebook on college business. He wrote, under 'Holidays': "About the 24th of June a day to go to the mountain. If not then about the 14th of July. Prayers at night."[82]

In 2009, with the threat of bad weather for each of the first three Fridays of the month, Interim-president Wagner declared "Siberian Mountain Day." Festivities were relocated from Stony Ledge to the much more accessible Stone Hill.[83]


The school's athletic teams are called the Ephs (rhymes with "chiefs"), a shortening of the first name of founder Ephraim Williams. The mascot is a Purple Cow. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and the New England Small College Athletic Conference (colloquially known as the Little Ivy League). Williams also competes in skiing and squash at the Division I level. Williams is ranked first among Division III schools for athletic spending per student.[84]

Williams has a traditional rivalry with Amherst College and Wesleyan University. The "Little Three", a subset of NESCAC, comprises the three schools. Williams and Amherst participate in notably intense competition, dating back more than a century.[85] Although Williams College typically sports purple and gold as their school colors, purple is in fact the only school color. The gold was added in order to differentiate its colors from that of rival school Amherst's purple and white uniforms. On May 3, 2009, Williams and Amherst alumni played a game of vintage baseball at Wahconah Park according to 1859-rules to commemorate the 150th-anniversary of the first college baseball game, which was played on July 2, 1859, between the two schools. Amherst-alumnus Dan Duquette was instrumental in organizing the event.[86]

Until 1994, Williams was not permitted, by NESCAC rules, to compete in team NCAA competition. The Williams women's swimming and diving team won the school's first national title in 1981, and claimed the title in 1982 as well. Williams played in the 2003, 2004, and 2010 men's basketball Division III national championship games, winning the title in March 2003. Men's basketball also played in the 1997, 1998 and 2011 Final Fours. Williams was the first New England basketball team to win a Division III championship, and since they have been eligible to compete in the NCAA tournament, no team in the country has played in more Final Fours.

Williams teams to win national titles since Williams began participating in NCAA tournaments in 1994 include women's crew (nine titles, including eight straight from 2006–2013), men's tennis (four), women's tennis (eight, including six straight from 2008–2013), men's cross country (two), women's cross country (two), men's basketball, women's indoor track and field, and men's soccer.

Williams also has had success winning the NACDA Director's Cup, presented to the institution within each NCAA division that has the greatest overall success in NCAA sanctioned-championships. Williams has won the NACDA Director's Cup 16 of the 18 years since its inception, including 13 years in a row from 1999 through 2011.

In 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013 the college achieved No. 1 rankings in both academics and athletics within its peer groups (liberal arts colleges as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and NCAA Division III institutions as ranked by the Director's Cup calculations, respectively). Dual No. 1 rankings in any single year was an unprecedented achievement among the 1,053 NCAA member institutions.[87]

Athletic facilities

The Towne Field House

William College has had major updates or renovations of its athletic facilities during the past several decades.

The Lansing Chapman hockey rink, built in 1953 and originally uncovered, was canopied in 1963, enclosed in 1969 and has been periodically upgraded to the present (2014) with rink, roof, locker room and lighting improvements.

The Towne Field House, constructed in 1970, is a multipurpose facility, which includes an indoor track, tennis courts and a climbing wall. The later was initially constructed in 1974 and updated to a state of the art climbing wall in 1995. The field house also accommodates pre-season baseball, softball and lacrosse.

Renovation of Weston Field Athletic Complex - January 2014. The wooden grandstand behind the excavator was built in 1902. It was moved in 1987 to the new Plansky Track and football field and was moved again during the renovations that were completed in September 2014.

The Lasell Gym built in 1886 was renovated and expanded with the addition of the Chandler Athletic Center in 1987. It provides a state of the art 50-meter swimming pool, a gymnasium primarily for basketball, squash facilities, wrestling rooms, various fitness centers and administrative offices.

In 1987, the Weston Field cinder running track and baseball field were replaced: the Anthony Plansky 400-meter track was built around the refurbished football field and the Bobby Coombs baseball field was re-located at Cole Field. The Renzi Lamb Field for lacrosse and field hockey, built with artificial turf, was added to Weston Field in 2004.

In November 2013 Williams College began its 22 million dollar renovation of the Weston Field complex. This upgrade includes an artificial turf football field, relocation of the Plansky Track and Lamb Field, new bleachers, improved lighting and the addition of support buildings for the athletes. The completed facility, scheduled to reopen in September 2014, will allow year round athletic events and practice.[88]

Non-varsity sports

Williams also has an active club and intramural sports program, offering 14 club sports including ultimate, rugby, horseback riding, cycling, fencing, volleyball, gymnastics, sailing, and water polo. Approximately 50% of Williams' students compete on at least one varsity, junior varsity, or formal club team.


Student body

Student body composition of Williams College [32]
Undergraduate U.S. Census[89]
White American 63.7% 65.8%
African American 9.8% 12.1%
Asian American 10.7% 4.3%
Hispanic American 8.6% 14.5%
Native American 0.3% 0.9%
International student 6.7% (N/A)

Williams enrolled 2,052 undergraduate students and 54 graduate students in 2012.[32] In 2010, women constituted 51.8% of undergraduate students and 61% percent of graduate students.[32] 50% of students receive need-based financial aid and 409 students (19%) qualify to receive Pell Grants.[90] Williams has a 97% freshman retention rate and a 91% four-year graduation rate.[91] 89% of students graduated in the top tenth of their high school graduating class and the inter-quartile range on the SAT was 670–760 for reading, 670–760 for math, and 660–760 for writing.[32]


Williams has 334 voting faculty, 92% of whom possess a doctorate or the terminal degree in their field.[92] Students fill out course surveys at the end of each semester, which play a large role in determining faculty tenure decisions. Recently, there has been controversy over popular teachers being denied tenure based on other factors, including publication rates.[93]

Notable former and present faculty include:


As of August, 2013, there are 30,300 living alumni of record, and 70 regional alumni associations nationwide and overseas. Alumni participation in the 2011-12 Alumni Fund was 62.5%. More than 58% of the alumni from the classes of 1980 to 2000 have earned at least one graduate or professional degree. The most popular graduate disciplines for alumni are management, education, law, and health care.[101]

The Society of Alumni of Williams College is the oldest existing alumni society of any academic institution in the United States.[102] The Society of Alumni was founded during the "Amherst crisis" in 1821, when Williams College President Zephaniah Swift Moore left Williams. Graduates of Williams formed the Society to ensure that Williams would not have to close, and raised enough money to ensure the future survival of the school.

Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford

Williams has a close relationship with Exeter College, one of the oldest constituent colleges of Oxford University. In the early 1980s, Williams purchased a group of houses, today known as the Ephraim Williams House, on Banbury Road and Lathbury Road, in North Oxford.[103]

The Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford (WEPO) was founded in 1985. Every year (except 2010–2011, when 24 students attended), 26 undergraduate students from Williams spend their junior year at Exeter as full members of the college.[104]

See also


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External links

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