Williams College

Template:Infobox University2 Williams College is a small, private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. As of 2004, the undergraduate enrollment was approximately 2,000 students. In 1834 the first non-secret fraternity, Delta Upsilon, was founded on its campus. Fraternities were phased out beginning in 1962. Coeducation was adopted in 1970. There are three academic curricular divisions (humanities, sciences, social sciences), 24 departments, 31 majors, and two small masters programs in art history and development economics. The college also sponsors academic programs at Mystic Seaport, Oxford University, and in New York City. The student:faculty ratio is 8:1. The academic year consists of two four-course semesters plus a one-course Winter Study term during the month of January. Williamstown is located in the Berkshires in northwestern Massachusetts, 145 miles (233 km) from Boston and 165 miles (266 km) from New York City. The College sits at the foot of Mount Greylock. When Henry David Thoreau visited in 1844, he remarked that "It would be no small advantage if every college were thus located at the base of a mountain."



When Colonel Ephraim Williams of the Massachusetts militia was killed at the Battle of Lake George in 1755, 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. The will was unsigned and undated, and provided additional stipulations, such as the town remaining in Massachusetts rather than becoming part of New York as some residents wanted, before the bequest could be disbursed. this involved a delay of over 35 years until, in 1791, the Williamstown Free School opened. Not long after the school opened, the trustees petitioned the Massachusetts legislature to convert the free school to a tuition-based college. The legislature agreed and in 1793, Williams College was chartered.

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 meeting.

By 1815, Williams had only two buildings and fifty-eight students, and was in serious financial trouble. On November 10, 1818, nine of the twelve Williams College trustees voted for a resolution stating that:

"Resolved, that it is expedient to remove Williams College to some more central part of the State whenever sufficient funds can be obtained to defray the necessary expenses incurred and the losses sustained by removal, and to secure the prosperity of the college, and when a fair prospect shall be presented of obtaining for the institution the united support and patronage of the friends of literature and religion in the western part of the Commonwealth, and when the General Court shall give their assent to the measure."

In February 1820, a petition to the Massachusetts legislature to this effect was defeated, and the college was not moved.

In 1821, Williams College President Zephaniah Swift Moore, who had accepted his position believing that the college would move east, abandoned Williams. He took fifteen students with him, and assumed the first Presidency of Amherst College. Story has it that Moore also took portions of the Williams College library. Though plausible, this account is unsubstantiated, and was declared false in 1995 by Williams College President Harry C. Payne. Moore died just two years later after founding Amherst, and was succeeded by Heman Humphrey, a trustee of Williams College.

Williams played Amherst College in the first intercollegiate baseball game in 1859 and continued on to pioneer many areas of academia and education. Williams' website has a list of "firsts" (http://www.williams.edu/home/about_firsts.php) and a more detailed history (http://www.williams.edu/home/about_history.php). Notable among these, Williams was the first American college or university to feature caps and gowns at graduation.

Presidents of Williams College

  1. Ebenezer Fitch, 1793-1815
  2. Zephaniah Swift Moore, 1815-1821
  3. Edward Dorr Griffin, 1821-1836
  4. Mark Hopkins, 1836-1872
  5. Paul Ansel Chadbourne, 1872-1881
  6. Franklin Carter, 1881-1901
  7. John Haskell Hewitt, 1901-1902
  8. Henry Hopkins, 1902-1908
  9. Harry Augustus Garfield, 1908-1934
  10. Tyler Dennett, 1934-1937
  11. James Phinney Baxter, 1937-1961
  12. John Edward Sawyer, 1961-1973
  13. John Wesley Chandler, 1973-1985
  14. Francis Christopher Oakley, 1985-1993
  15. Harry C. Payne, 1994-1999
  16. Carl W. Vogt, 1999-2000
  17. Morton Owen Schapiro, 2000-present

Commencement Speakers

Distinguishing features

School colors and origins thereof

Williams' primary school color is purple.

The story goes that at the Williams-Harvard baseball game in 1869, spectators, watching from carriages, had trouble telling the teams apart (there were no uniforms) so one of the onlookers bought ribbons from a nearby millinery store to pin on Williams' players. The only color available was purple. The buyer was Jennie Jerome (later Winston Churchill's mother) whose family summered in Williamstown.

Williams' other color is gold, purple's complementary color, which is why most team uniforms and paraphernalia have purple and a form of gold or yellow as the two dominant colors.

Purple cow

The Williams college mascot, formally established by a vote of the student body in 1907, is a purple cow. This peculiar mascot has several possible sources:

- Gelett Burgess's nonsense poem:

I never saw a purple cow
Nor do I hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

- Another possible source of the mascot is the color of the surrounding mountains, which often appear purple in the light of the setting sun (but which don't really resemble cows).

- A humor magazine in the early 20th Century was named "The Purple Cow."

According to a caption on a photograph at the Williamstown House of Local History, the the purple cow may have come from a student prank: a farmer always left his cow staked near Weston Field, and several students painted the cow purple.

Alma mater

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

Student media

There are several Williams publications produced by students each year. The longest running student newspaper is the Williams Record which is a weekly broadsheet paper produced every Tuesday. Several other newspapers have been founded over the years, but none have survived as long as the Record.

The student yearbook is called the Gulielmensian (named after the Latin word for Williams). It has been irregularly published in the past decade, but dates back to the mid 19th century.

Numerous smaller campus publications of a literary nature are also produced each year, including a campus humor magazine and collections of poetry.

WCFM Williamstown 91.9 broadcasts from new offices in Prospect Hall at 1.1 kilowatts, reaching most of the Berkshire area. As the campus radio station, it is commercial and format free, leaving DJs to program as they wish. It also occasionally broadcasts Williams sporting events and hosts campus concerts. An online feed makes WCFM available to listeners worldwide.

Williams Trivia

At the end of every semester since 1966, the Williams College radio station has hosted an all-night, eight-hour trivia contest. Teams of students, alumni, professors and others compete to answer questions on any number of subjects, identify songs, and perform a variety of unnecessary tasks. The winning team's only prize is the obligation to create and host the following semester's contest.

After Lawrence University's Great Midwest Trivia Contest, which predates it by a matter of days, Williams trivia is the second-oldest continuous competition of its sort in the United States. While other college-based trivia contests in the United States tend to emphasize marathon endurance and revel in the obscurity of their material, the aim of the Williams contest is to cram as much entertaining material into a concentrated space as possible. Over the years the Williams Trivia contest has generally adhered to the credo of its founder, Frank Ferry: "We don't deal in minutia, which may be defined as useless facts with no emotional value. Trivia concerns something you know but can't quite remember."

Despite lasting just eight hours (compared with the weekend-long contests on other campuses), a typical Williams Trivia contest will demand between 900 and 1,200 separate "bits" of trivial information in eight hours, delivering twice as much content as its "competitors" in a fraction of the time. Williams Trivia is also conducted twice a year, so the amount of fresh material needed to sustain the contest from generation to generation is great. However, it should be noted that no discernable rivalry exists between any of the various contests.

Further history and details are available at an archival website (http://wso.williams.edu/orgs/trivia/).

Williams College Museum of Art

The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is one of the best college art museums in the country. With over 12,000 works (only a fraction of which are displayed at any one time) in its permanent collection, it serves as a great educational resource for both undergraduates and students in the graduate art history program.

The collection is incredibly eclectic, featuring both Eastern and Western art, from the ancient world to the contemporary scene. Many different media are represented, including painting, sculpture, photography, and video.

Notable works include "Morning in a City" by Edward Hopper, a commissioned wall painting by Sol LeWitt, and a commissioned outdoor sculpture and landscape work by Louise Bourgeois titled "Eyes".

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

Chapin Library

The Chapin Library is a collection that 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.

The most famous items in the library's collection are the founding documents of the United States of America. These 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.

Alumni society

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

In the years since the Amherst Crisis the generosity of alumni has made Williams one of the wealthiest educational institutions in the United States, with an endowment of over $1 billion.

Not affiliated with the Society of Alumni, but also serving the college's alumni is the Williams Club in New York City. Located at 24 East 39th Street in Manhattan, the club is open to the paying public as a hotel and restaurant, and operates as a meeting space for Williams alumni living in and visiting the city.

Notable alumni

See Williams College alumni.


The school's sports teams are called the Ephmen, or the Ephs (pronounced "Eef", or "if" in IPA) - a shortening of the first name of founder Ephraim Williams. They participate in the NCAA's Division III and the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Williams has had tremendous success winning the NACDA Director's Cup, also known as the Sears Cup. Williams has won the Director's Cup nine of the past ten years, including seven years in a row through 2005. Thus, in 2005, the college achieved #1 ranking in both academics and athletics for liberal arts colleges.

Williams is one of the "Little Three", along with Wesleyan and Amherst.

Williams has a traditional rivalry with Amherst College's Lord Jeffs. Williams and Amherst currently compete in 26 varsity sports and Williams sports a winning record vs. Amherst in 23. Amherst leads only in baseball and men's soccer while the two schools' women's soccer teams were tied, as of 11/6/2003.

Williams played in the 2003 and 2004 men's basketball Division III national championship games, winning the title in March 2003. Other Williams teams to capture national titles since Williams began participating in NCAA tournaments in 1994 include men's tennis, women's tennis, men's cross country, women's cross country, women's crew, and men's soccer.

Academic reputation

Williams is consistently ranked in the top three of U.S. News and World Report's ranking of liberal arts colleges, and has been ranked first for the past two years. It has ranked first in the "academic reputation" category each year that U.S. News has produced a survey.

Williams ranked fifth, after Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, in a 2004 Wall Street Journal survey of the "feeder schools" to the top five business, law, and medical schools in the country.

Williams has produced the most Rhodes Scholars of any liberal arts college in the country with 36.

With an endowment of $1.229 billion, Williams has the second highest endowment among liberal arts colleges in the United States, after Grinnell College (which has an endowment of $1.291 billion). [1] (http://www.nacubo.org/documents/research/FY04NESInstitutionsbyTotalAssetsforPress.pdf) On a per-student basis, its endowment is $615,000 per student, placing it third among liberal arts colleges, after Grinnell ($760,000) and Amherst ($621,000).

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