First Year families explore campus, hug their kids

Parents of Williams College first-year students who attended First-Year Family Weekend were greeted with purple and gold balloons, ‘Temporary Registration Parking Only’ signs outside of Baxter Hall, and a folder full of information on the College and activities taking place from October 23 through October 25. Registration was just the beginning of what proved to be a weekend full of campus discovery for parents and siblings and a rediscovery of family dynamics for first-years.

“It’s a big undertaking having so many visitors on campus at one time, but events at Williams go smoothly because everyone helps out,” Jo Proctor, Williams College News Director and organizer of the weekend, said. “I think everyone at the college enjoys family weekends because we think Williams is a wonderful college and we like showing it off and sharing it with parents.”

Information on First-Year Family Weekend was mailed out to parents at the beginning of September. Because of the number of families attending this event, hotels and motels in Williamstown and neighboring areas were inundated with reservations for the weekend. Restaurants as far away as Adams experienced an onslaught of hungry Williams College families. The College swarmed with students showing their parents the layout of the school, their dorms, and the buildings in which they attend class.

First-Year Family Weekend offered parents of first-year students a chance to explore their childrens’ new environment and to see first-hand the resources available to Williams students. Aside from tours of the campus, the College offered walks through Hopkins Forest, tours of the Chapin Rare Books Library, the athletic facilities and the Williams College Museum of Art, and a Planetarium show on Friday night. Dining halls on campus were open to parents interested in experiencing college cuisine throughout the weekend. Classes were open to parents on Friday, Oct. 23. The Berkshire Symphony performed in Chapin Hall on Friday evening. President Payne spoke to parents on Saturday, and he and his wife hosted a reception in the Williams College Art Museum on Saturday evening. The Log was open for dessert and entertainment on Saturday night.

Many parents took advantage of the opportunity to attend classes on Friday. Most parents were impressed with the classes and the quality of teaching at Williams.

“The professors had a sense of humor. They were very warm, very clear and very interesting,” said Cynthia Posner’s’02 mother, who attended her daughter’s Art History course on Friday.

“I was impressed with the math class I went to. The professor was a very good lecturer. He made you feel like you knew what he was talking about even if you really didn’t,” said Peter Partnow, father of Alix Partnow ’02

Dinner on Friday and Saturday night proved to be a complicated affair for families without reservations at a restaurant. The Water Street Grill, The Main Street Café, and other local area restaurants were filled to capacity.

Businesses on Spring Street also experienced a surge in business during the weekend. A Goff’s employee said, “I can’t believe that after buying stuff when the kids visit or get accepted, people still find more stuff to buy.”

Activities on Saturday morning started early with a 7:00 a.m. bird walk led by members of the Williams Outing Club. This was the second of three walks conducted by the Outing Club during the weekend. The first was offered on Friday afternoon and explored the Hopkins Forest. The third walk, on Sunday at 7:30, also went through Hopkins Forest. The morning bird walk, which was guided by Aya Reiss ’00, went to Ephs Pond and the Hoosic River.

“We had fourteen people on the walk. It was a beautiful morning and we saw lots of interesting birds,” Reiss said.

At 9:00 on Saturday morning, four members of the Williams faculty spoke in Chapin Hall on the educational goals and opportunities that the College helps first-year students take advantage of. The panel included David Richardson, Professor and Chair of the Chemistry department, Kerry Christensen, Associate Professor and Chair of the Classics Department, Ralph Bradburd, Professor of Economics, and Charles Toomajian, Associate Dean for Student Services and Registrar. The discussion was well attended and left a favorable impression with many parents.

“I had been concerned with my daughter’s seeming lack of concern with choosing a major, but the panels’ comments on allowing students to experience a variety of subjects while in college made sense to me. I’m less worried about her choosing a major now,” Eva Jager, mother of Kerstin Jager ’02, said.

President of the Colleg Harry C. Payne spoke to parents from 11:00 to noon on Saturday. Parents who attended the talk spoke favorably of the president. Several commented that he seemed accessible, unlike presidents they had when they were in college. The topic of drinking came up during the question and answer portion of the hour. President Payne commented on the issue of alcohol on campus, saying he believed drinking problems on campus would be reduced if the drinking age were lowered to 18. Surprisingly, parents seemed sympathetic with his views.

“I agree with the President’s comment on lowering the drinking age. If you’re old enough to vote, you’re old enough to drink,” said Mr. Partnow.

Parents at First-Year Family Weekend also had the opportunity to experience Williams College dining hall meals. Breakfast and dinner were available to parents on Friday and Saturday. Lunch on Saturday was a buffet in Towne Field House highlighting winners of the Dining Services’ Recipes from Home. Various Williams a capella groups provided entertainment during the luncheon. Brunch was served on Sunday, as usual.

“The luncheon was the only chance we had to speak to other parents from our daughter’s entry,” said Jake and Cathie Wheeler.

“The a capella groups were great, but a little hard to hear because of the acoustics in the Field House,” Andrea Lee ’02 said.

“We ate in the dining hall on Friday night. The food was far better than college food as I recall it,” Dan Lee, father of Jennifer Lee ’02, said.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the Frosh Review. Performances took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with two performances a night. Cast members had already performed 6 shows the previous weekend, but they still managed to wow their audiences this weekend.

“Frosh Review was appropriately irreverent and very insightful,” said Cathie Wheeler, who met two of the cast members. “It was nice to have met two of the kids that were in it.”

The Schwabs, whose son Daniel was in Frosh Review, were very happy with their son’s performance as well as the whole performance.

“We thought it was a riot,” said Anne Schwab. “The admissions skit resonated because the application process was still so fresh in our memories.”

Siblings of first-years who attended First-Year Family Weekend had different views on what it was like to see their brothers or sisters again.

Brandon Lee, brother of Jennifer, said he spent most of his time in the car. Emily Wheeler said, “Having my sister away makes me realize how much I miss her. It was great to see her.”