Williams College President Harry C. Payne presented seven of the College’s Bicentennial Medals April 9. Established in 1993 on the occasion of the College’s 200th anniversary, Bicentennial Medals honor members of the Williams community for distinguished achievement in any field of endeavor.
The honored recipients were: Tsong-zung Chang ’73, curator and dealer of contemporary Chinese art; Martha M. Coakley ’75, Middlesex County District Attorney; Dominick Dunne ’49, writer; Henry N. Flynt ’44, civic leader; James P. Stearns ’70, emergency coordinator for CARE International; Joseph C. Thompson ’81, director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art; and Martha A. Williamson ’77, executive producer of the television series Touched by an Angel and Promised Land.
Dunne’s career has spanned television, films and writing. After graduating from Williams in 1949, he began working in the new media of television and eventually worked as stage manager for such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and Ginger Rogers. He was executive producer of the series Adventures in Paradise.
He then turned to film, producing such critically acclaimed titles as The Boys in the Band, The Panic in Needle Park, and Play It As It Lays.
In addition to regular contributions to Vanity Fair, including the first interview with Imelda Marcos after she fled the Philippines, he has written the best-selling novels The Two Mrs. Grenvilles, People Like Us and Another City: Not My Own.
James P. Stearns
After graduating from Williams in 1970, Stearns began teaching in Australia. Serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia, he joined CARE International for whom he has worked ever since on relief projects in Africa.
He is currently assisting in food provision to the roughly 100,000 people internally displaced by political turmoil in Sierra Leone. Earlier this decade he helped initiate aid to Rwandan refugees in Tanzania and led the CARE team in Mogadishu, Somalia during and following the U.S. military intervention known as Operation Restore Hope.
Chang is considered the foremost advocate of Chinese contemporary art. In 1977, four years after graduating from Williams, Chang opened the Hanart TZ Gallery in his native Hong Kong.
As curator, agent and mentor, he has become the prime advocate of Chinese contemporary art in both Asia and the West. Because much of this work questions established understandings of Chinese history and contemporary experience, it is not well supported within the country and these artists need the attention and support that Chang has focused on them to survive.
Williamson’s Touched by an Angel and Promised Land are among the most watched and critically praised programs on television. They are particularly noted for pioneering the treatment of religious themes in prime time.
Touched by an Angel, with more than 20 million viewers per week, chronicles how three angels touch the lives of people struggling in some way with life and in bring the message that God loves them. In Promised Land, an unemployed construction worker, played by Gerald McRaney, and his family travel the country in a trailer looking for work and for opportunities to do good.
Williamson, who graduated from Williams in 1977, began writing for television in 1984 on programs for Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers, and Walt Disney Television, among others. Her first staff writing position was with The Facts of Life. Her first producing credits were with Jack’s Place and Under One Roof.
In addition to his work as long-term director of the College’s financial aid program, Flynt has played a pivotal role in the development of Historic Deerfield (Mass.) and in the civic life of Williamstown.
A 1944 graduate of Williams, he has served as a trustee of Historic Deerfield since its founding in 1952. Along with a term as president, he has also served as chair since 1986. The museum consists of more than 60 houses of the 18th and 19th centuries within the Old Deerfield Historic Landmark.
In Williamstown, he has served on or led the board of virtually every civic and educational organization. He has been president of the Williamstown Community Chest and Rotary Club, chair of Pine Cobble School and the 1753 House Committee, co-chair of the 1765 Bicentennial Committee, treasurer of the Williamstown Theatre Festival and board member of the Williamstown Historical Commission.
Coakley was elected Middlesex County District Attorney last November. She previously served as head of that office’s Child Abuse Prosecution Unit and has also investigated and prosecuted violent felony and white collar crimes.
From 1987 to 1989 she was special attorney for the Department of Justice assigned to the Boston Organized Crime Strike Force, for which she focused on organized crime, public corruption and labor and IRS criminal investigations.
She served as president of the Mass. Women’s Bar Association and as a member of the state’s Children’s Justice Act Task Force. In 1997 she won the Democratic nomination for state representative from the 13th Suffolk District.
Thompson helped develop the concept of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) while working at the Williams College Museum of Art and has served as director of MASS MoCA since its approval by the state legislature in 1988.
He has led the 11-year effort to convert a 13-acre historic mill complex in North Adams, Mass. into a multi-disciplinary center for visual, performing, and media arts.
The process leading to this May’s opening has involved creative re-imagining of the museum’s original concept, deft handling of changing politics at the state house, and successful fund raising.