Tom Parker leaves for Amherst job

Along with 550 new students, a new interim president, several new professors and the new science complex, Williams begins the year with new leadership in the Admissions Office.

Director of Admissions Tom Parker ’69 resigned last spring to become the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Amherst College. Dick Nesbitt ’74 is the new Acting Director of Admissions at Williams, and is joined by Sean Logan ’88 as a new Acting Associate Director.

Tom Parker made the switch to Amherst for several reasons. “Basically it was three or four things,” Parker said. “The first thing was that my wife works at Hampshire College in Amherst,” he said, and he wanted to spend more time with her.

“The second thing was that the position at Amherst gave me responsibility for admissions and financial aid and made me a part of the senior staff, which was not the case at Williams,” Parker added.

“The third thing was that there were a lot more challenges here (at Amherst),” he said.

Parker worked in Williams Admissions for 20 years, including six as the Director, and said he feared becoming stale and unchallenged with such a competent staff and well-defined admissions policy (on issues like affirmative action, alumni children, athletics).

“There are still a lot of philosophical questions to settle at Amherst,” Parker explained. He also said Amherst needs to make more use of statistical analyses, which are already an integral part of the admissions process at Williams.

“Finally, it forced me to think about places that I could represent with enthusiasm, and to be honest, there are only a handful,” he said. Parker said he could move to Amherst because he believes that it, too, provides one of the best small liberal arts educations in the country.

While his reasons were many, Parker said it was still a hard decision for him. “I was tremendously happy at Williams,” he said. “This was the most agonizing decision I’ve ever made,” he said.

Friends and classmates have chided him that he has “gone over to the dark side” and “left the CIA for the KGB,” but Parker said that he embraces the challenges of a new job in a very similar place. “I’ve been laughing a lot because some of the similarities are so uncanny,” he said. “I think we look at one another and see mirror images and one wants to be better than the other. I think competition makes them better.”

Parker does not feel that his departure will make Williams any less of a competitor, either. “Even after Phil [Smith] retired and I left, you still have 45 years of experience in the admissions office,” he said. “One of the things that Williams has going for it is Dick with 15 years of experience,” he added.

Acting Director Dick Nesbitt started working for the Williams Admissions Office part-time in 1978. He was a college counselor at a school outside Philadelphia and interviewed for Williams in the summer. He joined the office on a full-time basis in 1985, spending several years as an associate director of admissions. Due to his experience, “[his promotion] was not necessarily something I was planning on, but I am very comfortable in the position,” he said.

Nesbitt said he is looking forward to the year. “For me, it’s an exciting challenge,” he said. “It’s been interesting me so far because I’ve been asked to sit in on a number of committees. I’ve seen the school’s management from another perspective,” he added.

To fill Nesbitt’s former position, Sean Logan is the new Acting Associate Director. Logan worked in Admissions at Williams for six years, and then left to attend graduate school, work at Stanford, and then at Occidental College. Williams recruited him to add experience to the Admissions staff. “I always thought I would come back to Williams, though I wasn’t thinking of it at the time. Tom’s leaving sort of changed all that,” Logan explained.

Logan also likes his new role. “This has been great,” he said of his return. “I really enjoy this kind of environment,” he said. With their excitement and enthusiasm, Nesbitt and Logan are confident that they can smoothly continue where Tom Parker left off. “We have tremendous energy and competence on the staff. Because of that, we’re able to conduct business as usual,” Nesbitt said.

“Tom is a definite loss because he was well-known and respected, but Tom had really set up a great office…I don’t see there being a big change in terms of the office day-to-day,” Logan said.

With early decision applications for the Class of 2004 due in less than two months, Nesbitt, Logan, and the other members of the admissions staff will be put to the test.