In high school, the arrival of yearbooks was eagerly anticipated as an end of the year tradition, signaling the coming of summer and, particularly for seniors, a closing of a life chapter. In college, this is often not the case, as yearbooks are distributed in the fall, and yearbook signing is a forgotten tradition. However, for those who do decide to purchase them, they serve as a visual reminder of the times that have passed.
The Gulielmensian, affectionately known as “the Gul,” serves as both a record of a student’s year at Williams and as a sort of historical documentation of the year’s events. The 142 editions of the yearbook housed in the College archives provide a fascinating overview of how the College has changed since the yearbook’s inception. The yearbook’s name was invented, but has the Latin meaning, “pertaining to Williams.”
Not just a senior book, it is the staff’s goal that every Williams student have a picture in the book, whether it is in a sports photo, a candid shot of social events or campus organizations or a dorm group picture. Almost all of the photos in the book are taken by student photographers, with the exception of the professional senior portraits and the photos from graduation.
The book is usually handed out in late September to allow time for pictures from graduation ceremonies to be added. This means that the book serves as a record of the entire year, particularly for seniors, for whom graduation is the culmination of their four years at Williams. This year’s book, which is being distributed Tuesday-Thursday in Baxter from 11 to 1 p.m., is one of the largest ever, with 240 pages, 32 of which are in color. These books are being handed out to those who ordered them last year, although there are extra copies available for $80 on a first-come, first-serve basis. Yearbook staff will also be taking orders for next year’s book at the introductory price of $65, which will increase after this week. The yearbooks can be charged to students’ term bill.
The 2002 Gul, sold for about $70, utilizes the theme “Illuminate,” which emphasizes unified Williams community, particularly in the wake of the tragedies of Sept. 11. The photo on the cover, taken at a candlelight vigil held shortly after the attacks, serves as a visual image of this theme, and as Jason Davis ’05, one of the two editors of the Gul, said, “captured everything we wanted to express about Williams.” The book includes a tribute to several Williams alumni who were killed in the attacks.
Davis and his co-editor Katherine McGrath ’03 are pleased with the 2002 Gul. Last year was difficult for the yearbook staff because the 2001 yearbook had not been completed on schedule and the staff was almost entirely new. Juniors and seniors focused on finishing the 2001 yearbook, which eventually came out six months late in March 2002, while the underclassmen struggled to learn the process of making a yearbook amid the confusion left behind by the former editors. “Until October, we didn’t even know the 2001 yearbook hadn’t been released,” Davis said. “Everyone who was involved last year is really proud of the 2002 Gul because it came from nothing.”
Davis and McGrath continue to set their sights higher. They hope that next year’s book will be larger, have an increased page count and have more color spread throughout the book. Davis mentioned plans to include feature spreads and spotlights on underclassmen. “We want everyone in the book at least once and hopefully multiple times,” he said.
They are also hoping to increase the number of books sold. The 2002 edition sold roughly 625 copies, 400 of which were sold to seniors. The editors hope that this year the student body will purchase over 1000 copies and that a high number of upperclassmen will invest in the yearbook.
“I think that traditionally what’s happened is it’s been a senior book,” Davis said. “It should be an everybody book. Theoretically, everyone is in it at least once. And the more people you can sell it to, the better the book can be.”
The Gul, which is independent of College Council, relies on senior ads and subscriptions to cover production costs. This year’s staff includes 19 students working in production and 10 staff photographers. It appears to be significantly larger than previous staffs.
The integration of the student body as a whole in a record of the year creates the opportunity for alumni to relive their college days, upperclassmen to tell freshmen stories of their time here and for potential students to get a glimpse of what Williams is really like. Davis noted that at his high school, the yearbook was a well-established institution. “I want to bring that attitude here, and make the yearbook something that really stands out,” he said.