Williams and Oxford: a 75 year history

The year 2003, will mark the 75th anniversary of Williams College’s affiliation with Oxford University’s Exeter College.

This relationship began with the tragic death of John Edmund Moody ’21, who was studying English language and literature at Exeter. At the age of 25, Moody died of typhoid fever on April 10, 1926 in Messina, Italy on his way back from spending his spring vacation in northern Africa.

At Williams, Moody was very active in College life, especially in its literary societies. He was the editor-in-chief of both the Williams Literary Monthly and the Purple Cow, and was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity.

In memory of their son and brother’s death, a $40,000 gift was made to the College to endow a graduate scholarship for a two-year study at Oxford University’s Exeter College by Mr. and Mrs. John Moody and Ernest Moody ’24. Interestingly enough, the donor, John Moody, was the founder of Moody’s Investors Service, the now famous $800 million credit ratings, research and financial information company.

According to Alumni Office records, the Moody Scholarship was one of the first graduate scholarships at Williams and filled a much needed void on campus. The 1927-1928 Williams College Catalog said that “the basis of this award is general intellectual ability as shown in the major field of study, with special reference to promise of original and creative work; character and need of financial assistance.”

The first recipient of the Moody Scholarship was Hugh Murdoch MacMullan ’28, who was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Gargoyle Society, and Cap and Bells, founder of the Little Theater and editor-in-chief of The Williams Graphic.

After receiving a Bachelor of Letters degree in 1931 from Exeter College, MacMullan went on to become a major Hollywood and Broadway producer, director and writer.

Employed by Warner Brothers in 1930s, MacMullan produced or assisted in over 30 Broadway plays. In 1938, MacMullan went to Hollywood where he worked for Columbia Pictures and Warner Brothers as a dialog director on 17 films, including “Casablanca” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

During the Second World War, MacMullan wrote, produced and directed over 60 “training, propaganda and educational films,” including two that pioneered the use of film in psychotherapy. Afterwards, MacMullan was a producer for Cascade Films, professor of film at UCLA and an author of several books and plays.

In March of 1958, the Record reported that seven Williams alums were pursuing graduate degrees at Oxford. Director of Student Aid, Henry Flynt, said this group was the largest from Williams since before World War II.

As a Moody Scholar studying at Exeter, Ralph Aiken ’54 described this jump in the number of Ephs at Oxford as an “invasion.” “People are beginning to ask where this Williams place is, and what’s going on in them thar [sic] hills. I wouldn’t be surprised if we rivaled the Harvard delegation by now,” Aiken said.

In a 1981 Alumni Review, Rhodes Scholar Karon Walker ’80 reported that the Williams-Oxford tradition continued strong – both in and out of the classroom.

Walker and Moody Scholar Chuck Anderson ’79 were members of Exeter during their graduate studies of art history and PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) respectively. Anderson was also a member of Exeter’s graduate intramural rugby team.

During the 1984-1985 academic year, the College took its relationship with Exeter and Oxford to the next level by launching the Williams College Oxford Programme (WCOP), a comprehensive, junior year, study abroad program for Williams students.

With the help of John Botts ’62, managing director of Citicorp International, Williams spent $750,000 to purchase four adjacent houses that were formerly used

as a private language school.

Renovated and collectively renamed the “Ephraim Williams House,” these same four houses still serve today as the home of WCOP students. Three of the houses serve as student residences with office spaces, kitchens, a library, common rooms and dining hall while the fourth house serves as the residence of the director and the director’s family.

In the Fall of 1984 Alumni Review, President Chandler said the WCOP is “a program more closely integrated with the Oxford structure than any other [university] in America.”

Chandler’s excitement was shared by his Exeter counterpart, Lord Crowther-Hunt, the Rector of Exeter. Crowther-Hunt said that WCOP is “a very exciting venture with enormous potential. It could be the most important development this century for our respective institutions.”

Initially, studies at WCOP consisted of a mix of traditional Oxford tutorials and small Williams discussion seminars. However, several years later WCOP abandoned all of the small, discussion classes in order to concentrate students focus entirely on tutorial work.

By being formally affiliated with Exeter, WCOP students are Exeter students for the year and are welcomed and encouraged to participate in all of Exeter’s sports teams, lectures, art groups, discussion and every other student organization.

While the Williams College Oxford Programme is alive and well, so is the Moody Scholarship, which began the Williams-Oxford relationship back in 1928. According to the Dean’s Office website, the most recent winners of this fellowship are Katherine Desormeau ’02 and Stephanie Frank ’01.

WCOP’s current director, Chris Waters, professor of History, is continuing to work to improve the program. As Williams students at Oxford are currently associate students of Oxford, preliminary talks are already underway to make next year’s WCOP students classified full visiting students, which would give students greater access to the Oxford libraries and other University services. While this change may seem minor, it is anything but, as the changes in status has to be approved by the bureaucracy of the University as a whole.

In addition, under Waters’ leadership, the College invested over $60,000 in renovations to the Ephraim Williams House and more are scheduled in the coming years.

After 75 years, Williams’s relationship

with Exeter is a strong as ever and with the continuous improvements and enhancements made, this important relationship might last another 75 years and hopefully more.

Thanks to Sylvia Kennick Brown of the Williams College Archives who provided invaluable research assistance in creating this report.