Community loses Florence Chandler

On July 16, Florence Gordon Chandler, wife of former College president John W. Chandler, died at Berkshire Place in Pittsfield, Mass. She was 83.

Chandler was born on Feb. 18, 1925 in Pittsboro, N.C., and graduated from the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina in the 1940s. After graduating, she served various positions in the field of education, including a stint as the Assistant Dean of Women at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C.

She married John in 1948, and follwed him to Williamstown when he joined the College faculty a few years later. She lived in the area for much of the rest of her life, involving herself in the Williams community in many ways as her husband served at various times as faculty member, president and president emeritus.

In an e-mail announcing Chandler’s death to the campus, President Schapiro highlighted the many ways in which Chandler “added to the life of the College.” “She brought to the Williams family her delightful Southern elegance, intelligence and charm,” he said.

While she never officially held a position at the College, Chandler’s service alongside her husband was appreciated by all who met her. “By the time she moved out of the Williams President’s House in 1985, Florence had worked constantly for more than 20 years alongside her husband, interacting with alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents of students and townspeople,” said her son, John W. Chandler Jr., in his funeral address. “She never received a penny of monetary compensation for this role, and refused to consider accepting compensation when trustees brought up the possibility.”

Chandler was a source of comfort for members of the College community in need. “Ministering to human need came naturally to Florence, [who reflected] qualities all too rare in our world today – humility, dignity, grace and sacrifice,” her son said.

In 1995, the Chandler was awarded the Ephraim Williams Medal in recognition of her outstanding dedication to the College as a non-alumnus. The Class of 1945 Florence Chandler Fellowship, awarded annually to one senior to support a year of postgraduate “intellectual and personal development” abroad, was named in her honor.

Chandler is survived by her husband, John; son, John; daughters, Alison Chandler ’75, Patricia Chandler Finn and Jennifer Chandler; sister, Ruth Averitt; and five grandchildren.

“We miss her already as our thoughts and prayers are with John and their children: Alison, John, Patricia and Jennifer,” Schapiro said in the e-mail. Chander’s memorial service was held on July 24 at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown, where she was a long-time member.