In a college town as quaint as Williamstown, President Adam Falk and his family are some of the closest people to celebrities. If one called Williamstown a little nation, one could liken the Falk family to the First Family. Just as many Americans are fascinated by Malia and Sasha Obama and their Portuguese Water Dog Bo, Ephs in the Purple Valley and beyond want to get to know Falk and company on a more personal level. Though quasi-stardom must be a little daunting for the family, President Falk and his wife Karen kindly opened the doors of their sun-filled home and gave me a peek into their day-to-day life.
After I opened the door to the white house atop Route 2, I was greeted with firm handshakes from the president and his wife. Promptly, a white blur of fluff bounded onto the scene. My college-induced dog deprivation made my introduction to the Falk family’s three-year-old poodle Casey quite a joyous event. To the homey soundtrack of children playing upstairs, the four of us (Casey included) moved into the living room and started discussing the story of this family from the beginning.
When President Falk was involved in high-energy physics research at John Hopkins University, he worked on the same floor as the soon-to-be Mrs. Falk. Fast forward more than 14 years, and the couple now has three children: 14-year-old Briauna, nine-year-old David and eight-year old Alex. Other members of the family not to be forgotten are the pet turtle, whose name was changed to William after the family moved to the College, and the pet ferret Samson (sadly, the other ferret Delilah recently passed away).
Briauna attends Buxton School, a small boarding and day school in the area that President Falk described as “somewhat alternative and progressive.” According to her dad, Briauna enjoys drawing and is fast on her way to making friends after only a few days of school. Days at the school are apparently quite long; Briauna stays through dinner, only returning home around 10 p.m. “She’s at school right now, which I think is great for her – getting up early on Saturday morning and working,” President Falk said jokingly.
David and Alex are quite the young athletes. Both play soccer, which their dad coached for a while, and lacrosse. And those are not the only games the two boys play avidly. “My boys are Wii boys,” President Falk said. “In fact, we don’t use Microsoft. No Microsoft. We’re a Mac family. Well, I guess we have to use Microsoft Word.”
Mrs. Falk fleshed out the boys’ interests. “Everything Nerf related seems to be quite big right now,” she said, gesturing around the room towards the Nerf darts that she knew were lurking in corners under the furniture. “The other day I had to carry a Nerf gun to a friend’s house. I didn’t want to walk across campus carrying a huge Nerf gun, so I put it in a sack, but part of it was still sticking out. I wonder what people thought,” she said laughingly.
As a family, the Falks particularly enjoy watching movies. “We’re a big Star Wars family. There’s kind of a division in our family about the movies,” President Falk said. “Our children are of the generation that thinks Star Wars starts with the first movie, but we consider the third one to be the first movie.” Other movie favorites for the family include the entire Harry Potter movie series and a handful of flicks from the ’80s.
The favored music of every Falk family member is some variant of heavy metal – think Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly. It’s no wonder that even Alex likes the genre, as his mother introduced him to it at an early age. “I’d play it in the car on the way to school every morning,” Mrs. Falk said. President Falk claims that his music choice isn’t entirely composed of heavy metal. His music taste extends to such artists as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Talking Heads, Billy Bragg, Kings of Leon, Lyle Lovett, Indigo Girls, The Wallflowers and Billy Joel.
Family dinners are also an important Falk ritual. According to master chef Mrs. Falk, her husband possesses considerable culinary talents in a few areas, namely in the chocolate chip cookie department.
Almost immediately after the words “chocolate chip cookie” passed Mrs. Falk’s lips, a little Falk popped into the room, solemnly shook my hand after his parents introduced him as Alex and snuggled up against his mother on the sofa. When asked about his favorite food, he replied without hesitation: “Steak!” “But you don’t eat steak very often, do you?” asked his mother. “Yes, I do all the time!” “Then you must be eating other dinners than me,” his father said light-heartedly.
In fact, President Falk did go out on a limb with local cuisine recently, trying raw milk for the first time. “It wasn’t pasteurized. That’s why it looked a little green,” he explained to his young son. “Ew!” said Alex. “Don’t worry, Alex,” his father said. “I drank it all myself.”
One food-related topic about which Alex and his parents were undoubtedly in concordance was the superior quality of Lickety Split ice cream (Alex is a cookies ’n cream guy, David likes vanilla and Mrs. Falk prefers the Purple Cow flavor). President Falk had quite a pleasant surprise when he discovered the store sells Herrell’s Ice Cream, which was his favorite variety when he was in graduate school. “There was a Herrell’s store in Cambridge, and I would get ice cream there on the weekends,” President Falk said. “Now I’ve moved back to the favorite ice cream I’ve ever had.”
As of yet, President Falk has not tasted one of the College’s famous Mountain Day doughnuts. However, he quite looks forward to doing so after he climbs Mt. Greylock with students. “I can’t wait for hiking on Mountain Day,” President Falk said. “My favorite thing about Williamstown is the land. I walk to my office every day and just look around at the mountains.”
If this snapshot of Falk and company whetted rather than quenched the desire of curious Ephs to know more about our favorite new family, never fear. Falk’s family has only a few secret service agents and paparazzi clouds hovering around it. If one happens to walk past Paresky Center at just the right time, one may yet see Mrs. Falk stealthily carrying a Nerf gun. And as Tunnel City is President Falk’s professed hang out spot; one may wait bleary-eyed for one’s daily dose of caffeine next to the new president.