Letter to the Editor: Alumni legacy

To the Editor:

The lighthearted survey conducted by Ryan Fajardo ’17 of the “imprint” of alumni on the College (“Alumni Legacy Donations Leave Behind Eclectic Variety of Memoria,” Oct. 9) is an apt reminder to undergraduates and alumni, alike, of the importance of the alumni “legacy” in the history and success of Williams College.

The College exists today because of the unbroken devotion of generations of Williams alumni.  In September of 1821, our alumni forebears, led by Emory Washburn (Class of 1817 and eventual governor of Massachusetts), saved Williams from an ignominious demise at the hands of defectors about whom we need not speak. Washburn and his compatriots had the vision to establish what is now the world’s oldest continuing college or university alumni organization, the Society of Alumni of Williams College. Their “descendants” – each graduating class who become members of the Society at Commencement – have sustained the College ever since, with their hearts, minds, time and resources. This ethic of “giving back” to Williams – as volunteers, as contributors of the prized gift of unrestricted annual Alumni Fund contributions (in any amounts, small or large, all of which the College truly appreciates) or as donors of named endowments, objects and structures such as those cataloged by Fajardo – is a key reason why Williams keeps its edge. By giving back, as did our predecessors, we honor the “long purple line” and help to assure that the Williams experience becomes more meaningful and more satisfying for each successive entering class.

I salute Fajardo for prompting us, in good humor, to appreciate the significance of this historic Williams phenomenon of “legacy.” In all seriousness, I hope that he and his Eph cohort always remember and honor it. As to his specific quest (“to find the best way to imprint my name here after my glory days”), I hope that he finds the way to leave a mark – tangible, intangible, large, small, financial or otherwise – that will prompt some future first-year student to ask, in much the same vein as his article, “What is it about all these alumni that they continue to love Williams so much and to show it so deeply, so many years after they have left the Purple Valley?” The answer to that paramount question, I trust, will always be imprinted in each Eph’s memory of this special place.

Rich Levy ’74

Former President of the Society of Alumni of Williams College, 2006-08