This Week in Williams History: First female dean, Rock Fan removal, Paresky grand opening

Bellamy Richardson and Lucy Walker

“This Week in Williams History” is a column dedicated to looking back at memorable moments in the College’s past through articles in the Record. This week in history, the College appointed its first female dean, removed the infamous Rock Fan from in front of Chapin Hall, and debuted the Paresky Center.

Feb. 10, 1970: ‘First Woman Dean Appointed’

In February 1970, the Record announced the College’s decision to appoint Nancy McIntire to the position of assistant dean, making her the first ever female dean at the College. McIntire previously served as director of financial aid at Radcliffe College and began her new role at the College on July 1, 1970.

McIntire’s primary responsibility as assistant dean was to facilitate the College’s transition to co-education as it planned to admit “100 to 125” female students to the first-year class in 1971 and aimed to reach “a female enrollment of 450 by 1974.”

In 1983, McIntire became assistant to the president for affirmative action and government relations, and at the annual meeting of the Society of Alumni in 2005, she was awarded The Ephraim Williams Medal for her service and loyalty to the College, according to an article on the College’s website. She worked at the College until her retirement in 2006.

Feb. 15, 1994: ‘Love it or hate it, Rock Fan to be removed in March’ 

Beginning in September of 1993, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) hosted an exhibition of work by the sculptor David Hammons. The exhibit consisted of two works: “Yardbird Suite” and “Rock Fan.” The latter was controversial among students. Many found it to be ugly, while others questioned its meaning and purpose. 

Rock Fan consisted of a large rock with many electric fans attached to it. It was positioned directly in front of Chapin Hall, much to the chagrin of some students. On Feb. 15, the Record announced the departure of “Rock Fan,” slated for March 23, and reported both student celebrations and ambivalence. 

The article, written by Eli Boritz ’97, described the statue as “controversial from the first day of its exhibition.” One student, Iein Valdez ’97, told the Record that the piece “really disrupted campus.” He added, “Williams College has such an elegant campus, and then there’s this odd-looking fan sculpture right in front of the nicest buildings. It may be a nice piece of art, but I don’t think it belongs where it is right now, and I don’t think I’ll want it back after it’s gone.” 

Other students tried to defend the work. “I thought it was a very nice, interesting piece of modern art,” Sheyda Hussein ’97 said.  “Now, though, it seems to have lost its novelty. And since it was vandalized on Homecoming Weekend … well, I suppose it’s about time they got rid of it.” Students had painted the rock purple on Homecoming, and others had scattered their own small paper fans around the statue. 

At the time of the article’s publication, WCMA had not yet announced what exhibition would replace Hammon’s work. The “Rock Fan” now resides on a hill near Westlawn Cemetery and is still slightly purple. 

Feb. 14, 2007: ‘The Paresky Center Grand Opening’

In anticipation of the Paresky Center’s grand opening on Friday, Feb. 16, the Record published six articles about the new building as well as 17 photos of it — three of which were in color on the front page — including shots of the building’s exterior as well as individual rooms such as Baxter Hall and the Paresky Auditorium. 

Record Executive Editor Shannon Chiu ’08 interviewed David Paresky ’60, the student center’s namesake whose multi-million dollar gift in 2004 made the construction of the Paresky Center possible. Paresky, who attended the College on a scholarship, donated money to the College to fund scholarships for the next generation of students. “When I made the contribution to the College, I gave it with the intention of enhancing the overall ability of the College to provide scholarships and a greater educational experience,” Paresky said.

Paresky also said he was “very satisfied” with the College’s decision to use part of his 2004 donation to construct the new student center. “I was so honored that the Board of Trustees chose to name the facility after me,” he said.

Amid all the excitement about the new student center, Professor of Art History Michael Lewis, who specializes in architectural history, argued that the building’s design looked “flashy,” like a billboard. Professor of Art History E.J. Johnson disagreed, saying that the Paresky Center was actually reserved in order to “play second fiddle to Chapin.”

Other articles in the Paresky Center series included a feature on the project manager, Michael Briggs, insight into the locally sourced construction materials, and a piece on the student center’s 490 new chairs, which were designed by alums.