From the Record (txt):

Coffin Incident Closed By Expulsion Of Two

The two students who attacked Chaplain Coffin’s home with a shotgun last Saturday night have been expelled from the college.

After a brief review of the case, the Student-Faculty Disipline Committee recommended the expulsion to President Baxter. Baxter followed the committee’s recommendation and approved the expulsion on his return to Williamstown Sunday morning.

Official notification was sent to the students Monday. Appeal against the decision might be made to the President, but it is unlikely that a reversal could be obtained.

I have heard a rumor that the facts of the case are not what they appear from the historical record. First, that there may have been a third student involved, a student who was never punished, who graduated and went on to a long and successful career in finance. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Second, that one of the students punished had nothing to do with the attack but took the fall for his fraternity brother.

What have you heard?

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See here for an update on the activities of EphBlog’s favorite student organization: Uncomfortable Learning.

One of the most concerning trends on college campuses over the last several decades has been the increasing monopoly over academic culture by an orthodox ideology. Although all collegiate institutions are vulnerable to this, the absence of intellectual diversity is felt particularly strongly at small, liberal arts colleges. The rise of one-sided, partisan thought has ultimately drowned out reasoned discussion and suppressed opportunities for conversation of alternate opinions. Professors and students are unwilling to comment on what they see at Williams and across universities due to the current culture that views diversity of thought as a threat.

Uncomfortable Learning was started by Benjamin Fishberg ’14, David Gaines ’15, and James Hitchcock ’15 in Winter of 2014 as a guest lecturer series seeking to facilitate further discussion of topics that are often one-sidedly supported on campus.

Good luck to Matthew Hennessy ’17 and Didier Jean-Michel ’17, the new co-presidents.

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2005 Commencement (Source: Williams College Archives)

2005 Commencement (Source: Williams College Archives)

Civil rights giant Julian Bond passed away last week at the age of 75. Co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, enactment of the Civil Rights Act enabled Bond to be elected to the Georgia House of Representatives — which refused to seat him. Bond took the legal fight over his election to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor 9-0, and Bond remained in the Georgia Legislature for the next two decades. A civil, calm, and eloquent face of the civil rights movement, he later became a professor at the University of Virginia and chairman of the NAACP, a post which he held for a decade.

During his career, Bond wasa repeat visitor to Williams. In April, 1969, he came to Williams to advocate “Community Socialism,” speaking in Thompson Chapel to a standing-room crowd. Later, he returned as an Arnold Bernhard ’25 visiting professor in 1992, a keynote speaker for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2000, and the Baccalaureate Speaker in 2005.

According to the April 15, 1969 Williams Record (pdf) Bond’s 1969 speech focused on his rejection of capitalism:

“Income for the many instead of profits for the few” should be the rationale of economic reform. Bond told the standing-room-only Chapel audience. He stated he was strongly opposed to the principle of single ownership. President Nixon’s
call for Black Capitalism, now termed Minority Entrepeneurshlp, would force the Black
poor “to adopt an economic systsm which hasn’t even worked for the whites,” Bond said. Unfortunately, a policy of “wholesome lives for many rather than profits for few” would not get a politician far in this country today,” Bond stated…

At present, “America’s Black poor constitute a colony within the larger white nation,” Bond continued. In this system of colonialization the mother country steals from the blacks and gives nothing in return, he said.

Bond, as pictured in the Williams Record, 1969

Bond, as pictured in the Williams Record, 1969

In his 2000 address, Bond began, as he often did, with the story of his grandfather’s rise from slavery to valedictory speaker, and then with the history of the NAACP, before moving into a strident condemnation of modern-day American society as racist and a demand for equality of outcome. Here’s an excerpt from the Record’s coverage :

After Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus James MacGregor Burns ’39 introduced Bond as a “healer” and unifier of the civil rights movement, Bond began his lecture by asking, “How do we speak about race in America without making people uncomfortable?” Race issues, he said, make people uncomfortable, but they must be discussed in spite of this.

Bond noted that only his father’s generation separates him from slavery. His grandfather was born in 1863 in Kentucky. At age 15, he walked across Kentucky to Berea College. Fifteen years later he graduated and gave the commencement address. Bond said his grandfather demonstrated the attitude that will change race relationships in America.

He berated those who want to replace race-based affirmative action with economic based affirmative action. “As long as race counts in America, we have to count race,” Bond argued.

He disparaged the failure of many cities to compile statistics on race motivated crimes, noting that without data, “there is no discrimination.”

The end of “American apartheid” in the 1960s has made it too easy to believe discrimination has disappeared when, in reality, Bond said, it has not. Polls have shown that inequalities still exist in educational opportunities and rates of success for minorities in America.

According to Bond, “race is a central fact of life for all non-white Americans.” He warned the audience about a “dangerous nostalgic narrative” in recent movies and books that eliminate civil rights violations and racial complexities from their portrayal of the past.

Bond’s 2005 Baccalaureate address began in the same place, with the story of his grandfather and the history of the NAACP. But it ended far more optimistically:

Most of those who made the movement were not famous; they were faceless. They were not notable; they were nameless – marchers with tired feet, protestors beaten back by fire hoses and billy clubs, unknown women and men who risked job and home and life.

As we will honor you graduates tomorrow for what you have achieved, so should you honor them for what they achieved for you.

They helped you learn how to be free.

They gave you the freedom to enter the larger world protected from its worst abuses.

If you are black or female, their struggles prevent your race or gender from being the arbitrary handicap today it was then.

If you belong to an ethnic minority or if you are disabled, your ethnicity or disability cannot be used to discriminate against you now as it was then.

If you are Christian or Jewish or Muslim, your faith cannot be an impediment to your success. As you grow older, because of what they did then, you will be able to work as long as you are able. Your job – your responsibility – is to make these protections more secure, to expand then for your generation and for those who will soon follow you.

Wherever you may go from here, if there are hungry minds or hungry bodies nearby, you can feed them. If there are precincts of the powerless poor nearby, you can organize them. If there is racial or ethnic injustice, you can attack and destroy it.

The choice is yours.

Not every choice you make will be momentous. But in order to be ready for the momentous, you need to be guided by moral principles in the mundane.

Don’t let the din of the dollar deafen you to the quiet desperation of the dispossessed. Don’t let the glare of greed blind you to the many in need.

You must place interest in principle above interest on principal.

An early attempt at ending illiteracy in the South developed a slogan – “Each One Teach One” until all could read.

Perhaps your slogan could be “Each One Reach One.”

As you go forward, remember these final lines from James Russell Lowell’s poem:

Though the cause of evil prosper,
Yet ’tis truth alone is strong.
Though her portion be the scaffold,
And upon the throne be wrong.
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And beyond the dim unknown
Stands God within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own.

May He watch over you.

I don’t have any information about his stint as a visiting professor, so if there are any readers with recollections, please share.

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Picking up our review of the presidential field with the Republicans, we’ll go alphabetically. This edition will start with Bush, Jeb,  and go through Gilmore, Jim. 

What? You thought I was going to cover them all in one post? If you’re that pithy, maybe you should join us as an author!

Jeb Bush.

Education. University of Texas.

Comment: As the son and brother of former Presidents, Bush is the ultimate legacy candidate. At least until another Adams, Roosevelt, or Harrison comes along (or Chelsea Clinton runs). He did attend Andover, which has fitted numerous Ephs for their purple over the years (President Baxter, for example). And he was a varsity tennis player – at Andover and at UT. That’s kind of Eph. But running for president, he looks like a slacker who expects to be elected by acclaim, and that’s not the Williams way.

Dr. Ben Carson.

Education. Yale, University of Michigan Medical School.

Comment: In his turn on the GOP debate stage, Carson sounded like he was running for philosopher-king, not president. He would fit right into the Political Economy curriculum at Williams. He’s a pediatric neurosurgeon, which is pretty much the career to which the plurality of pre-med Ephs seem to aspire. And he turned down an appointment to West Point in favor of Yale, a little bit like the “Choose Williams over Harvard” mantra that we at EphBlog encourage.

Chris Christie.

Education: University of Delaware, Seton Hall Law School.

Comment: We know he’s the beefiest, but is he the Ephiest? Well, New Jersey is a pretty classic Eph state, and so it’s hardly surprising that Dr. Chris Rodriguez ’99 serves as the Director of Homeland Security in Christie’s gubernatorial administration. Another Eph link: Gail Gordon, a key financier for Christie, is married to Eph legislator Bob Gordon ’72.

Ted Cruz.

Education. Princeton, Harvard Law School.

Comment: Finally, an actual Eph link! Cruz’s chief adviser on national security, Victoria Coates, is an Eph (MA ’92) who studied art history. Cruz has a few other Eph-esque qualities. He attended Princeton, a favorite “other school” to which Ephs apply. Top-ranked debater on APDA in the 1990s, just like a string of Ephs: Chris Willenken ’97, Jonathan Kravis ’99, and one-time EphBlogger Jeff Zeeman. Bonus: although Cruz looks un-athletic, he played intramural basketball at Harvard Law, where he trash-talked constitutional law with Eph Ted Ruger ’90 (now Dean of Penn Law School).

Carly Fiorina.

Education. Stanford, then an MBA from the University of Maryland. And a management degree from MIT.

Comment: Well, Stanford is the Williams of Division I. And putting a double-major in Philosophy and Medieval History to use as a Fortune 20 CEO role is a pretty Eph thing to do. Bonus Eph link: Fiorina likes to speak on the campaign trail about how Hillary Clinton adapted the title of her State Department memoir, Hard Choices, from Fiorina’s 2006 memoir, Tough Choices. Fiorina leaves out, however, that she in turn stole “Tough Choices” from a 1990s Sage Hall entry t-shirt emblazoned with the same slogan.*

Jim Gilmore.

Who? You know, the guy who ruined the presidential chances of one of the most promising Eph politicians of our generation, then Lieutenant Governor (now Rep.) Don Beyer, by upsetting him in the 1997 Virginia gubernatorial race. For that alone, his Eph score is a zero.

Rep. Don Beyer ’72.

Verdict: We’re through about 1/3 of the Republican field, and Ted Cruz and Chris Christie look to be the early leaders.

*I believe the “tough choices” to which the shirt referred were inexpensive keg beers – perhaps Genesee vs. Keystone?

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Professor Devadoss, in a photo by the terrific Scott Barrow

Professor Devadoss, in a photo by the terrific Scott Barrow

The Williams College Mathematics Department is once again home to the Mathematical Association of America’s award-winning top teacher: the MAA has awarded Satyan Devadoss the Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo Award for Distinguished Teaching of Mathematics.

Five Williams professors have won the award previously: Frank Morgan (1993), Colin Adams (1998), Edward B. Burger (2001), Thomas Garrity (2004) and Susan Loepp (2012). As Professor Morgan explained in the College’s press release:

Devadoss has a visual style of teaching that often combines striking images and artwork with mathematics . . . His courses are also famously difficult, and despite that—or perhaps because of it—the students love him.

Prof. Devadoss’s work linking math and art were featured in a Berlin gallery show this past spring.

In the grand tradition of Eph mathematicians, Prof. Devadoss has demonstrated himself a true master of the liberal arts, in both theory and in practice. As part of Williams College’s “What Sawyer Said” series, Prof. Devadoss explained his view of the liberal arts philosophy:

My charge… is to guide, equip and shape our students to interpret and transform the world around them. And I am convinced this begins with the tearing down of academic walls, an intrinsic feature of the liberal arts education.

I am not deluded into thinking lives are transformed when my students understand the gradient of a function or the eigenvalue of a matrix. Nor am I arrogant in believing that mathematics alone holds the keys to unlocking the future. A true liberal arts education equips us not only to understand mathematical form and structure but also to craft a thoughtful essay, to appreciate a performance or painting, to juggle molecules and matter and, dare I say, to compete on the athletic field. Indeed, the extraordinary gift offered by the liberal arts is the ability to reasonably converse in the languages of all disciplines—to focus on ideas across categories and not just the particulars of one.

Prof. Devadoss has demonstrated this approach in tutorials such as Origami (Math 347) and Phylogenetics (Math 357), and for those who have graduated already, in “The Shape of Nature,” a 36-lecture video course available for streaming, download, and on DVD (sorry, not available in tutorial).

And Prof. Devadoss is also a brilliant photographer who has shared amazing works on his Flickr account. Here’s one of Hopkins Hall:
Hopkins Hall Fall

(Actually, I think many of the other photos Prof. Devadoss has shared on Flickr are superior — but this is EphBlog, and we prefer to feature photos of the College and Ephs). Maybe a future post can highlight some other favorites.

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From the Record (txt):

Two Students Admit Coffin Shotgunning

by John D. Phillips

The students responsible for last Saturday’s shotgun attack on the home of Chaplain William S. Coffin have been apprehended.

Williamstown Police Chief John D. Courtney, Jr., announced last night that two Williams students had signed confessions to the shooting, and implied that a third student might be involved.

The students were released On $50 bail and tried in the Williamstown District Court this morning on the double charge of malicious damage to property and carrying a loaded firearm in an automobile. They pleaded guilty and were fined $125. When asked in court why they chose Chaplain Coffin’s house for their action, they refused to answer.

This afternoon at 2 o’clock they will face the Student-Faculty Discipline Committee with the possibility of expulsion from college.

The case was handled by the Williamstown police force in co-operation with college authorities and RECORD staff members. This combined effort to track down the attackers began early Sunday when police pinpointed the time of the shooting and began investigating college shotgun registrations.

On the basis of this preliminary information, plus fragmentary knowledge received from Williams students, the police were led to believe that the attacker was a student. Several suspects were rigorously interrogated. That was Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, police inquiries in the Southworth Street area uncovered evidence of more than one student involved in the case. Both Mrs. Coffin and her neighbors said that they recalled seeing a dark bronze car passing slowly in front of the Coffin home at least three times during the day on Saturday.

One man stated to police that at 10:30 Saturday night, while standing in his driveway, he heard a shot and saw a car roaring up the street from the direction of the Coffin residence. He described the vehicle as a dark bronze Pontiac or Chevrolet of late forties or early fifties vintage. Police concluded from this evidence that at least one student besides the gunman was involved.

Still, authorities lacked evidence pointing conclusively to any particular students. Finally, on Thursday, they uncovered information on several students which checked with the circumstantial facts of the case.

They were immediately questioned by local police, and by late yesterday afternoon the confessions were secured.


1) Why didn’t the Record print the names of the students? I suspect that today’s Record would. But would today’s Record help out the police? I doubt it.

2) Which house did Coffin live in? Who lives there now?

3) How did police crack the case?

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UPDATE: Thanks to JAS for providing this graphic! Post edited.


Thanks to Courtney Wade, our wonderful Director of Institutional Research, for providing this data (via IPEDs) on the history on international enrollment at Williams.

Fall 2014 49
Fall 2013 37
Fall 2012 31
Fall 2011 38
Fall 2010 37
Fall 2009 31
Fall 2008 46
Fall 2007 47
Fall 2006 38
Fall 2005 32
Fall 2004 31
Fall 2003 33
Fall 2002 34
Fall 2001 23
Fall 2000 31
Fall 1999 35
Fall 1998 28
Fall 1997 30
Fall 1996 28
Fall 1995 12
Fall 1994 17

See here for previous discussion. Comments:

1) I should turn this into a pretty R graphic. Apologies for my laziness. Thanks JAS!

2) Approximately 50 international students are in the class of 2019. Why the big jump up in the last two years?

3) The last big jump was the doubling between 1995 and 1996. Who made that decision? Kudos to them!

4) The big drop between 2008/2009 and 2010 was probably (?) caused by the ending of need-blind admissions for international students. Of course, that policy change is still in place, but the dramatic increase in the quality (and wealth) of international applicants has made it much less of an issue.

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From the Record (text) in November 1957:

Tallmadge Killed In Air Crash

Senior Edward S. Tallmadge, Jr. was killed instantly Sunday night
when a plane he chartered to fly a date home crashed into a moun-
tain 15 miles west of Williamstown.

Also killed was Pilot Donald P. Duquette, 25, of Adams. He was
an employee of Mohawk Valley Aviation Co. of North Adams, own-
er of the plane.

The victims were on the last leg of a round trip to LaGuardia Air-
port, N. Y., where they dropped off Tallmadge’s Amherst weekend
date. The plane plowed into a wooded area near Grafton, N. Y., at a 45 degree angle.

Tallmadge, 21, was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Tallmadge
of Milwaukee. He was president of WMS and instrumental in its
recent expansion program. He was social chairman of Delta Kappa
Epsilon and had participated in woe, the German Club, the Flying Club and varsity soccer and skiing.

CAP Search

The plane was reported overdue at North Adams airport Sunday
evening, but wreckage was not found until early Monday. Local
Civil Air Patrol officials organized a search which involved 16 planes and 40 college students.

Exact causes of the wreck were not known Tuesday, but a probe
by the Civil Aeronautics Administration is underway. Raymond E.
Gaudette, an airport mechanic, indicated there is some evidence
the plane came down with a dead engine. Some speculate that It was
out of gas.

According to airport officials the plane was a Cessna 172 delivered
brand new one week before the wreck.

A memorial service for Tallmadge was held in Thompson Memorial Chapel Tuesday evening by Rev. William S. Coffin, chaplain. At press time, arrangements were not complete for his fueral
in Milwaukee.

Was that sermon truly the event that led to the shot-gunning of College Chaplain William Sloane Coffin’s house the following April? David HT Kane ’58 wrote:

If memory serves, Coffin was the floundering son of wealth who decided to try the Chaplain’s path opened by his uncle, a reknowned theologian. An early stop on that path was Williams where he alienated many when, in his first weeks on campus, a Deke Senior was killed in the crash of a chartered small plane after a Fall ’57 home football weekend. Coffin, in his capacity as Chaplain, led the memorial service at Thompson Chapel and appeared to fault the Deke for his own death. Coffin’s theory was that the lost classmate had too much money and therefore chartered the plane to return his weekend date to her home in New Jersey. The crash occurred as the plane was returning in bad weather. If our classmate had taken the bus all would have been fine. A number in attendance at Thompson that day stood and walked out in protest.
Neither Coffin nor the undergraduates changed much in the ensuing months and it was not recorded that any protested his decampment for Yale at the end of the year.

What did Coffin say, 58 years ago this fall?

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One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

Of course, there was no more important contemporaneous Eph observer of the Confederacy than James A. Garfield of the Class of 1856. Everyone associated with Williams College today knows about Garfield’s tragically brief presidency, but too few are educated in Garfield’s road to the White House and the importance of his Civil War and Reconstruction rhetoric and record in getting him there. Garfield’s short stint at Williams (he entered with advanced standing in September of 1854) helped fire his abolitionist passions. A state senator (the youngest) in his home state of Ohio at the time of secession, he used his legislative position to “declare[] it to be his unalterable determination to oppose the institution of slavery, or any compromise with it. It was a heinous national sin, and he would not condescend to negotiate with it.” As he wrote in a contemporaneous letter:

Peaceable dissolution is utterly impossible. Indeed I cannot say that I would wish it possible. To make the concessions demanded by the South would be hypocritical and sinful; they would neither be obeyed nor respected. I am inclined to believe that the sin of slavery is one of which it may be said that without the shedding of blood there is no remission.

Garfield had no doubt what the Civil War was about, and he was soon in command of regiment of Ohioans, who he led into an early battle to subdue the Big Sandy Valley, an area of Kentucky occupied by Southern troops, with support from many sympathetic locals. After military success, Garfield had his first opportunity to directly address those who had rebelled in support of slavery:

Citizens of Sandy Valley:

I have come among you to restore the honor of the Union, and to bring back the old banner which you once loved, but which, by the machinations of evil men, and by mutual misunderstanding, has been dishonored, among you. To those who are in arms against the Federal Government, I offer only the alternative of battle or unconditional surrender. But to those who have taken no part in this war, who are in no way aiding or abetting the enemies of this Union—even to those who hold sentiments averse to the Union, but will give no aid or comfort to its enemies—I offer the full protection of the government, both in their persons and property.

“Let those who have been seduced away from the love of their country to follow after, and aid the destroyers of our peace, lay down their arms, return to their homes, bear true allegiance to the Federal Government, and they shall also enjoy like protection.

After several campaigns and his ascendance to a generalship, Garfield returned to politics as a United States Representative from Ohio. His first speech in Congress carried forward the theme that, along with slavery, the philosophies, symbols, and other poisons of rebellion must be purged to make the nation whole again:

The war was announced by proclamation, and it must end by proclamation. We can hold the insurgent States in military
subjection half a century — if need be, until they are purged of their poison and stand up clean before the country.

They must come back with clean hands, if they come at all. I hope to see in all those States the men who fought and
suffered for the truth, tilling the fields on which they pitched their tents. I hope to see them, like old Kasper of
Blenheim, on the summer evenings, with their children upon their knees, and pointing out the spot where brave men fell and marble commemorates it…

Let no weak sentiments of misplaced sympathy deter us from inaugurating a measure which will cleanse our nation
and make it the fit home of freedom and a glorious manhood. Let us not despise the severe wisdom of our Revolutionary fathers, when they served their generation in a similar way. Let the republic drive from its soil the traitors that have conspired against its life, as God and His angels drove Satan and his host from Heaven. He was not too merciful to be just, and to hurl down in chains and everlasting darkness the ‘traitor angel’ who ‘first broke peace in Heaven,’ and rebeled against Him.

Speech in the House of Representatives, January 28, 1864.

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There may be nearly two dozen declared presidential candidates for the two major parties, but America remains as far from electing the next James Garfield as ever.  It falls to EphBlog to consider who, in the absence of a real William College alum in the field, has the best claim to being an Eph.  Dissenting opinions welcome. Let’s begin with the Democratic candidates.

Hillary Clinton.

Education: Wellesley, then Yale Law.

Comments: Resembles a college administrator: old, corporatist, falsely  populist, disdainful of transparency. Her liberal arts background (albeit at an institution that continues to exclude an entire gender) would make her a favorite, but when it came time to take Chelsea shopping for colleges, Amherst was on the list, but not Williams.  And if — as appears to be the case — she’s on the verge of squandering an overwhelming nomination advantage for the second time, aren’t we glad she’s not an Eph?

Martin O’Malley:

Education. Catholic University, University of Maryland Law.

O’Malley was one of the inspirations for the fictional mayor Tommy Carcetti on “The Wire,” which was exceedingly popular among Ephs and became the subject of a course taught by Professor Manigault-Bryant of the Africana Studies Department.  And he has musical talent.

Lincoln Chafee.

Education. Brown University, Montana State University.

Once a liberal Republican, now a Democrat, Chafee went to graduate school to become a farrier, and then shoed horses for seven years. Kind of an Eph thing to do. As governor of the state that contains Roger Williams, could he be mistaken for an Eph? Probably not.

James Webb.

Education. USC, then the U.S. Naval Academy. Georgetown Law School.

Webb served in Vietnam as a Marine, the military service favored by EphBlog for its storied tradition of Ephs in service. And he rose to prominence on the strength of his critically-acclaimed 1978 novel about the Vietnam War, Fields of Fire. He later taught literature at the Naval Academy.  A literary Marine — that’s kind of Eph-y.

Bernie Sanders.

Education. Brooklyn College, then transferred to the University of Chicago. Not very Eph choices.

Former Senator from Vermont, a very Eph-y state — and into which the Williams campus spreads. A socialist, which has earned him early grassroots enthusiasm at Williams, like this July 29 potluck, and makes him popular in Eph-y places like Portland and Somerville.  That carries some weight, but enough to offset his urban education?

Verdict: Let’s face it, none of these folks has “I’m a secret Eph” written all over them.  Does Eph enthusiasm for Sanders and his New England career outweigh Hillary’s educational background?  Let’s call it a tie.

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Michael Seckler and John Alberg, from the Euclidean Techologies "About the Founders" page

Michael Seckler and John Alberg, from the Euclidean Techologies “About the Founders” page


Physics week at EphBlog continues. profiles Michael Seckler ’94 and John Alberg ’94, the co-founders of Euclidean Technologies, and Williams College Professor William Wootters is featured prominently:

OZY caught up with lanky, silver-haired financier Seckler, 43, in his office, where a custom-painted portrait of Euclid hangs, along with imagistic representations of the man’s theories. Neither he nor Alberg majored in finance or logged time at banks or hedge funds. Instead,they met at Williams College, where Seckler double majored in geology and history. What hooked them on their current path was very liberal-artsy: an “incredibly thought-provoking course” from William Wooters, a founder of quantum information theory (a mysterious field that covers everything from blackholes to teleportation). Rapt in the lecture hall, the young men found themselves in long debates about technology, the business happenings of Microsoft and IBM, and theories of competition.

Discussions of competitive theory in physics class? What a great plug for Professor Wootters and the Physics Department.  That Prof. Wootters, the Barclay Jermain Professor of Natural Philosophy, is the faculty member cited should be no surprise: in 2007, he received an award from the American Physical Society for his “prolific engagement of undergraduates” in research, and last year, teamed up with Philosophy Professor Keith McPartland to teach “Philosophical Implications of Modern Physics.”

Beyond the classroom, another quintessential Eph experience makes an appearance:

[J]ust a year into his professional life, at a college reunion over Fourth of July weekend, the 22-year-old Seckler found himself in another dorm-room conversation with Alberg. Netscape was on everyone’s tongues; on the drive back to Boston, three hours in the pouring rain, Seckler and Alberg couldn’t let it drop.

Soon, they hashed out the beginnings of what would become a multimillion-dollar tech company, an HR software firm called Employease. They quit their jobs eight months later and began working 100-hour weeks, “eating ramen and drinking cheap bourbon,” Seckler said.


Route 2 map via

Route 2 map via

When else would two Ephs come up with a $100M+ business than on a harrowing drive across the Mohawk Trail in the rain?

As part of the History Department’s alumni feature series, Seckler has also credited Sue & Edgar Wachenheim Professor of History Thomas Kohut with helping instill the discipline and perseverance needed to make a startup business thrive.

Alberg is less of the public face of the duo. Perhaps his thesis — he majored in Mathematics — proved relevant to his career: “Projection Methods for Neural Networks“?

Although the Ozy article references machine learning, data mining, and fundamental investing, the story is short on details about what Euclidean Technologies actually does. Seckler and Alberg have authored several articles at the ValueWalk portal, however, which will tell interested readers more about the value investing philosophy that they cite for their investment decisions.



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In a recent EphBlog post, David challenged the conclusion of Eph physicist Chad Orzel ’93 that “Small Colleges are Great for Science Students.” In the post, he asked:

As always, you should think like a statistician. Take 100 high school seniors interested in getting a science Ph.D. Randomly select 50 to attend places like Union/Williams and 50 to attend research universities. Which group will do better in graduate school admissions? Probably (contrary opinions welcome!) the ones who attend research universities…

Sounds terrific. But what if we don’t want to wait half a decade or more for the results? (Just because we can measure the speed of light doesn’t mean every conceivable experiment is a feasible one!).

Let’s look to numbers we do have. Orzel made an effort to do so, highlighting that 1%-1.5% of the attendees at the “research conference in my field” are from Williams. (Question for Orzel: are you submitting those Eph alumni photos you take to the alumni review? Or to EphBlog? We’d love to see them).

According to the Williams College Department of Physics home page, Williams averages about 17 physics and astrophysics majors each year. According to the American Physical Society, the number of undergraduate physics majors in the U.S. since 1980 has averaged somewhere around 5,000 per year. A crude, back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that Ephs are significantly overrepresented at Orzel’s conferences, rather than underrepresented, as David would suppose.

The American Physical Society also gives out an annual award to the two top undergraduate physics students in the United States: the LeRoy Apker Award. In the last two decades, it’s been given to just over 40 students nationwide, 42 in total (in two years, three students received awards). 4 of those 42 were at Williams, including current Assistant Professor of Physics Charlie Doret ’02. Harvard? Only two, and physics is a *strong* department at Harvard in terms of the commitment of faculty to teaching undergraduates (the physics faculty there repeatedly win the College’s award for undergraduate teaching).

Assistant Professor of Physics Charlie Doret '02 as an undergraduate researcher, from the Williams Physics website

Assistant Professor of Physics Charlie Doret '02 as an undergraduate researcher, from the Williams Physics website

Now, the Apker Award doesn’t necessarily speak to the strength of liberal arts students vs. research university students, because the Apker Award rules say:

Two awards may be presented each year, one to a student from a Ph. D. granting institution and one to a student from a non-Ph. D. granting institution.

But it does highlight the advantage of attending a non research university: access to this separate, smaller, pool of candidates for this award. Your odds are better at Williams.

There are other statistics available, that would be great to quantify on a broader scale. For example, the 2013-14 Report of Science at Williams College states that Williams hits well above its weight in National Science Foundation fellowships:

Williams has ranked first among predominantly undergraduate institutions in students receiving NSF pre-doctoral fellowships, averaging about seven per year over the past ten years.

That’s out of approximately 200 math and science majors. In 2015, Harvard had 37 NSF fellowships (data here), and a perusal of Harvard’s data on fields of concentration in its Undergraduate Handbook suggests that’s from a pool of about 1450 science undergraduates. Odds of an NSF Fellowship as a science major at Williams: 30:1. Odds at Harvard: 40:1. Advantage: Williams.

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Ethan Zuckerman ’93 reflects on Global Voices:

When Global Voices was formed, Its objectives were: first, to enable and empower a community of “bridgebloggers” who “can make a bridge between two languages, or two cultures.” Second to develop tools and resources to make achieving the first objective more effective. It has maintained a working relationship with mainstream media. Reuters, for example, gave Global Voices an unrestricted grant in January 2006. For its contribution to innovation in journalism, Global Voices was granted the 2006 Knight-Batten Grand Prize.

The organization now states its goals as to:

  • “Call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, photos, podcasts, video and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media.”
  • “Facilitate the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training, online tutorials, and publicizing the ways in which open-source and free tools can be used safely by people around the world”.
  • Advocate for freedom of expression … and protect the rights of citizen journalists

The organizations has a team of regional editors that aggregates and selects conversations from a variety of blogospheres, with a particular focus on non-Western and underrepresented voices.

Read both the Wikipedia entry and Ethan’s reflections. His Bicentennial Medal was well deserved.

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Chad Orzel writes in Forbes:

Today is the first of several Accepted Students Days at Union College, where I’m a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy (and, for my sins, the current department chair…). As such, I’m thinking a bit about how to sell the school to students, which is something I’ve written about before on my original blog, but not yet here.

At first glance, a small liberal arts college may seem like an odd place for a professional scientist. And, in fact, when I took this job, I occasionally had to explain to colleagues that no, I wasn’t just settling for a small college, I had actively sought this out. There’s a strong perception in academia that only second-raters accept jobs at anything less than a major Research I university.

By “perception,” Orzel means “truth.” Take all the people getting a physics Ph.D. in the US this year. Have a committee rank them on their research quality. The vast majority of folks in the top X% (who take jobs in academia) will be taking them at “major Research I university.” Orzel might cover his blushes by noting the saving word “only,” but there is no doubt that, given a choice between Union/Williams and a major research university, the vast, vast majority of new science graduates will pick the latter.

But contrary to that impression, small colleges are a great training ground for future scientists.

True, but highly misleading. Does Williams do a wonderful job in science? Of course! The physics majors I talk to love the physics department. But that isn’t right way to phrase the question, especially if you are a high school senior choosing between Union/Williams and a research university. The right question is: How will this decision affect my chances in graduate school admissions and future professional success?

As always, you should think like a statistician. Take 100 high school seniors interested in getting a science Ph.D. Randomly select 50 to attend places like Union/Williams and 50 to attend research universities. Which group will do better in graduate school admissions? Probably (contrary opinions welcome!) the ones who attend research universities, because (among other reasons) the professors who write their recommendation letters will be more well-known to graduate admissions committees. Also, they will have the chance to take graduate level courses as undergraduates.

Of course, you should still choose Williams over Harvard! First, you probably shouldn’t get a science Ph.D. in the first place and, second, there is a lot more to college than its effect on your graduate school admissions.

The country’s liberal arts colleges serve only a tiny fraction of the total college-age population, but are probably over-represented in science grad schools

D’uh! This is because lots of geniuses attend places like Williams, not because Williams does a better job than Harvard of training future physicists. Orzel weakens his overall pro-LAC position — with which I agree — by peppering his argument with such howlers.

On the other hand, the largest intro courses we teach in physics at Union are capped at 18 students per section (we teach a lot of sections…), and the largest in any of the other sciences are 30-ish. That allows for a lot more interaction, which in turn lets faculty pick out students with potential who might otherwise disappear into a mass with similar grades. We can encourage students who aren’t working up to their potential, and deliver the occasional kick in the ass as needed– as I can personally testify, having had my academic career turned around by one of my physics professors junior year.

Good stuff! First, Williams should copy Union and decrease the maximum size of all classes. Second, how about a shout out to the Williams physics professor who helped Orzel? Let us praise his name!

Read the whole thing. Orzel makes many interesting points and the good things he reports about Union or also true at Williams.

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The New York Times recently featured “Advice for New Students From Those Who Know (Old Students).”


If you’re like me — meaning fairly driven and self-assured — you’re coming into college with a strong idea of what you’d like to do with the rest of your life. At 18, I was set on medical school, with the hopes of becoming a neurobiologist. When I got to college, however, a single freshman seminar showed me that both my academic talents and interests lay with religious studies and Spanish, of all things. At first, I was hesitant to pursue these fields because they didn’t fit the image of success I had imagined for myself. With time, I learned that interest and success are highly correlated — do what you love, and you’ll be good at what you do. Don’t be afraid to take classes that challenge your suppositions. A single course could be a game-changer. — Sasha Ward, University of Virginia, ’15, University of Oxford, ’17

Yes to the first part, especially at Williams. If you’re a math geek, take a religion class. If your life revolves around the stage, study astrophysics. Intending to join the Williams Art Mafia? Dabble in Political Economy. No to the second part. If you love something, and your professors (who
will know you) tell you that you really don’t have the talent to pursue it as a career, thank your lucky stars you’re at Williams where the faculty cares about you, and think about where your interests and your skills overlap. Don’t laugh — the Williams faculty can make you fall in love with something and work impossibly hard at it when everyone else has it easy.

Low light:

You know those tables set up by the student store trying to get you to sign up for a credit card? Those are a scam with insanely high interest rates. Take the time to go to your bank and sit down with a financial adviser and discuss what the best options are for you. You need debt to earn credit, but not 15k of credit card debt. — Brittany Nicole Brisson, East Carolina University, ’15

No, not all credit cards are “a scam.” Sign up for credit cards. Follow a budget in your spending, pay off your credit cards every month, and you’ll help build a solid credit foundation for leases and loans after you graduate. As long as you pay your bills, you won’t pay late fees or interest on your spending, and you won’t regret your choice.

Sheds no light:

College life is similar to what happens when you get high — i.e., you have a vague idea of your surroundings and forget who you are and where you wanted to go… — Sangepu Ashrith, Indian Institute of Technology Jodhpur, ’17


Obligatory Amherst View:

I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy… — Brittanie Lewis, Amherst College, ’17*

It’s hard to be at Amherst when the glory of Williams shines such a short distance away…


Over the years, EphBlog has provided ample advice of the sort excerpted above.  But ours is specifically directed at current Williams College students. Find it in this category of posts: “Advice to Undergraduates.” I think you’ll find that our advice is better. And with a new class of Ephs starting in the days to come, we’ll repost a few highlights.


*Selectively quoted.  Okay, we have higher standards here than the Grey Lady often does.  Here’s Ms. Lewis’s full quote:

I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and social incompatibility specific to my experiences as a low-income, first-generation student, and you will face similar challenges. Your more fortunate peers will frustrate you with their well-meaning suggestion to just “buy a new one” after you lose your coat; they may sadden you when they ask where your parents went to school, where your siblings want to go, why you seem so different from your entire family. Sometimes, you might feel you just don’t belong on campus. I implore you to extend grace to yourself and have confidence in the fact that you were chosen not only for your academic competency but also for the perspective you have to offer your peers and professors. You are now part of a conversation that would be lacking without your voice. Speak even louder, and help others understand a life story they may not have considered before they met you.

Your Williams peers will probably not be so callous if you lose your coat.  And they will value your perspective.  Even if your first choice was Amherst.

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Freshmen photo in The Gul, 1954, showing Leo Gilson (back row, 2nd from r.).

Freshmen photo in The Gul, 1954, showing Leo Gilson (back row, 2nd from r.).

An EphBlog reader shared the passing of Marblehead resident Leo Gilson, who graduated Williams College in 1957:

Raised in Pittsfield, MA, Leo graduated from Pittsfield High School where he was class president and an accomplished athlete. He attended Deerfield Academy and graduated from Williams College in 1957. Leo’s career began with General Electric. He later worked for International Rectifier before starting his own company, Nova Sales Distribution, a semiconductor business. Traveling the world extensively, Leo loved regaling friends and family with his grand adventure stories, one of which was being shipwrecked around the Fiji Islands.

Our reader shares more details:

He graduated Williams a few years before I did, but we had friends in common who endlessly enjoyed recounting the “shipwreck” story…

He connected with this California dentist who wanted to win a yacht race from Los Angeles to Honolulu, and bought a fancy and fast boat in which to do it. From Honolulu, they proceeded on a round-the-world voyage in with two others, a Brit and a German, I believe. Only they didn’t get very far. In Fiji, they ran aground on a coral reef and ripped a huge hole in the hull. As the engine room flooded with water, they put out a “Mayday” alert, bringing the Royal Navy and a seaplane from New Zealand to the rescue. The British took them to shore and salvaged the yacht, towing it into harbor so it could be repaired. Meanwhile, they were all stranded in Fiji, which may have been the whole idea. So they were having a fine time of it. Sun, sand, surf, island attractions. And then the dentist went fishing one day and was attacked by a shark. They never found the body.

The yacht was named the Fjord III, Gilson’s South Seas adventure earned him contemporaneous news coverage, including in the North Adams Transcript. As he recounted in an interview that ran on December 6, 1963:

It was after 11 on Thursday night and I was forward keeping lookout when I suddenly saw waves breaking on the reef. I yelled to the others and dropped the mainsail, but it was too late. We hit the reef. High and Dry. The Fjord was being battered by heavy waves, and we thought we were lost. But the tide went down and left us high and dry. The Fjord was firmly wedged and we couldn’t move her.

Gilson and the others were rescued by the frigate HMS Cook, which, interestingly, had just returned to sea two weeks earlier after months of repairs required from running aground on the same reef. The crew of the Cook earned a salvage award for the rescue: £46 for the captain, with lesser shares for the crew.

Remarkably, the Fjord III is still afloat and being raced today, having undergone an eight month restoration in Uruguay in 2013.

Fjord III, racing in 2014.  Photo via Claudio Cambria at

Fjord III, racing in 2014. Photo via Claudio Cambria at

The EphBlog community extends its sympathies to Gilson’s family and friends. Rest well, dear Eph.

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A loyal reader forwarded this story.

Do too many kids go into finance?

The first part of the question is predicated on the empirical fact that a disproportionate number of students from elite colleges end up on Wall Street. That result is particularly perverse since most top American schools eschew professional majors for humanities, social and physical sciences.

The cynical interpretation is that the Wall Street-educational complex has captured America’s colleges, which are too lazy, ill-equipped, or simply too beholden to banks who flood campuses each fall.

The second part of the affirmative answer of “too many kids in finance” is that such a result is, in fact, a problematic social outcome. The crisis of 2008-2009 lade bare a financial services sector that was bloated, and one reason was this unrelenting flood of talent each year from college campuses.

This secondary, normative question is interesting but difficult to answer (I’m personally unconvinced).

What I want to explore is a more practical question: Just because kids start in finance, do they really stay in finance?

Read the whole thing for an interesting discussion about what has happened to the author’s class of first year analysts at Merrill Lynch from 2000. The Williams connection?


Anyone know who the 6 Williams alumni are? Or where they are now?

There is a great senior thesis to be written about which students go into finance from Williams, why they make that choice and what happens afterward.

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Town & Country magazine featured an enjoyable recent interview with MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski ’89.

Brzezinski '89 at a 2010 Williams event.  Photo credit Kris Dufour, Sports Information

Mika Brzezinski ’89 at a 2010 Williams event. Photo credit Kris Dufour, Sports Information.

Brzezinski didn’t mention her time at Williams College, but Eph undergraduates are in one of the finest places to take advantage of key elements of her career advice:

[Q:] What life skill do you think is of utmost importance for young women who are starting their careers?

Being able to think on your feet, get on stage, and talk in front of people. I urge every young woman to do that [talk on stage]. I think that it will get you out of your comfort zone and teach you to communicate visually and experience that kind of “hot, red, I’m really embarrassed, everyone’s looking at me” feeling. And you can find these moments, you need to find them, and do them consistently.

If you have a career that has you hiding under a rock, and never having to speak in front of anyone– look elsewhere. Make a toast at a party, give a speech at someone’s wedding. The first few times are awful– and you’ll sweat, and all of the sudden, you’ll realize your outfit is wrong. You’ll look at pictures, and you’ll be able to visualize, and feel what it’s like when it’s showtime in your life. You need to actually communicate effectively. It may be negotiating a contract, or negotiating a marriage. You can’t do that just by thinking you can wing it: “when I get there, I’ll figure it out.” No, practice; get in front of people.

Perhaps not surprising advice from a live-television personality, but it’s good advice for succeeding in almost any field. And through regular classwork, senior theses and academic colloquia, not to mention the unmatched array of extracurricular opportunities in theater, comedy, a capella, student government, and the like, no one should graduate Williams without taking on and overcoming this kind of performance anxiety. Williams students take note: you’ll never have a friendlier, more supportive environment to gain practice communicating in front of a crowd!

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A correspondent, who used to read EphBlog back in the day, mentioned the era when “EphBlog was still an ongoing concern.” Was? EphBlog is thriving today! I will let my co-authors brag about their own work while I highlight my:

Four part series on admissions for veterans: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Four part series on the Record‘s article about financial aid: 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Ten part series on admissions preference for students from poor families: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Ten Part Series on the Dean’s letter on Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Whoops! I still have three updates to do for this one. Back to work . . .

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Although the Economics Department at Williams College draws a crowd of folks interested in business careers, Econ academics are often accused of choosing the theoretical world of economics models over the real world.

Not so Roger Harman ’66, who has been a serial restaurateur in the neighborhood around the University of Pennsylvania since the late 1970s, culminating in his current venture, the Gold Standard Cafe.

Gold Standard Cafe

Harman had just completed his doctorate at the Penn when he opened his first restaurant in 1978, announcing a desire to “be part of the economy, not just study it.” Their cozy restaurant soon became popular for reasonably-priced meals in a stylish setting: a five-course meal ran less than $15, and included coffee with the finale. The first Gold Standard occupied the site of a former laundry in an old Victorian:

The Gold Standard name dates back to 1978 when Harman and a fellow University of Pennsylvania economics professor, Duane Ball, bought a laundry on 47th Street near Chester Avenue and renovated it.

After four years, Harman and Ball moved it into a Gothic Revival mansion in the middle of the Penn campus – the current Arts, Research and Culture House (ARCH) buillding, which now houses Tortas Frontera – and renamed it Palladium. The first-floor dining room was a linen-tablecloth alternative to the usual campus fare, and there was a large cafeteria dining room downstairs.

The Palladium proved popular — I remember eating there on a trip to the Penn campus during the 1980s — but the restaurant business is tough, even with the benefit of an almost-captive audience during the decade of crack cocaine and associated crime. As a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer archives recalls, the business had trouble paying its taxes:

Internal Revenue Service agents raided the Palladium Restaurant on the University of Pennsylvania campus at lunch time yesterday and seized the restaurant’s liquor license and a cash drawer as partial payment of at least $35,000 the restaurant owes in federal payroll taxes.

They came in at 1 p.m., right at our busiest time, when we had a large private Penn lunch group, and took our cash drawer, containing about $100, and our liquor license from the wall,” said Roger Harman, co-owner of the restaurant with Duane Ball. Harman and Ball have Penn doctorates in economics and taught there until 1979.

“We had been making good-faith payments since late 1985, and only recently we began to turn a profit and look forward to paying this off,” said Harman.

The Palladium did turn the corner, regain its liquor license, and last for decades longer, however, putting the “Gold Standard” name to use for a cafeteria on the lower level. The late-90s Marmac Guide to Philadelphia described it thusly:

Restored red oak paneling is highlighted by leaded glass windows, a warm fireplace, a friendly bar area, and an outdoor café. Downstairs you’ll find the 200-seat Gold Standard cafeteria that serves lunch and offers local delivery service. The same menu is offered on both levels and includes a delightful collection of international dishes.

Besides the splendid atmosphere, a memorable touch at the Palladium was the connection Harman & co. retained to the Gold Standard: checks were printed on faux-laundry receipts from the laundromat that the Gold Standard had replaced.

The Palladium was also a regular participant in Philadelphia’s “Book and the Cook” festival — one year, pairing a showing of the film adaptation of “Like Water for Chocolate” with a menu inspired by the book and movie.

With Ball and new partner Vince Whittacre, Harman eventually moved on to a new Italian restaurant, Abbraccio, a short distance away in West Philly, which operated from 2003 to 2009. Abbraccio was not as beloved: in a city jaded by old-school, family-run Italian treasures, many felt that its cooking was watered down:

Abbraccio may be the first of its kind: a locally owned and operated Olive Garden. Seriously, it’s exactly like the Olive Garden. It looks like the Olive Garden! (There had to have been better architectual options than that giant beige building?) The food is Olive Garden-esque, in that all the classic italian dishes are represented, but they lack any originality, and are passably tasty… Abbraccio is to the Olive Garden as McDowells is to McDonalds.

Abbraccio was well known, however, as a community anchor, and Harman and Whittacre carried that tradition over to the new Gold Standard Café, which opened in 2009 inside a restored old house that hearkens back to the original Gold Standard with decor featuring rotating works from local neighborhood artists.

In addition, the proprietors’ food reputation rebounded, particularly as trends and tastes caught up with their focus on locally-sourced ingredients, free-range meats, and cutting-edge became with doughnuts labeled as “a bite out of “OHHH MAMAAAA!!!” heaven.”

With the success of the Gold Standard Cafe, Harman and Whittacre won Philadelphia’s LGBT Business Award in 2014:

Roger Harman '66 (second from left) and partner Vince Whittacre (far right), accepting award check

Roger Harman ’66 (second from left) and partner Vince Whittacre (far right), accepting award check

With the prize money, the pair briefly expanded the Gold Standard to a second location with a branch café across the river in the heart of Philadelphia, but that outpost didn’t last long, and now the main location itself is to be sold. Whittacre has explained the pending sale as due in part to “poor health,” while Harman has simply said “We’re getting tired.” We hope that it’s more the latter and the former, but wish a speedy recovery to either or both of them, as well as a happy retirement. Numerous Ephs — including many students visiting Penn on a sojourn from Williamstown — have visited their restaurants over the years. We have fond memories that of the food and communities he helped to create, and hope Harman does, too.

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From the Eagle:

Williams College Summer Science Lab gets big reaction from students

There are plenty of creams, tablets and elixirs on the market that claim to cure health problems and ease ailments, but do they actually work?

During this month’s Williams College Summer Science Lab sessions, students were able to use professional tools to investigate household compounds, putting things like antacids to the test to see which ones really work.

“That’s why we do chemistry, so we know we’re not being lied to,” Darla Torres told her students during last week’s session.

Torres is a rising Williams College sophomore, and part of a cohort of five Williams students and three from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, who have helped teach the fifth- and sixth-graders participating in this year’s Summer Science Lab. The college students have been working with local teachers to develop science curriculum for North Adams Public Schools.


1) Good stuff! Kudos to Torres and the other students involved. Kudos also to the faculty/staff who made this all happen.

2) EphBlog’s position on local charity/community is simple: The College should, to the greatest extent possible, make its facilities available for this sort of work. The College should write few/no checks to local non-profits.

3) Love the expression on the little girl’s face, head in hands! The obvious thought bubble: “Thanks EphBlog! I love spending my summer in the science lab rather than being outside with my friends . . .”

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From Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science David Traven:

How many dead civilians makes a war crime? Ask the UN, Israel, and Hamas

A few weeks ago, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) released a report alleging that Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the 50-day conflict last summer in the Gaza Strip. While Israel has acknowledged that many Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of the war, it has denounced the allegations that it intentionally targeted civilians and that civilian casualties were excessive in relation to anticipated military gains. Despite overtly firing rockets at Israeli cities and towns, some Hamas officials claim that they only intended to hit military sites, not civilians.

Whether or not Israel and Hamas are being sincere, their claims reflect a widely accepted view that it is morally worse to intentionally kill civilians than it is to kill them either incidentally or accidentally. But when that moral intuition is written into international law, it can leave civilians exposed rather than protected.

Read the whole thing.

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Interesting article from Elissa Shevinsky ’01.

We cannot bend software or cryptography to our will. Technology is science, not magic.

Government officials’ requests to weaken encryption are based on a fantasy of what technology could be – not the reality of what software is actually like in practice. And their backers, such as The Washington Post editorial board, are also swayed by it. Even President Obama, the same leader who has recruited top Silicon Valley talent to join him in the White House, wants to find a compromise.

The problem? It is not technically possible. There’s no such thing as a secure back door. The idea that the US government can have built-in access to encrypted data – while maintaining consumers’ security and privacy, and preserving American business – is flawed.

Exactly right. Read the whole thing.

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To the JA’s for the class of 2019:

At the 1989 Williams graduation ceremonies, then-President Francis Oakley had a problem. Light rain showers, which had been threatening all morning, started mid-way through the event. Thinking that he should speed things along, and realizing that virtually no one knew the words to “The Mountains,” President Oakley proposed that the traditional singing be skipped.

A cry arose from all Ephs present, myself included. Although few knew the words, all wanted to sing the damn song. Sensing rebellion, President Oakley relented and led the assembled graduates and guests through a somewhat soaked rendition of the song that has marked Williams events for more than 100 years.

Similar scenes play themselves out at Williams gatherings around the country. At some of the Williams weddings that you will attend in the future, an attempt, albeit a weak one, will be made to sing “The Mountains.” At reunions, “The Mountains” will be sung, generally with the help of handy cards supplied by the Alumni Office. It is obvious that most graduates wish that they knew the words. It is equally obvious than almost all do not.

We have a collective action problem. Everyone (undergraduates and alumni alike) wishes that everyone knew the words — it would be wonderful to sing “The Mountains” at events ranging from basketball games to Mountain Day hikes to gatherings around the world. But there is no point in me learning the words since, even if I knew them, there would be no one else who did. Since no single individual has an incentive to learn the words, no one bothers to learn them. We are stuck at a sub-optimal equilibrium.

Fortunately, you have the power to fix this. You could learn “The Mountains” together, as a group, during your JA orientation. You could then teach all the First Years during First Days. It will no doubt make for a nice entry bonding experience. All sorts of goofy ideas come to mind. How about a singing contest at the opening dinner, judged by President Falk, between the six different first year dorms with first prize being a pizza dinner later in the fall at the President’s House?

It will not be enough to learn the song that evening. Periodically over the last dozen years, attempts have been made to teach the words at dinner or at the first class meeting in Chapin. Such efforts, worthy as they are, have always failed. My advice:

1) Learn all the words by heart at JA training. This is harder than it sounds. The song is longer and more complex than you think. Maybe sing it between every session? Maybe a contest between JAs from the 6 first year houses? If you don’t sing the song at least 20 times, you won’t know it by heart.

2) Encourage the first years to learn the song before they come to Williams. There are few people more excited about all things Williams in August than incoming first years. Send them the lyrics. Send them videos of campus groups singing “The Mountains.” Tell them that, as an entry, you will be singing the song many times on that first day.

3) Carry through on that promise! Have your entry sing the song multiple times that day. Maybe the two JAs sing the song to the first student who arrives. Then, the three of you sing if for student number 2. And so on. When the last student arrives, the entire entry serenades him (and his family).

4) There should be some target contest toward which this effort is nominally directed. I like the idea of a sing off between the 6 first year dorms with President Falk as judge. But the actual details don’t matter much. What matters is singing the song over-and-over again that first day.

Will this process be dorky and weird and awkward? Of course it will! But that is OK. Dorkiness in the pursuit of community is no vice. And you and your first years will all be dorky together.

For scores of years, Ephs of goodwill have worked to create a better community for the students of Williams. It is a hard problem. How do you bring together young men and women from so many different places, with such a diversity of backgrounds and interests? Creating common, shared experiences — however arbitrary they may be — is a good place to start. Mountain Day works, not because they is anything particularly interesting about Stone Hill, but because we all climb it together.

Until a class of JAs decide as a group to learn the words (by heart) themselves during their training and then to teach it to all the First Years before the first evening’s events, “The Mountains” will remain a relic of a Williams that time has passed by.

But that is up to you. Once a tradition like this is started, it will go on forever. And you will be responsible for that. A hundred years from now the campus will look as different from today as today looks from 1915, but, if you seize this opportunity, Williams students and alumni will still be singing “The Mountains.”

Congratulations on being selected as a JA. It is a singular honor and responsibility.


David Kane ’88

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Curious about Airbnb? This New York Magazine article is a good place to start. And it features a cameo by Andrew Goldston ’09.

It wasn’t long before some of these stories made their way to the office of State Senator Liz Krueger. Located in a non­descript office building on the far, far Upper East Side, behind a rack of scaffolding and a row of construction workers doing a ­modern-day reenactment of the famous photograph of guys lunching on an I-beam, Krueger’s tiny warren of rooms is basically the opposite of Airbnb’s airy headquarters. As are the senator’s opinions. “She lives to destroy us,” one person at Airbnb complained. But to be fair, she’s been trying to destroy businesses like Airbnb since Chesky and Gebbia were in short pants.

“How long have I been working on this, Andrew?” asks the blonde, chatty senator, peering out from behind her cluttered desk.

“It feels like forever,” says her earnest 28-year-old spokesman, Andrew Goldston.

I bet that, behind the scenes, Andrew was feeding the author lots of dirt about Airbnb. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

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One of a series of posts, as explained in “Williams & the Civil War: The Wrong Side – Introduction“:

At long last, 150 years after the Union prevailed “with a brave army, and a just cause” in the American Civil War, one of the most visible remaining markers of that conflict is on everyone’s lips and coming down…

Williams College, and most Ephs, reflect on the Civil War through a Union lens — correctly so, from both a moral and historical perspective… [s]o let’s use this occasion to learn more from and about Ephs on the subject of the Civil War and especially on the other side: the Confederacy.

Williams College produced three Ephs who ascended to the rank of General for the United States during the Civil War. James Garfield became President of the United States. But Williams also produced high-ranking officers who fought for the Confederacy. Two brothers, Joseph Lovell, Jr., and William F.S. Lovell, may be the most interesting of these men.

William and Joseph Lovell were two of the sons of Joseph Lovell, the 8th Surgeon General of the United States Army, and the first with the “Surgeon General” title:

Lovell was appointed Surgeon General to date from April 18, 1818, with Hospital Surgeons Tobias Watkins and James C. Bronaugh, assistants, one for each of the two divisions of the army. Apothecary General Le Barron was retained in his old position. Though only in his thirtieth year, his services in the hospitals on the northern frontier during the war and his appreciation of the needs of the service as evidenced by his reports made Lovell the logical choice for head of the service. Thus was established for the first time a permanent medical department organization. For the first time a career medical officer was made chief of the service. All of the former chiefs had been appointed to meet the emergency of war, real or expected, with an organization to serve the forces in the field. Again, for the first time was bestowed upon the service chief the title of surgeon general, which has survived to the present day.

Serving in the post for 18 years, Lovell founded its library, which today is the National Library of Medicine.

Son Joseph, Jr., entered Williams in 1840, where he spent only his freshman year. He moved on to Yale, graduating in 1844, then became a lawyer in New York State.

William entered Williams in 1845. He too lasted only one year at Williams, and soon thereafter entered the United States Navy as a midshipman, graduating from the Naval Academy in 1855.

In the 1850s, the brothers’ gazes turned south, towards Natchez, Mississippi. Through a third brother, Mansfield, a West Point graduate and the Streets Commissioner in New York City, the Lovells’ lives became entwined with that of General John Quitman, two-time governor of Mississippi. As a second lieutenant in the Mexican-American War, Mansfield served as an adjutant to Quitman, and they became close. This eventually brought Joseph, Jr. and William together with the Lovell family, and when General Quitman died in 1858, Joseph and William F.S. Lovell married two of his daughters. William resigned his commission in the Navy, and the brothers became cotton plantation-holders as partners.

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi - onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi – onetime home of Gen. John Quitman

Not surprisingly, when the Civil War broke out, both brothers entered Confederate service — as did Mansfield, who was named the Confederate general in command of New Orleans. Joseph, Jr. joined his staff as a General. William F.S. Lovell became a lower-ranking officer in the Confederate Army, where he rose from Captain of Artillery to Lieutenant Colonel of Ordnance, and ultimately to Assistant Inspector-General.

As an ordnance colonel, William put his naval training to use, taking command of a 200-foot sidewheel river liner, the William H. Webb, and two smaller vessels, and fought them in naval action on the Red River. William was later captured at the battle of Vicksburg, paroled, and then dispatched by the Confederacy on a mission to England, where he remained from 1864 until the end of the war.

The Lovell brothers were not forgotten to Eph history. They merited a footnote in it, or, more precisely, in. Leverett Wilson Spring’s “A History of Williams College,” which notes that “eight non-graduates entered the Confederate army.” And they appear in the Catalogue of Non-Graduates. But otherwise, they have been forgotten. And perhaps that is as it should be, except as an instructional to heed David’s advice: “Marry an Eph.” If the Williams of the 1840s had been coed, and the Lovell brothers had done so, maybe they wouldn’t have ended up on the wrong side of the Civil War.

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Answer: Because he is rich! Other questions?

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Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

Hoppy Valley Hops photo, via Twitter

When returning to the Purple Valley after an absence, it can be hard for Ephs to leave the Williams College campus at all, even for draws like the Pine Cobble Trail or the Clark. But now Peter Hopkins ’74 has a new reason for Ephs to venture the two and a half miles north up Route 7 to Pownal, Vermont: his organic hops farm, Hoppy Valley Organics, is ready to supply everyone’s homebrewing needs, and offering tours:

The company is in its third year of growing hops on property on Route 7 and at end of July, the owners are opening up the yard for those sightseers to get a closer look.

Concurrently, the company is showcasing its new home-brew supply store at the nearby Hoppy Valley Vermont Tasting Room.

“Over the last 2 1/2 to three years, we’ve had hundreds of people buttonhole us, taking pictures,” co-owner Peter Hopkins said…

The home-brewing shop joins the “Vermont Tasting Room” that Hoppy Valley has been operating inside the Hillside House Furniture barn for the last two years. As the inclusion of “Organics” in the business name suggests, Hopkins and his partner (Hillside House proprietor John Armstrong), are focused on premium, artisanal hops:

The hop-growing operation isn’t typical though. Hopkins and John Armstrong started the business with a focus on returning to the “roots of Vermont’s” hop growing. The two handcrafted teepee-like structures with ropes to pull the hops up and down. The business even kicked off with a community hop planting party, which mirrored an old-fashioned barn raising.

“The structures we built were typical of 19th-century hop growing,” Hopkins said.

Besides growing four standard varieties — Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, and Nugget — the owners have traveled all over the state seeking the oldest hops plants they could find to grow.

Hopkins has also been supporting efforts to change Vermont law to authorize farm-brewing licenses to be issued to Vermont farmers brewing from their own ingredients:

Peter Hopkins, who grows hops in Pownal, said he believes the bill would boost Vermonters’ efforts to grow hops, grain and malt.

“It should bring the farmers and the brewers much closer together. Each will depend upon the other,” said Hopkins, whose farm is called Hoppy Valley Organics. “If all of a sudden there’s increased demand, there’ll be more hops in the ground,” he added.

But Vermont-grown hops can be significantly more expensive, said Todd Haire, operations manager for Switchback Brewing Company in Burlington.

Switchback has brewed with local hops through University of Vermont Extension, Haire said. He said brewers are willing to try Vermont hops but need a consistent supply.

Hopkins is working on that! Another legislative change that could help Hopkins and Hoppy Valley Organics would be a repeal/reduction of the drinking age. Williams students, with their interest in organic farming, are both a natural labor source and a likely market, if Hoppy Valley expands. If students could lawfully home-brew from the product of their labors, this could be a virtuous circle. And being just on the north side of the Williamstown border places Hopkins in astate that has considered, at least twice, reforming its drinking age in recent years.

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Williams Students help plant first hops at Hoppy Valley, via Twitter

Other Ephs from the Class of ’74 — and perhaps others from the “4” and “9” years who arrived early to Reunion 2014 — are likely already familiar with Hopkins’ hops from a Thursday night kickoff BBQ he hosted and catered last year. Other Ephs should make time for the short northward detour on their next trip to Williamstown, or even plan a trip for the weekend of August 1. Then, in conjunction with a home-brew festival in downtown Bennington on Saturday, Hoppy Valley Organics will host two events:an open house on Friday, July 31 from 2 to 8 p.m. Parking for the event will be located across Route 7 on the west side of the Pownal View Barn and food and beverage will be available. And the grand opening of the home brew shop will be held Sunday, Aug. 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

. You can keep up with Hoppy Valley Organics on Facebook and Twitter.

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Psychology lecturer Susan Engel is clueless, at least to judge by this Boston Globe op-ed.

I have reviewed more than 300 studies of K–12 academic tests. What I have discovered is startling. Most tests used to evaluate students, teachers, and school districts predict almost nothing except the likelihood of achieving similar scores on subsequent tests. I have found virtually no research demonstrating a relationship between those tests and measures of thinking or life outcomes.

That standardized tests, especially well-designed IQ tests, forecast a wide variety of “life outcomes” is one of the most well-established facts in all of psychology. For a useful overview, see Intelligence: A Very Short Introduction.

But Engel does not need to trust me! She can just ask her colleague down the hall, Williams professor Nate Kornell:


Kornell is recently tenured so, with luck, he will feel more comfortable puncturing the PC beliefs of his colleagues in the future. Here’s hoping!

Suggestion for the Ephs behind Uncomfortable Learning: Organize a debate between Engel and Kornel on the predictive abilities of IQ tests like the SAT.

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Great article on the scam behind stock options from Bethany McLean ’92.

From Bill Gurley to Marc Andreesen, Silicon Valley’s smartest are asking if we’re in round two of the dotcom bubble. Many things are different this time around. But one thing is disconcertingly reminiscent of the late 1990s: The way stock based compensation is treated.

You may think, that can’t be! After all, in 2004, the Financial Standards Accounting Board, or FASB, mandated that the estimated cost of stock options be reflected in a company’s income statement, not buried in the footnotes.

But in present-day Silicon Valley, almost every company, from Twitter to Yahoo to Facebook to Google presents its earnings excluding the cost of stock based compensation. These are called “non-GAAP” earnings because they don’t follow the accounting principles mandated by FASB.

Back in 2004, a hedge fund manager named Cliff Asness, who is not known for mincing words, wrote a piece called “Stock Options and the Lying Liars who Don’t Want to Expense Them.” At the end of 2013, he listed his top ten peeves in a piece for the Financial Analysts Journal. Coming it at number 9 was “Antediluvian Dilution Deception and the Still Lying Liars.” In it, he wrote, “It’s amazing how hard it is to kill a scam even after you make it illegal to use it on the front page.”


Read the whole thing.

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