Although it isn’t about Williams specifically, a snippet from a recent Michael Lewis article (on Bloomberg, so no link available) struck me as interesting. The article is about the sad case of Gregory Earls, now convincted of swindling. (Full Disclosure: I knew two of Earls’s children.) Lewis notes that

Ten days ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article about a man named Gregory Earls, who used his role as a prominent fund-raiser for Harvard University to persuade investors to give him money, much of which he stole, the rest he lost in spectacularly sloppy fashion.

Lewis makes the point that it is likely that the same factors that made Earls such a successful fund-raiser for Harvard also provided him with advantages in the swindling game. Any good fundraiser

must have an eye for human weakness. He must know that, while a few good souls may give with no hope of return, most give more shrewdly. They want to impress their old classmates with how much money they are able to give away, for example. Or they want to improve the odds that Harvard will admit their children. Or they want to highlight their affinity with the affinity group.

But here’s the rub: Unless they fork over a sensationally huge pile of dough, donors are unlikely to get anything in return from Harvard. A few thousand bucks is unlikely to impress anyone. Even 50 grand won’t improve their children’s odds. (The Harvard application from the legacy whose parents have given less than millions goes into the same pile as the one from the legacy whose parents have given nothing.) Thus there is a gap in Harvard fund raising between hope and reality, and it is the job of the fund-raiser to bridge it.

My question: Is the same true at Williams? I realize that the really big-money givers are in a separate category from the rest of us. But I would have guessed that the admissions office would be more kindly disposed to children of Ephs that are at least somewhat active — give a little money regularly, attend reunions, volunteer and so on — than toward the children of Ephs who have done nothing Williams related since graduation day.

Or am I being naive?

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