Those interested in reading more about Marissa Doran ’05, the latest Eph Rhodes Scholar, can check the College’s news release (also published in the Transcript), an article in the Record and this Q&A with Doran (the daughter of Francis ’74 and the sister of Elizabeth ’06).

Although it is always hard to tell from a distance, Doran seems like a good kid and her winning seems well-deserved. But, as with last year’s Eph winners, I think that some College officials have gone a bit overboard.

“This young woman is a leader, plain and simple, and she’ll demonstrate that leadership in major institutional arenas in our society within the next two decades,” Jackall said. “She’s already shown great leadership abilities in myriad ways at Williams in her quiet but forceful advocacy for careful environmental planning in the college’s extensive building efforts; for her encouragement of milieux that will further strengthen already strong intellectual ties between students and faculty at Williams; and, before and during her college career, in her work for the American Field Service.”

Ah, yes, AFS. I remember it well.

Again, I don’t want to pick on Doran, or on Professor Jackall, but this is all a bit much. How can Jackall possibly know that Doran will “demonstrate that leadership in major institutional arenas in our society within the next two decades”? Might Doran simply fall in love, get married and decide that her greatest calling is to focus on her children, at least for a few years? I am not arguing that Doran should or should not lead her life in any particular way. I just don’t believe that Jackall really knows what the next few decades will bring, for her or any of us.

It would be fine for Jackall to claim something along the lines of “In over 20 years of teaching at Williams, I have had few if any students who have demonstrated . . . blah, blah, blah” Jackall is, obviously, well-equipped to comment on how Doran compares to other students that he has known well. But even this pool will only be a small fraction of all the students that have gone through Williams.

My own guess would be that a better predictor of future leadership roles “in major institutional arenas in our society” would be current leadership roles at Williams. That is, leadership requires a certain fire-in-the-belly that is quite likely to manifest itself, for good or for ill, at Williams. So, I would put my money on folks like, say, Ilunga Kalala ’05 and Veronica Mendiola ’05 (current co-heads of College Council).

In any event, congratulations to Doran and kudos to Professor Jackall and all the other Ephs who played a role in her education and selection.

A special note of thanks should go to Peter Grudin, assistant dean in charge of fellowships. Although it is tough to know why Williams seems to have done much better in the fancy scholarship game in the last 5 years than it did in the previous 15 (assuming that this is true), some of the credit belongs to Grudin.

Print  •  Email