Ballots for this year’s elections for Alumni Trustee and Tyng Administrator are due in a few weeks. Now that the on-line balloting is over, I can’t find the election statements on the web. I have reproduced them below. (If the candidates object, please let me know and I will remove them.) Current office holders are listed here.

A brief reading of the descriptions and the personal statements demonstrates that the election is somewhat of a farce. It is impossible for any alumni to make an informed choice because we are told virtually nothing about the policies that the candidates actually favor. It is little more than a popularity contest, and a strange one at that since only a few hundred of the tens of thousands of alumni voters personally know the candidates.

Note that this is not the fault of the candidates. The College tells them explicitly not to “campaign” and urges them to write the most banal sort of personal statements. But, to cast an informed vote, we need to know their actual opinions.

Since EphBlog is here to solve problems (at least on some days), I am trying to improve the quality of the election by getting each candidate to answer the following question:

For Alumni Trustee candidates:

What decisions made by the trustees in the last decade have, in your view, added the most to the quality of Williams? Which policies do you think, going forward, are most in need of a new direction?

For Tyng Administrator candidates:

What aspects of the Tyng program have, in your view, been most successful in the last decade? How would you want to shape the program going forward?

My purpose here is, obviously, not to ask awkward questions. I do not want to put candidates on the spot. I applaud their willingness to serve. I just need more information. I want to know how Williams would be different if, say, David Bowen is elected in place of Wendy Coakley or Suzanne Biemiller. I want to cast my vote on some basis more substantial then their pictures and biographies, as impressive as those are.

I will ask each candidate to either submit a comment to this thread or to e-mail me a response which I might share with the hundreds of alumni readers of EphBlog. One of the reasons that alumni participation in these elections is so low (15% or so) is that alumni see little reason to cast an uninformed vote. More information would help.

Candidate Statements

Alumni Trustee

David C. Bowen ’83

David is co-founder of Ascend Venture Group, a private investment management firm specializing in applied technology and education companies. He started Ascend in 2000 after an investment banking career at Goldman Sachs and Salomon Smith Barney. He holds an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, where he was chair of a trustee committee overseeing part of their endowment. David attended Regis High School in Manhattan where he was a trustee and chaired the investment committee for their endowment. He also served on the Williams Club Board of Governors, the Williams Black Alumni Network Steering Committee and as vice chairman for the Third Century Campaign.

“Frederick Douglas once taught that education can advance a person or a populous. The Williams education I received has been my primary advancement vehicle, and it has shaped who I am today. I learned to think critically, formed life-long relationships, and strengthened my personal notion of responsibility to others. Since then, it has been rewarding to volunteer at each of my alma maters. I have served as trustee at both my business and high schools. Having been responsible in stewarding those schools’ resources, I have a perspective on what Williams must continue to do to ensure its legacy as a place of advancement for future students. It is an honor to ask you to consider my service to Williams as an alumni trustee.”

Wendy Webster Coakley ’85

Wendy is manager of corporate communications and public relations for Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America in Pittsfield, Mass. She executes strategic communications to key corporate stakeholders, including employees, policyholders, the sales force, media and the community. She also oversees the company’s charitable giving. Wendy joined Berkshire in 1996 as editor of its magazine and newsletter, following an 11-year public relations career in Washington, D.C., that culminated in the position of media spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association. Wendy has a long history of volunteering for Williams, and currently serves as president of the Williams Association of the Berkshires and class secretary.

“In one capacity or another, I have volunteered for Williams since the moment I left campus 20 years ago, and it has been a source of pride and constant joy ever since. No matter where I have lived or which turns my life’s journey has taken, staying connected to Williams through service has allowed me to interact with some of the finest people I know. I have found that, while their decade of graduation may distinguish their views on individual issues, the alumni continuum from Old Guard to Generations X, Y and Z shares a desire for Williams’ continued excellence that is ageless and passionate. It would be an honor to articulate that aspiration on behalf of all generations of Ephs as your Alumni Trustee.”

Suzanne R. Biemiller ’87

Suzanne was awarded a master’s degree in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and has put her degree to active use. She worked on defense conversion projects for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., and has been a program officer with the Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia since 1998, with a two-year leave to serve as executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Assoc. She is active in her community and has volunteered for Williams in several capacities, including the Executive Committee of the Society of Alumni, Young Alumni National Advisory Committee, and currently serves as class secretary and class agent.

“As a program officer at the Pew Charitable Trusts, I work on projects to strengthen Philadelphia’s rich historic and cultural assets and enhance its civic life. Much of this job involves partnerships with government and nonprofit organizations and requires strong project management, communication, consensus-building, and leadership skills. It helps to be both creative and analytic. I am also the mother of two young girls and have thus become particularly deft at active listening, problem-solving, and multi-tasking! In many ways, my life reflects an important principle that I learned at Williams – strong communities depend upon the active participation of their members. I am eager to apply that lesson again at Williams as a member of the Board of Trustees.”

Tyng Administrator

Jean Henderson Tibbetts ’75

A 1979 graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Jean is an ophthalmologist with a private practice – Eye Center Northeast – in Bangor, Maine. She also serves as chief of the eye section at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, and is an active staff member at Eastern Maine Medical Center, also in Bangor. In addition to her busy practice, Jean is a clinical instructor in Ophthalmology at Tufts School of Medicine. An active researcher, Jean has participated in several long-term clinical research studies in her field of expertise.

“I was told Williams was looking for a ‘seasoned’ woman in the medical field. Webster’s defines ‘season’ as: to give more flavor or zest; to give a distinctive quality to; to qualify by admixture; to temper. Done! Between my youth in New York and my 20-plus years as an ophthalmologist in Maine, where I treat everything from child abuse to moose injuries, I sometimes wonder, is there anything I haven’t seen? If there is, my three teenagers seem bent on completing my education. I paid for medical school myself, but it was easier then – tuition was lower and expectations were higher. The Tyng Bequest helps ensure that talented students can pursue their goals without financial distress. That’s a vision I would like to be part of.”

Anne E. Youngling ’78

Anne is proof that Williams prepares its students for a well-rounded life. From 1985 to 1994, Anne owned AMI Construction in Norwalk, Conn., specializing in residential carpentry and general contracting. Soon afterward, she turned to the study of medicine and graduated from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford, Maine. Following her residency at the Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut, she is now a staff physician at ProHealth Physicians in Guilford, Conn. For 14 years, she served as Admissions Committee chairperson and as a member of the Executive Committee of the Fairfield County Chapter of the Williams Alumni Association.

“Completing an advanced degree 24 years after my Williams experience puts me in a unique position to appreciate the many challenges of obtaining a graduate education. The process encompasses more than just the challenge of pursuing a career interest, it is a life-altering experience, especially in mid-life. My Williams education helped me develop the tools to pursue my dreams in two very disparate fields. My volunteer work for Williams, especially as a local admissions representative for many years, has allowed me to come face to face with young people ready to pursue their dreams. I would be honored to serve as a Tyng Administrator to help pave the way for deserving students to have their own graduate school experience.”

Elizabeth Shorb St. Clair ’80

Elizabeth is a marketing communications consultant based in Williamstown. Armed with a master’s degree in English from the University of Virginia, Elizabeth worked for five years in marketing support for a subsidiary of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Prior to striking out on her own, she was an instructor of English at Southern Vermont College in Bennington, Vt., for 10 years and chaired the college’s Strategic Planning Committee. She serves as alumni representative to the Williams Advisory Committee for Shareholder Responsibility and is an active volunteer in the Williamstown community.

“For many years I taught at a college just up the road from Williams but unlike Williams in almost every way. Yet despite their differences, both bring to their students an extraordinary potential to transform lives. Most of my students were the first in their family to attend college, and I saw how access to higher education changed their lives. Similar transformations happen at Williams for many students, thanks in part to the scholarships made possible by the generosity of the Tyng Bequest. Living in Williamstown has given me many opportunities to connect with Williams students on committees, as volunteers and as friends. I would be honored to serve them and the College as a Tyng Administrator.

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