This post begins a month-long seminar about President Adam Falk’s Induction Address. Let’s dive in:


I am honored and humbled to stand before you as the seventeenth president of Williams. I’m deeply grateful to Greg Avis, the Board of Trustees, and the Search Committee for allowing me this remarkable opportunity. I follow in the steps of previous Williams presidents who set the highest standards for academic leadership and I’m especially pleased that two of them – Frank Oakley and John Chandler – honor us with their presence today.


Welcome! Note:

  • This seminar will feature comments by both me (Dave Kane ’88) and Ken Thomas ’93. We will separate out comments like this, so you know who is speaking. If you would like to join us, please let us know. (You will need to sign up as an EphBlog author to do so. Top of my fantasy draft for this project would be Guy Creese ’75, Will Slack ’11 and hwc.) The main benefit is that your comments will appear in the post itself. All readers are, as always, free to add their thoughts to the comment thread which follows each post.
  • Each day, we will quote a paragraph or two from the speech. (We will not skip anything.) We are also considering providing a link to the video, adjusted so clicking on it takes you to the correct place in the talk. See above for today’s example. Do readers find this useful or annoying? Let us know!

In terms of substance, note what is missing from the opening paragraph: Morty Schapiro. Obviously, he was invited. Did he have a family obligation which precluded his attendance? Uhh, not so much.

Given all that Williams has done for Morty, do you think he should have missed a football game to attend Falk’s induction?


Greetings all, and a warm welcome from Jerusalem this afternoon. As David put it to me, I think there’s a ton of material here– actually I told David, I think there’s enough material fill the four-and-a-half ton dump truck at Deep Springs.

What kind of material that is, remains for us to explore. That is, — well, in terms of substance, I think there’s a lot of things Adam Falk could have done here, that he didn’t. There are a lot of tones and approaches, that he didn’t take.

For this seminar though, we’d like to move though the material in a matter which is both a little choppy, and a little upbeat, while maintaining a back-and-forth between David and me, — to keep things interesting.

Call this post-game analysis of the induction speech, which is going to turn to close reading. While I will turn serious at times, I’m going to try to keep detail in the comments, at the top, which you might consider “the footnotes.”

My first footnote comment, is going to be, a little bit of why spending a month reading and talking about Falk speech, is darn important. But be warned. If you read yesterdays’ New York Times, I’m the kinda guy who thought spending three hours with Prof. Bernstein talking about Hegel is fun.

If you think that sounds like having your teeth pulled, you may wish to move on at times. You’ve been warned.

But– to the text in front of us.

Well, David! This is a fine intro. I don’t know that I really care about Morton Shapiro that much, nor am sure– well, I don’t think we should over-read here.

What else could Falk have done here? Perhaps lay out a project? Perhaps deliver a bold vision– the College in the Twenty-First Century?

He does not. He thanks the people who were involved in bringing him to Williams, and he hearkens to the tradition of– previous Presidents, and two very particular Presidents. He begins by invoking tradition, in a very simple and unassuming way– I think you’ll hear echoes of this as we move forward.

And Morton Schapiro? What of him? I guess being at the game at his new institution was more important to him than being in Williamstown– read what you will into that– I guess I’ll keep wondering if he watched online, but what of it?

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