Currently browsing the archives for November 2014

Purple Valley Capital

Purple Valley Capital is run by Don Wieczorek ’08. Is he the next Andreas Halvorsen ’86 or Chase Coleman ’97? Time will tell. Is there an 11 year sunspot-like cycle to Eph investment success? You have to like the firm name he choose . . .


Toaist Thanksgiving

A moving post from Professor Sam Crane:

It is a perfect Thanksgiving morning here in Northwestern Massachusetts: a light snow, about 2 inches on the ground; a chill air; great conditions to be inside and cooking and eating all day. Aidan and I are here by ourselves, however. Maureen and Maggie are down in New York City, attending the famous parade. So, we will do the whole feast thing tomorrow. Today will be just about pie baking: I have a couple of small pumpkins to bake and make into a pie. If I feel ambitious, perhaps an apple pie will follow. That will make the house warm and comfortable.

We are supposed to be thankful today, and I am. But as I give thanks I can’t help wondering: for what am I giving thanks and to whom? As is my want, I fall back on Taoism to help clarify my thoughts. And, through that exercise, I come to a somewhat startling realization: I give thanks for Aidan and his profound disability. I know that sounds a bit bizarre – how could a parent be thankful for a child’s disability? – but, as I think through it, I am happy to say that I am.

Read the whole thing. Aidan left us eight years ago, but his memory and spirit live on, not just in those who knew him personally but in all those touched my Sam’s writing. Try as hard as I might, I worry that I will never be half the father to my daughters that Sam was to his son.


Bush at the Patriots Game


Nice article from the Boston Globe about George Bush ’50.

George Bush was partying in the Gillette Stadium parking lot.

No, not that George Bush.

No, not the other George Bush, either.

This would be George F. Bush, a Patriots season-ticket holder for 44 years who was celebrating his 88th birthday with a marble cake before the Patriots and Bears kicked off on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

It wasn’t the first time Bush had seen the Patriots play the Bears. He was in New Orleans when the 1985 Bears throttled the Patriots, 46-10, in Super Bowl XX.

On Sunday, Bush proudly sported his hat from that game.

“It’s the only one in the whole stadium, that’s why I wear it,” said Bush, who sits in Section 108, Row 18, behind the Patriots’ bench.

Bush, a Turners Falls native and 1950 graduate of Williams College, proudly carries a flip card in his back pocket.

One on side is the picture he took with George H.W. Bush at a Williams College commencement ceremony.

When the lefthanded George H.W. played first base for Yale (Class of 1948) and faced Williams College, George F., a second baseman, was in the opposing dugout.

“I went up to him, and said I’m George Bush, too, can I have a picture,” George F. recalled asking the country’s 41st president at the commencement ceremony.

“He said sure, and the Secret Service allowed it. I told him I played baseball against him at Yale. He asked, ‘How’d we do?’ I said, ‘You beat us good.’”

When George F. mailed a photocopy of the picture to Houston hoping it would get signed, George H.W. obliged and sent it back.

On the other side of the flip card is a picture Bush took with another prominent George – the late George Steinbrenner, who graduated from Williams in 1952 before becoming owner of the Yankees.

“No, I didn’t hang out with him. If I had known he’d own the Yankees, that’d be a different story,” Bush quipped.

On Sunday, Bush was celebrating his birthday, which was actually Oct. 8., with 10 of his friends, some of whom were his students at Turners Falls High School, where he taught history for 30 years before retiring in 1982.

There was Terry Bernard, who graduated in 1981, and Jean Koldis, who graduated in 1961.

“These were the best students I’ve ever had,” said Bush, who also served in the Navy from 1944-46 and toured in the Pacific during World War II.

Terry’s husband Dave has been driving the two-hour trek from Turners Falls, with George riding shotgun, the last four years, and gets to sit with him during games.

Dave is the fourth driver because George has outlived the other three.

“He said to me, ‘You know what, Dave? All my other drivers have passed away.’ And I said, ‘Thanks a lot,’ ” Dave Bernard joked.

During the long rides, the conversations are extensive.

While Bush said he is starting to feel his age physically, his memory is as sharp as a tack.

“He’s unbelievable,” Bernard said. “We talk about whatever he wants. I just listen.”

Will someone be driving me around when I am 88? Will someone be driving you around, dear reader? Perhaps we should start living our lives the way that George Bush ’50 has led his.


There is no Division IV

From the Eagle a few weeks ago:

Saturday afternoon in Williamstown, Williams College dedicated its Weston Field sports complex. The complex includes Farley-Lamb Field, the new home of the Williams football and lacrosse teams.

The Farley part of Farley-Lamb is retired football coach Dick Farley, who is one of two national Hall of Fame coaches I have worked with in my career. The other is Wayne Hardin, who coached Roger Staubach at Navy. It was an honor to cover both.

Farley was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. He retired in 2003 after spending 32 years as an assistant and head coach at Williams. He spent 17 years as the head coach, compiling a 114-19-3 record, a mark that included five undefeated seasons.

Here’s a stat for you: Farley lost the first three games of his head coaching career and then went the next 128 games before losing back-to-back contests.

I started covering Williams just as the Ephs had the first of his five undefeated seasons and was there throughout the Farley years.

There are too many great games and wins to chronicle here. But it’s the last tie on Farley’s record that stands out.

It was in November, 1995, when Williams and Amherst played on a Saturday morning in a game televised by ESPN2.

The game was played on a Weston Field turf that looked like a green-painted dark side of the moon.

It was painted over the green sawdust that legendary groundskeeper George Toma came in to try to fix the field.

It was the last tie game in college football history, a 0-0 deadlock that the Lord Jeffs looked at as a win. In essence, so did Farley.

“Everybody played eight games in the league,” he said. “If I’m not mistaken, I think there was one team [Williams] that didn’t lose a game.”

Williams was 7-0-1.

But when I think of Dick Farley, one quote always sticks in my mind.

“If you can’t play here, you can’t play anywhere,” he once said. “There is no Division IV.”



Senior Staff

For the benefit of future historians, here is the current listing of the “Senior Staff” of Williams College.


Note that, ten years ago, the College somehow managed to muddle through without a Chief Investment Officer, a Vice President for Campus Life or a Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer. How did we ever manage! Fortunately, the aggregate salary for these three individuals isn’t too much over a million dollars. So, stop your complaining about the increase in administrative bloat at Williams! It’s a bargain, I tell you, a bargain . . .

Update: In August, the Senior Staff listing included Mike Reed ’75. This was before his recent departure. Reed’s position, Vice President for Strategic Planning and Institutional Diversity, was another job that did not exist at the College 10 years ago, presumably because . . . Morty did not like black people? . . . I kid, I kid.

Summary: Just a decade ago, almost have of the current senior staff positions at Williams did not exist. The College’s constantly increasing wealth — and the natural tendencies of all bureaucracies — have led to absurd amounts of administrative bloat. Odds of Adam Falk doing anything to reign in this trend? Close to zero.


Stacy’s Mom

Stacy’s Mom by Eph band Fountains of Wayne was probably the most commercially successful song by Williams alumni during the 2000’s. (If not, what was?)

I don’t think that either Chris Collingwood ’89 and Adam Schlesinger ’89 have been won Bicentennial Medals yet. Consider this EphBlog’s nomination.

Careful readers will note that this post marks the end of our one week experiment in nothing-but-good news. Does this video connect to a less-than-good-news story we might have in store for Monday? Stay tuned!


Karl Ephraim Weston ’96

Did all our readers spend yesterday exploring Williams history via JSTOR? No? That’s OK. EphBlog dug up this 1956 pdf for you.


Throughout his long and useful life, Karl Ephraim Weston was identified with Williams College, where he served as Amos Lawrence professor of art and director of the Lawrence Art Museum, which he founded.

The article, by Weston’s student and colleague, Professor S. Lane Faison ’29, is a wonderful eulogy. Read the whole thing. How many professors at Williams will be remembered as fondly by their students as Weston (class of 1896) was by Faison?

For the next 15 years he taught the history of art single-handed until mounting enrollment in his courses made necessary the addition of an instructor to assist him, and an addition to Lawrence Hall to contain his students. At a time when the field enjoyed no such nation-wide boom as is now in evidence he attracted on the average of over half of the entire student body to his instruction.

Weston’s role in the rise of Art History at Williams would make for a great senior thesis. Was he the key figure in making Williams the best college in NESCAC (or in the world?) for a student interested in Art History?

Prof. Weston was instrumental in the decision by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sterling Clark to place their extraordinary collection of art in Williamstown, and he served on the board of directors which they founded.

Is “instrumental” a statement of historical fact or a generous compliment by a former student and close friend? Hard to know. Wikipedia reports:

They [Robert and Francine Clark] visited Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1949 and began having conversations with town leader and the administrators of Williams College and the Williams College Museum of Art. Sterling had ties to the college through his grandfather and father, both of whom had been trustees. A charter for the Clark was signed on March 14, 1950 and the Institute opened to the public on May 17, 1955.

Want to write a senior thesis that dozens of people would read? Tell the story of how the Clark came to Williamstown.


Access JSTOR as an Alum

JSTOR (short for Journal STORage) is

a digital library founded in 1995. Originally containing digitized back issues of academic journals, it now also includes books and primary sources, and current issues of journals. It provides full-text searches of almost 2,000 journals.

If you are interested in academic issues, JSTOR is an invaluable resource. And — Good News! — several years ago Williams arranged for it to be free to alumni. Just click on this link. (You might have to first login to the Williams alumni site. You can find the direct link to JSTOR under “My Reports.”)

Kudos to the College for making this resource available to alumni. Do readers make much use if it? I do!


A House Is Not a Credit Card

Bethany McLean ’92 has an excellent op-ed in the New York Times: “A House Is Not a Credit Card.”

This fall, federal regulators made a controversial decision to back down from tough new underwriting standards for mortgages. Some affordable-housing advocates, allied with parts of the corporate housing industry, had successfully argued that the proposed standards would make it too hard for people to qualify, thereby reducing homeownership and hurting the housing market. Last summer, that same trump card stopped a bipartisan bill to reform the mortgage market, more than six years after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be taken over by the government.

All of this ignores a crucial fact: Much, and at times most, of what happens in the mortgage market doesn’t have anything to do with homeownership. A sizable percentage of mortgages — including most of the risky ones that were made in the run-up to the financial crisis — are not used to buy a home. They’re used to refinance an existing mortgage. When home prices are rising and mortgage rates are falling, many homeowners choose to replace their mortgage with a bigger one, taking the difference in cash. In other words, mortgages are a way to provide credit.

Read the whole thing. McLean is exactly right on the history and politics of home mortgages.

One of the most abjectly false narratives about the financial crisis is that risky mortgages proliferated so that people who couldn’t afford homes could nonetheless buy them. Modern subprime lending was not about homeownership. Instead, the 1990s crop of subprime mortgage makers allowed people with bad credit to borrow against the equity in their existing homes. According to a joint HUD-Treasury report published in 2000, by 1999, a staggering 82 percent of subprime mortgages were refinancings, and in nearly 60 percent of those cases, the borrower pulled out cash, adding to his debt burden. The report noted that “relatively few subprime mortgages are used to purchase a house.”

I’ll always remember seeing a bank ad blowing in the windy, bleak Chicago winter of 2009. “Let your home take you on vacation,” it read.

Exactly correct.

Putting the financial crisis aside, the logic behind this is completely messed up. If we want homes to be a vehicle for saving and building wealth, as they used to be, why are we instead encouraging people to increase their indebtedness? Even worse, we now know that too much credit results in people who once owned their homes losing them. It creates homelessness, not homeownership.

The problem, of course, is that the conflation of homeownership and consumer credit is so convenient for the powers that be. It allows lenders to cloak themselves in the American-as-apple-pie mantle of homeownership, thereby making it less likely that anyone will crack down on their practices. It allows members of Congress, many of whom depend on the financial industry for campaign contributions, to pretend that something that’s bad for us is actually a good thing for which we should be grateful.


One possible solution would be much tougher standards for cash-out refinancings than for mortgages used for purchases, such as requiring far more equity in a home, or making lenders keep the loan on their own books instead of selling it. Or perhaps Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shouldn’t be allowed to guarantee payment on a mortgage unless it is used to purchase a primary residence.

Or, even better, wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If there were no government guarantees, there would be a lot fewer people with poor credit using refinancings to take vacations.

In Washington, there’s been scarce public discussion of this. But if we’re going to put government resources behind homeownership, and engage in practices that threaten the safety of the financial system in the name of homeownership, shouldn’t we at least talk about the fact that we’re actually encouraging the opposite?

We should.


Mens Basketball Preview

David Fehr provides this excellent preview of the recently commenced mens basketball season.

Key losses

Gone to graduation are Michael Mayer, Taylor Epley, and useful reserve John Weinheimer. Gone to (what for the young man’s sake we hope are bigger and better things) transfer is Duncan Robinson.

Mayer was a first-team All American and our leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. Robinson was our second leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker, a 4th-team All American, and National D3 Rookie of the Year. Epley was our 3rd leading scorer and was All America in his junior year.


Daniel Wohl, Hayden Rooke-Ley (“Frito Lay”), Mike Greenman (who played wonderfully as a freshman when Rooke-Ley was on DL), Ryan Kilcullen, promising soph Dan Aronowitz.


Three guards but alas, no big men. My (usually reliable) source tells me that Cole Teal, 6-3 from Indiana, is likely to play right away and could eventually be an impact player. “Real Deal Teal.”


We get a break; the schedule is easier than last year. All teams from New England and eastern New York. No holiday trips down south to play the likes of Hampden-Sydney. (The holiday trip this year is to Salem – as in Salem, MA!) No Stevens. No Washington & Lee. 10 games at home, 12 away and two neutral. The two toughest non-league opponents could be Springfield (20-8; made NCAAs) and WPI (22-5; ranked; lost 1st round NCAA). We do have to make two trips to Maine (stupid scheduling by NESCAC which doesn’t seem to get much right), the first to meet Bowdoin and Colby, the other Bates and Tufts; winning all four would be very difficult. The Amherst league game (“the one that counts”) is at home.

NESCAC Opposition

I had been targeting this year as the one when we’d finally turn the tables on the Jeffs, because after tormenting us for nine years, Toomey finally graduated! But they have two very good centers returning, and over the last dozen or so years, the really good Williams teams (26 or more wins; going deep into NCAAs) had one or more excellent big men (Mayer; Whittington; Coffin; DeMuth). This year not so much in the paint (and last year we were an indifferent rebounding team, even with Mayer and Robinson) so that’s a big worry. We’ll score, but will we rebound and play enough D? Anyway, after creaming Amherst by 29 in the national semi-final game last March, the dubious record still stands: Amherst has won 8 of last 9, 19 of last 26 and 29 of last 44.

Amherst should win NESCAC yet again. Tufts (especially their front line) may have the second best talent in the league. Bowdoin’s Swords is not a great center but he is a legit 7-feet, something we don’t see much of around here. Middlebury may finally have run out of stars.

What the players say

Rooke-Ley is in a class I’m auditing and we’ve had two brief discussions about this team. He says the freshmen look good (in the informal, no-coaches-present workouts), and the team will do well: “We lose players every year and we replace them.” Wohl says “we’ll be better than you expect so don’t write us off.” OK, it’s what players should say, but are these two going to combine for 60 points a game? It could take that much.


Octet and Taylor Swift

During our week of good news, what could be better than the Octet performing a Taylor Swift medley?


A Week’s Worth of Good News

A longtime EphBlogger responded to my request for requests by requesting a week’s worth of good news stories. Done! Let’s start with this impressive video of the new Weston athletic complex.

Give it a view! The production values are ESPN-level quality.


Was the 2011 “Hate Crime” a Hoax?

From the Williams Alternative last May:

It has been a little over two years since the hate-crime in Prospect house, and our student body has not been informed of the results of the investigation or been given a timeline as to when we should expect some answers.

And don’t expect that to change, unless the Record gets more serious. The College prefers to flush these incidents down the porcelain memory hole, regardless of whether or not they are real or hoaxes. If they are real, then the College hardly wants to advertise itself to prospective students (and to alumni) as a hotbed of racism. If they are hoaxes, then the College’s PC immune system starts to attack itself.

In the aftermath of the incident students were ushered into “safe-spaces”, classes were suspended, and the entire community went into shock (the less said about the social-honor code idea the better). The President, the deans, many faculty members, and fellow students rushed to the aid of those who felt themselves to be under threat. While this response was admirable, it is important to push one salient observation: no one inquired into the possibility of the entire thing being a hoax.

I will not delve into the specifics of the crime due to legal concerns, but I will state a fact: there exists a common idea among the student body that the “hate-crime” was perpetrated by a minority student with ulterior motives.

At what point during our campus discussions following the event was such a possibility entertained: that a minority student had perpetrated the act, specifically in order to bring attention to minority-issues on campus and obtain benefits for their identity-group? Given the reactions of sympathy, attention, rev-evaluation and concession we observed it must be obvious that an incentive scheme exists for unscrupulous students to mimic genuine hate-crimes for their own gain, or merely to cause trouble.


1) EphBlog was not providing thorough campus coverage during this period. Sorry! Relevant Record articles here, here and here.

2) I have spoken with several different students over the past few years who believe that it was a hoax, one of whom claimed to know the student responsible. Is this a topic that EphBlog readers want us to pursue further? Recall it was EphBlog who unmasked Professor of Art Aida Laleian a decade ago.

3) Roger Kimball, in a somewhat overwrought column, made similar claims:

And this brings me to the second hypothesis about who was responsible for the offending graffito: namely, that it was the act of a minority student attempting to drum up campus hysteria and to produce a climate in which minority groups could press for more concessions from the College.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard from several campus sources that the culprit is known to students and is in fact a minority student. One source said it was “common knowledge” who the person was. Maybe so. Still, it is not officially recognized common knowledge. The Williamstown police said no arrest had been made. A Williams College administrator told me that he was “100 percent certain” that the culprit had not been discovered, despite the tireless efforts of campus security, the Williamstown police, and the FBI.

“One hundred percent certain” is pretty impressive. It’s nice to know that certitude is alive and well in Williamstown, Mass. It will be interesting to see how long it survives. In the meantime, here are a few questions: why did President Adam Falk and the Williams administration go directly to panic mode over this incident? Didn’t they drastically overreact? Why involve the police, for heaven’s sake, to say nothing of the FBI (who should be off dealing with serious crimes, not an offensive graffito scrawled on a dormitory wall)?

4) Many (most?) of these incidents at elite colleges are, in fact, hoaxes.


E. Williams Armigeri

sealEphraim Williams was a career soldier who died in battle. For most of its 200-year history, the College has had a comfortable relationship with the armed forces. Williams graduates and faculty served in times of peace and war. Even the College’s motto, E Liberalitate E. Williams Armigeri, makes reference to the benefit we have all derived “From the generosity of E. Williams, soldier.”

Over the last 50 years, the connection between Williams and military service has atrophied. Virtually no active member of the faculty has served in uniform. Only a handful of graduates enter the military each year. If one admits that the military plays an important role in society and that having an informed opinion concerning the use of force in international relations is a critical part of being an educated citizen, then the failure of Williams to have a substantive connection to military life and culture is troubling.

ar_1991And, unfortunately, unavoidable. Williams-caliber high school seniors are unlikely to consider serving prior to college. Williams-caliber Ph.D. recipients almost never have a military background. There is little that anyone can do about this state of affairs. But I think that we all have an obligation to be cognizant of it.

The estrangement of Williams from things military first struck me during a mini-controversy in the pages of the Alumni Review. The Summer 1991 issue featured a cover photo of a graduating senior, Jonathan Dailey, being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Former Professor Mark Taylor, one of the best, and most opinionated, teachers on campus was so incensed by this affront that he felt compelled to write to the editor. His letter, published in the subsequent issue, is worth quoting in full.

I was deeply disturbed by the photograph of three Marines in uniform standing besides the Declaration of Independence in Chapin Library that was on the cover of the most recent Review. Many of us at Williams have struggled throughout the year to raise the critical awareness of our students about the disturbing implications of the glorification of military power in the Gulf War. In my judgment, this photograph sends precisely the wrong message to our students and alumni. taylor_emeritusIt is little more than another example of the reactionary flag-waving mentality that has run wild in the wake of our supposed “victory” in the Gulf. Such an attitude runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education. I would have hoped that the editor of the Review would have been more thoughtful and more sensitive to the power of images to communicate cultural values.

Taylor is a great proponent and practitioner of deconstruction, of looking for the meaning behind the simple words of a text. Let us deconstruct his letter.

First, it is unclear what, precisely, has made Taylor “deeply distressed.” Is it the very existence of the Marine Corps? Or does Taylor except the need for some sort of military establishment and simply object to the tradition of clothing members of that establishment “in uniform”? Or is it the juxtaposition of these Marines and the Declaration of Independence, which, after all, contains the first claim by these United States to have “full power to levy war”? Or was Taylor distressed that this scene was chosen as the cover shot for the Review? I suspect that it was the last of these which moved Taylor to write. The military, while perhaps necessary, is a distasteful part of modern life. According to Taylor’s “cultural values,” it is worthy of neither celebration nor respect.

Second, note the reference to “students and alumni” as opposed to the more common trio of “students, faculty and alumni.” Obviously, Taylor is not concerned that faculty members will receive the “wrong message.” Presumably, they are smart enough not to be swayed. He worries, however, that the same may not be said for the rest of us.

Third, consider his concern over the “reactionary flag-waving mentality” which “runs directly counter to the ideals of a liberal arts education.” Did 2nd Lt Dailey USMCR and Williams ’91 missed out on some important lectures? Is Taylor suggesting that individuals like he and Dailey, who aspire to the liberal arts ideal, should not wave flags or that they should not do so in a reactionary manner. Perhaps lessons in progressive flag-waving are called for.

The typical comment which an ex-Marine (like me) should make at this point involves the irony of Taylor’s denigrating the very institution which secures his freedom to denigrate. Or perhaps I should note that Marines like Dailey stand ready to sacrifice themselves for causes, like protecting Bosnian Muslims, which Taylor might find more compelling than combating the aggression of Iraq. But, in this case, the irony is much more delicious.

parishTaylor is the Preston S. Parish ’41 Third Century Professor of Religion. In other words, an alumnus of the College, as his contribution to the Third Century Campaign, endowed a chair which Taylor now holds. And who is Preston S. Parish? Besides being a generous alumnus, he is a former officer in the United States Marine Corps and veteran of World War II. He won a bronze star for leading infantry units from the First Marine Division in combat on Guadalcanal and Peleliu.

For Marines fighting the Japanese in World War II, combat looked like this:

Not much “reactionary flag-waving” going on there . . .

In the beginning of his book Tears, Taylor reminds us of Kierkegaard’s aphorism that it is not the job of an author to make a book easy; on the contrary, it is the job of an author to make a book hard. Reading a good book, like attending a college which aspires to the ideals of the liberal arts, should be difficult. It should challenge us. Taylor was one of the best professors at Williams precisely because of his ability and inclination to challenge his students — question their preconceptions and to encourage them to question his. When my sister-in-law entered Williams in 1994, I told her that the one course that she shouldn’t miss is Religion 101 — or, better yet, 301 — with Mark Taylor. He made things hard.

It is supremely fitting, then, that Williams, via the medium of the Review has challenged — or at least “deeply distressed” — Mark Taylor. It has made him think, however fleetingly, about the worth and purpose of military preparedness in an unfriendly world. A great college, like a great book, should challenge, not just its “students and alumni” but its faculty as well. Ephraim Williams’ generosity, like that of Preston Parish ’41 and Jonathan Dailey ’91, is of money and blood and spirit. They make things hard for all of us.

Originally version published in the Spring 1995 Williams Alumni Review, by David Kane ’88. Modified since then by EphBlog.


Happy Birthday Eph Marines

Today marks the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps, celebrated around the world at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. On many dimensions, the Marines are the Williams College of military organizations: elite, steeped in history, less well known among the hoi polloi, athletic, cultish and intellectual. Or perhaps Williams College is the Marine Corps of American high education? Either way, there is a special bond among we few, we happy brothers of Williams and the USMC. Traditionally, Marines offer each other birthday greetings this day, and so, to my fellow Ephs Marines: Happy Birthday!

The earliest Eph Marine I have been able to find is Joseph Fairchild Baker, class of 1864, who attended Williams in 1860 — 1861 but never graduated. He was the son of a United States Senator and served as a lieutenant and captain. Does anyone know his story? If we don’t remember his service 150 years ago, then who will remember ours in the decades to come?

Joel Iams ’01 sent us this letter nine years ago.


The roads of Fallujah were eventually cleared, but not until we lost Nate Krissoff ’03. Given the rise of ISIS, they may need clearing again. If the President calls, I am sure my Marines will be willing, with Ephs at the forefront.

Below is a list of Eph Marines. Who am I missing?

Myles Crosby Fox ’40
Preston Parish ’41
Joe Rice ’54
David Kane ’58
TB Jones ’58
Jerry Rizzo ’87
David Kane ’88
Tony Fuller ’89
Jonathan Dailey ’91
Bunge Cooke ’98
Lee Kindlon ’98,
Zack Pace ’98
Ben Kamilewicz ’99
Joel Iams ’01
Rob MacDougall ’01
Jeff Castiglione ’07
Brad Shirley ’07
Hill Hamrick ’13


Yard by Yard

More than fifty years ago, Ephs took the field against Amherst.

Tomorrow, they do the same. And ten years from now. And one hundred. Do our Eph football players recognize their history? Do you?

TB Jones ’58 (my father’s roommate) played varsity squash at Williams. I remember seeing his picture in one of the many team photos that used to line the walls of the old gym. Walking by those old photographs each day for practice provided me with a great sense of the history that I was becoming a part of. Years later, those emotions were perfectly captured by Robin Williams in “The Dead Poet’s Society” when he takes his class to view the pictures of past students at their fictional New England prep school.

From the script:

Keating turns towards the trophy cases, filled with trophies, footballs, and team pictures.

KEATING: “Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You’ve walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them.”

The students slowly gather round the cases and Keating moves behind them.

KEATING: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see gentlmen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in.”

The boys lean in and Keating hovers over Cameron’s shoulder.

KEATING (whispering in a gruff voice): “Carpe.”

Cameron looks over his shoulder with an aggravated expression on his face.

KEATING: “Hear it?” (whispering again) “Carpe. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

The boys stare at the faces in the cabinet in silence.

Decades from now there will be another young man at Williams who will walk down those halls on his way to practice. Perhaps he will play squash like TB Jones and I did (although I hope that he plays more like TB than like me). Whatever his future might hold, I hope that he sees our pictures and wonders about us, about where we went from Williams and how prepared we were for the journey. I hope that he realizes how fortunate he is.

Does football coach Aaron Kelton remind his players of the history of those who have gone before? Does he know their names and their stories?

I hope so.

Williams may win or lose tomorrow. Given the fact that the team has struggled the last few years, that the seniors have lost this game every year that they have been at Williams and that Amherst comes into the game undefeated, a victory tomorrow would be one of the sweetest in decades, all the more so because no (?) neutral observer gives Williams any chance at all.

Did Frank Uible ’57 win or lose the games he played against Amherst more than 50 year ago? In the longer sweep of history, one game, one loss, is as dust in the corridors of memory. What matters is the day itself, and the place we each occupy within the traditions of the Williams community.

No one remembers the score of the game these men played 100 years ago. But we look in their faces and see ourselves.

I am Frank Uible ’57. Who are you?

[Thanks to EphBlog regular “nuts” and Williams Sports Information for the photos. Note that the original post in this series did not include a YouTube clip because YouTube did not exist. Old Time is still a-flying.]


Record Article on Financial Aid IV

The Record article on College financial aid policy is excellent. Kudos to reporter Lauren Bender ’15! Let’s spend four days discussing it. Many of my comments will appear critical but I am aiming for constructive criticism. This is one of the best Record articles of the last several years. Day 4:

In the experience of Lily An ’15, the Office of Financial Aid has not been very generous.

“When I got in, I got into both Amherst and Williams,” An said. “Amherst gave me more financial aid. Williams gave me less, but also gave me the book grant. I went to previews for both schools. When I was at Williams, my mom came with me and went to the financial aid office and asked them to match Amherst’s offer. They took a look at my numbers and discovered that they had given me ‘too much,’ and took away both the money and the book grant.”

1) This (and the rest of the article) is great reporting by Bender. Kudos!

2) Whoa! I have never heard of the financial aid office decreasing an already-made aid offer. Has anyone else? Is this common? One cynical take would be that the College, like a good used car salesman, “reprices” deals depending on supply and demand. That is, the College was originally X interested in An, and so gave her a deal worth Y. It then figured out that it was really less than X interested in An. So, it changed the deal to Z < Y. 3) Would be good to know some more details. What sort of mistake was made? Future historians would love if Bender/An were to make public the underlying documents.

Because An didn’t like Amherst as much, she decided to attend the College.

EphBlog always recommends that applicants pick Williams over Amherst, especially female applicants who are likely to find the male/female ratio in Amherst/Smith/Holyoke less desirable. But this is all-else-equal advice. If Amherst is giving you a much better deal — $10,000 over four years? $20,000? — then Williams may not be worth it.

“My parents had to take out a second mortgage on their home because they don’t want me to graduate with debt,” she said. “I am really lucky in that sense. But they were getting close to paying off their first mortgage. You don’t want to send your kid to a school they don’t like, but they shouldn’t have to pay that much money.”

Indeed. As always, parents should follow EphBlog’s advice to shelter as much money as possible away from the prying eyes of college financial aid officials. Remember: The College is not your friend. Most important tips: No money in the child’s name, maximize all retirement accounts, pay off the mortgage.

An said she felt that the College was squeezing out the middle class with their financial aid policies.

“I have such a negative impression of them,” she said. “Williams says they want students who are diverse, but I guess I’m not socioeconomically diverse enough for them. But you’re not supposed to complain, because if you’re not on financial aid then it must mean that your family can afford it.”

Indeed. Although I think that An may be misunderstanding why the College does what it does.

The College is a bureaucratic institution first and foremost. (Side note: I need to write a post entitled “See Like a College” that is a riff on James Scott‘s ’58 Seeing Like A State.) It is not that An is not “socioeconomically diverse enough” for Williams. It is that Williams measures socioeconomic diversity in a specific way: Did neither of your parents graduate from a 4 year college? If you answer Yes, you provide socio-economic diversity. If you answer No, you do not.

Ashley Graves ’15 also said that her experience with financial aid had not been a positive one.

“The people who work in financial aid are nice and relatively helpful, but they can’t do anything about the financial obligations the College expects from its students,” she said.

Correct. These policies are set by the Administration. Don’t blame Paul Boyer and his crew.

Graves has had to take out additional loans beyond the College’s maximum $16,000.

“Every year since freshman year, I’ve taken out the maximum amount of loans,” she said. “It will be $26,500 by the time I graduate, plus the computer loan, which is an extra $2000.”

Graves says she has to work three jobs to get by – as well as to help support her family.

“I came into sophomore year working three jobs,” she said. “I constantly felt like I had to be earning money to support myself. The other thing is that I’m an athlete, and sports aren’t cheap. If I need sneakers, competition shoes, doctor’s visits, proper gear and proper things to maintain my health – that’s ridiculously expensive. I felt like I was always working. Everything just broke down. My friendships suffered, my grades suffered, my relationships suffered, but God forbid I miss a day of work. I was always on time for work.”

Kudos to Graves for sharing her story and to Bender for great reporting.

Graves added that the burden on her family has been enormous.

“I’m just trying to figure out where the money is going,” she said. “I feel like as one of two teenagers from a single parent household, I should be getting more aid. It’s a burden on me and it’s a burden on my family.”

This is the end of my commentary, but Bender really ought to write a series of articles on this topic because we need more details. How, exactly, does the process work? How did Williams decide that Graves only gets $X of aid while another students get $Y? Presumably, the College thinks that Graves’s single parent ought to contribute more dollars than she can, in fact, contribute or that Graves thinks she ought to contribute. But we need to understand the exact details by which these determinations are made. Walk us through the various forms, provide copies of forms (perhaps with names redacted) that students submitted, compare the awards received and so on.


Record Article on Financial Aid III

The Record article on College financial aid policy is excellent. Kudos to reporter Lauren Bender ’15! Let’s spend four days discussing it. Many of my comments will appear critical but I am aiming for constructive criticism. This is one of the best Record articles of the last several years. Day 3:

One of the programs that promotes economic diversity at the College is the College’s relationship with QuestBridge, an organization that helps match low-income students with colleges and universities. QuestBridge scholars who are “matches” have their tuition for all four years paid for by the college. There are usually around 10 or fewer matches in each class year.

Alejandra Moran-Olivas ’17 is one such match scholar. “If you’re a match scholar, you have a full ride for all four years, regardless of any changing financial need,” she said. “For people that are not matches, it just depends on their financial need.”

Whoa! I never knew that. Did you? Has it been reported in the past? In essence, Questbridge students have a much better deal than non-Questbridge students. Perhaps this helps to explain why Harvard refuses to participate in Questbridge. Bender should have pushed harder on this point, quizzing financial aid officials at Williams about the basic unfairness of such a distinction.

Consider two students, both from poor families, one admitted via Questbridge and one not. Both get full rides their freshmen year. Then both suffer the loss of a grandparent, whose modest house is sold as part of the estate for $100,000. The Questbridge student still gets a full ride sophomore year. The non-Questbridge student does not. The College expects her family to spend around 1/3 of their post tax income. So, even though they are dirt poor and expect virtually zero income in future years, the College will want a bunch of money this year.

Conclusion: Tell every poor but smart 17 year-old you know to sign up for Questbridge. It can’t hurt and it might help a great deal.

Jonathon Burne ’17 is another match scholar. He served as liason between QuestBridge and the College last year.

“The difference between a match scholar and a non-match scholar isn’t drastically different, except that the match family has to have an estimated family contribution of zero,” Burne said. “If a family can contribute even 400 dollars, they’re automatically disqualified from match. So most Quest Scholars aren’t in the situation where they will need to take out loans.”

Interesting. It would be great to get more details. Googling around, I don’t see this stipulation on the Questbridge website. (Pointers welcome.) Bender could write an article with all the under-publicized/secret details about the Questbridge process because she, obviously, has access to some excellent Williams sources. Lots of people, inside and outside of Williams, would read that article.

Moran-Olivas said that her experience with financial aid at the College has been extremely positive. The only contribution she is required to make is the $1000 required of Quest scholars each summer.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to find jobs during the summer,” she said. “I try to earn as much money as possible to pay the contribution. So far, I’ve only been at home while I work, so my mom can still support me while I work.”

We need more than anecdotes. Why not conduct a student survey?

Burne also said that his experience with financial aid had been positive, but added that the College might do more to clarify the process for low-income students.

“The financial aid process is somewhat ambiguous,” he said. “Most of us have never had to deal with these kinds of bills, or huge amounts of money. It’s complex and not very easy to understand. Maybe they could do more work to present it in a more accessible way.”

Never assume that the College, or any large institution, is your friend. The College is not your friend. The College does not, necessarily, want to make things clear or “easy to understand.” The College actively misleads you about all sorts of things, especially things related to admissions.

In this particular case, the lack of clarity could be a simple oversight. Maybe Williams wants students like Burne to better understand the process. But Williams has had decades to better explain the process. Williams is run by very smart people. Where is the web page that you would point students like Burne towards? This isn’t it.


EphBlog Voted for Coakley ’75



Record Article on Financial Aid II

The Record article on College financial aid policy is excellent. Kudos to reporter Lauren Bender ’15! Let’s spend four days discussing it. Many of my comments will appear critical but I am aiming for constructive criticism. This is one of the best Record articles of the last several years. Day 2:

When students apply to the College, admissions are “need-blind,” meaning that the College does not take a family’s financial need into account when admitting students. However, this is not the case for international students, and the College does assess the family’s ability to pay when admitting international students. There are currently 85 international students on financial aid at the College.

Again, Bender needs to provide us with more context. How many international students are at Williams in total? How does the percentage on financial aid among international students compare to the percentage among US students? How has this percentage changed over time? Comments:

1) According to the latest Common Data set, Williams has 147 international students. (Note that this is last year’s data and Bender is (probably!) giving us this year’s.) So, there are 62 international students at Williams who get non financial aid. Wow! That is a huge change (I think). I believe that, when we discussed this at EphBlog several years ago, virtually every international student was on almost a full ride. Correct?

2) As you (should!) know, Williams has a shameful quota for international students. I had hoped that Falk might do something about that. So far, no luck.

3) Although I hate the quota against international admissions, I have no problem with not being need-blind for international applicants. First, the whole need-blind scheme is annoying and unfair, for all the usual reasons. Second, it is even more annoying and unfair with international students because it is impossible for Williams to accurately judge the income and wealth of students outside the US. So, we shouldn’t try to do it.

First, the College does not have the resources to deal with tax forms in other languages. Do you read Bengali? Do you think that the College should hire someone who does?

Second, accuracy (honesty?) on non-US tax forms is of much lower quality. And I don’t blame them! If I were a Chinese citizen, the last thing that I would do would be to be too truthful to the Chinese state.

4) Bender ought to know (and tell her readers!) that this claim is false: “the College does not take a family’s financial need into account when admitting students.” Of course it does! First, if you are super rich (and the College thinks that your family might donate enough for another Hollander Hall), you have a huge advantage in admissions. Second, if you are poor, the College gives you an advantage in admissions.

It is hard to fully trust Bender’s other reporting after she makes such a basic error.


Record Article on Financial Aid I

The Record article on College financial aid policy is excellent. Kudos to reporter Lauren Bender ’15! Let’s spend four days discussing it. Many of my comments will appear critical but I am aiming for constructive criticism. This is one of the best Record articles of the last several years. Day 1:

However, many students have expressed concern about their families’ ability to pay tuition, even with their financial aid packages from the College. So here’s how financial aid measures up.

Although the article is good, it is too short. It barely scratches the surface of how the College’s financial aid policy “measures up.” In particular, not a single (adult) critic of the College’s policies is ever quoted or, I bet, even interviewed.

“Economic diversity is the single most important commitment that the College has to the student body,” President Falk said in an interview.

Really? More important than racial diversity? Perhaps we need some measure of commitment to have an intelligent discussion? Anyway, a better reporter would have asked for some statistics at this stage in the interview. For example, how does the economic diversity of Williams today compare to the economic diversity of Williams 30 years ago? That is a hard (but very interesting!) question to answer. Some comments:

1) The college does not focus on (or keep track of?) economic diversity per se. In admissions, it assigns so-called Soc-Ec tags for students from families in which neither parent has a 4-year college degree.

2) It is very hard (impossible?) for the College to focus on economic diversity (meaning family income) during the admissions process because the Common Application does not ask applicants for that data. The College can guess family income by looking at things like high school, zip code, and parent occupation.

3) If we equate Socio-Ec tag 1 with “economic diversity” — which is not unreasonable, I think — then the College has much less commitment to economic diversity than it did a decade ago. (Background on Socio-Ec admissions here.) President Falk generally quotes a one out of seven statistic for the percentage of the class with neither parent completing college. Recall my reporting from 2009:

I e-mailed Morty with some questions, and he kindly replied that the the percentage of first generation students at Williams in the class of 2012 was 21%, a fairly dramatic increase over the 13% in the class of 2008. An 8% change represents about 43 students. So, the College replaced 43 students whose parents went to college with 43 students whose parents did not.

This is either the biggest change in Williams admissions in the past decade or a lot of hype

There is your story, Lauren Bender! Williams has gone from 21% low SES to 14% in the last 5 years! We have decreased our commitment to “economic diversity” by about one third.

Back to the Record article:

“It’s essential to maintaining the relevance of Williams to the world we live in. We’ve never made a higher investment in the history of the College in that financial aid program than we have this year.”

Maybe, depending on how you look at. Certainly the College’s financial aid budget is at record levels. But so is its budget for milk. Williams has never spent more on milk than it does today, not because it is more committed to milk now than it was in 1950, but because the price of milk has risen.

According to President Falk, the College subsidizes even the students who pay full tuition, since the College spends “well over $90,000 each year” per student. When the cost of running the College goes up, as it does each year, tuition goes up.

The College spends a lot of money on a lot of cruft. If we increased Falk’s salary by $2 million, would it be reasonable to say that the “cost” of running Williams has really increased by a $1,000 per student? No. Algebra is not the same thing as truth.

Since the 1997-98 academic year, tuition has gone up from $43,527 to $61,070 (in 2014 dollars). However, the median price for financial aid students has gone down since 1997-98, from $20,518 in 1997 to $12,571 in 2012-13 (also in 2014 dollars). At its lowest, the median price for financial aid students was $8,728 in 2008-09. The median price for aid students has continued to rise each year since then.

Hmmmmm. Where is Bender getting this data? Is she being spoon-fed by the Administration? Presumably, the College has the data for every year. So, Bender ought to get that data and share it with her readers.

“If you’re on financial aid, the actual tuition number really shouldn’t matter to you,” Falk said. “What you are asked to pay for your education depends not on our posted tuition but rather on your family’s estimated ability to contribute.”

Doubtful! I am a Falk-fanboy — and I realize that college presidents can’t be perfect truth-tellers — but this is too much. Williams should not ask any student, financial aid or otherwise, to just “Trust us!” Don’t believe me? Just ask David Weathers ’18.

Entire article below the break, in case it ever vanishes from the web.

Read more


How Many More Football Games at Weston?

Today is Homecoming. Good luck to all the Eph Sports teams!

But what is the future of football at Williams?


Four years ago, I asked:

How many more football games will be played at Williams? I would put the over/under at 40. In other words, don’t be surprised if football is no longer played at the College by 2020.

That prediction was met with derision. Would anyone take the bet today?

Much of my reasoning is the same now as it was then.

1) Ending football at Williams (and other NESCAC schools) is a completely different bucket of concussions that ending football at the University of Washington or other Division I schools. I don’t expect college football to disappear from such places for decades, if ever.

2) The presidents and faculty of NESCAC schools are, as a rule, not fans of football as a sport, which is one reason Connecticut College does not have a team. Football is expensive. Football requires huge amounts of admissions concessions and, because of that, football players are much more likely to have academic and honor code difficulties.

3) Football can be eliminated from an elite school with no ill effects, as Swarthmore demonstrated a decade ago.

The biggest change in the last four years is the near universal agreement that football is dangerous. Even the NFL agrees! And that means that the liability picture, for Williams, has changed dramatically.

Imagine a lawsuit by a former Williams football player a decade from now, someone suffering significant mental impairment from football. Imagine the depositions and discovery process. Could President Falk deny that he knew that football was dangerous? Could Trustee Jonathan Kraft ’86 (COO of the New England Patriots) pretend that he did not agree with the NFL’s decision to settle lawsuits from former players?

But this is a risk for all colleges. And a reasonable defense might be that the student knew the risks and took them willingly. The problem that Williams faces is that the vast majority of starting football players would not have been admitted to Williams if they did not play football. Williams did not admit them and then offer them the choice of participating or not in this risky activity. Williams only admitted them if they agreed, implicitly or otherwise, to engage in this risky activity. And that fact changes the liability picture significantly. (Contrary opinions from our lawyer readers are welcome.)

So, enjoy today’s football game at Weston. There are no more than 20 such games left to be played . . .