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Kurt Tauber–My Favorite Marxist

Since one alumnus requested recollections of reunion, I will do my best to supply some over the course of the next few days (as my free time on my drive west permits).

I had many wonderful moments, chances to reconnect with old friends and make (at least) one new friend, but the one that sticks most in my mind right now is my last meeting in Williamstown this past weekend, that with the man who taught the best course I ever had — and not just at Williams.  On my way out of town, I stopped at the home on Southworth Street of the outspoken octogenarian emeritus professor of Political Science, Kurt Tauber.

Ever the gracious host that Marxist gourmand, who first introduced me to such conservative thinkers as Eric Voegelin and Leo Strauss, may walk a little slower than he once did, but he is as sharp as ever.  He engaged me on the subject of my dissertation as he had once challenged me to defend my conservative ideas.  Few people have as great a capacity to hold strong opinions and respect those holding contrary views as does Mr. Tauber.

More than anything, Tauber valued civil discourse, regularly attending lectures, often asking probing questions, always engaging anyone willing to offer a well-thought-out opinion.  He very much embodied the ideal of Williams academics.  (Do hope President Falk takes an afternoon this summer to sit down with this former chair of the Political Science Department.)

I was not the only conservative student who loved Kurt Tauber.  He had fans across the political spectrum.  And he was most interested not just in our ideas, but in our experiences at Williams, asking probing questions about student life and acting to improve the intellectual atmosphere at the college.

What a great man!

Let me conclude with a story that those who know me have heard on (at least) ten thousand occasions.  It is, to borrow an expression from James A. Garfield, my particular Log moment.   Read more

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On the Society of Alumni Executive Committee

While I have perhaps enjoyed less professional success than the better part of Williams alumni, I have found considerable success in nearly every volunteer activity to which I have devoted serious attention. And this goes back to my time at Williams when, shortly after founding the Garfield Republican Club, I was asked to run for state chair of the Massachusetts College Republicans, being the first student from a college in the western part of the state to helm that federation.

And this success in private clubs has helped me understand why some organizations succeed and others fail. Involved in Log Cabin Republicans, I watch that organization crumble because its national office reats successful chapter presidents as threats (to their authority) rather than as a source of ideas and leadership.

One reason, I believe, we have a solid alumni organization at Williams is that the alumni office acts, by and large, in the opposite manner. It has offered a lot of support to alumni in various regions across the country when they have presented ideas for activities and programs. First Lew Fisher, then Brooks Foehl, were most supportive when I pitched the idea of Ephs-in-Entertainment and a Purple Cow Short Film Festival (featuring films made by or with significant participation of) Williams alumni.

Founding the former in 2002 and spearheading the latter in 2003 led to my election that year (’03) as President of the LA Regional Association. I guess the alumni office thought I did a good job in that capacity or else they wouldn’t have asked me to serve on the executive committee of the Society of Alumni.

From my experience, the alumni office is eager to help (and otherwise acknowledge) alumni who are willing to work to improve the college and its relationship to alumni. I say this to encourage all of you to get more involved at the local level. If there’s a regional association in your area, ask how you can help out. If there’s not, see if you can get one organized.

It would be great if other energetic alumni could set up professional organizations like Ephs-in-Entertainment where we have regular dinners where we can mix, mingle and reminisce.

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Your Voice on the Exec. Committee of Society of Alumni

I know that, from time to time, people use this blog to raise criticisms of the college we all love. And even as I have now begun blogging here, I still do not check it as regularly as I would like, but will try to do so as best as possible over the next three years.

You see, during the annual meeting of the Society of Alumni yesterday (during Reunion Weekend), I was elected to the Society’s Executive Committee and want to represent my fellow alumni as best I can, being as well apprised of concerns y’all have as possible.

If you have concerns that you believe our committee can address, please let me know. And I’ll try to do a better job of reading the blog more frequently to become better informed of the issues which concern alumni with whom I do not regularly come into contact.

(Perhaps, once my laundry is done & I check out of my room in Mission, I may offer some Reunion Thoughts.)

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Reunion Thoughts: The Williams Dream

I have promoted this post to the top and will continue to promote reunion-related posts to the top until the end of reunion.  –93kwt as 93kwt

I can still recall the day now nearly thirty years ago, December 15, 1980, when my Mom brought a thin envelope from Williams College to my high school in Cincinnati.  Having heard that when it comes to college admissions, a thin envelope is bad news, I feared the worst.

But, when I opened it up, I learned that I had been accepted early decision into what would soon be acknowledged (on numerous occasions) as America’s finest liberal arts college.  I jumped so high, I punched a (metaphorical) hole in the ceiling outside Room 15.

I often referenced that “hole in the ceiling” as the dream I had for Williams College.  When things got rough in parts of my freshman and most of my sophomore year, it felt like the hole closed up.  Later, in my junior year as things began to turn around in a big way (a very big way), it felt like the hole not just opened up, but expanded beyond measure.

Williams did not quite meet the lofty expectations I had had as an upperclassman at Cincinnati Country Day School eager to set off to college.  But, when I became more in touch with my own qualities and passions, it became a good place, a very good place, one I was loath to leave a quarter-century ago and where I am eager to return this afternoon.

Knowing this year would be a big reunion year, I had been making plans for quite some time to return.  And realizing it would follow shortly after a niece’s Bat Mitzvah (also on the East Coast), I’d been thinking for some time about making another cross country drive to attend both events.

I didn’t make such plans to attend my 25th high school reunion even though I had spent thirteen years in the same private (PK-12) school.  Indeed, for that celebration, I only decided to go at the last minute. Williams has that kind of pull for many of us.

And I wonder sometimes if one of the things that makes us love Williams so is the dreams we had about what that place might be. Read more

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Reunion Thoughts: The Armor We Wore Our Freshman Year

When I first set out on my cross country drive, culminating this weekend in my 25th Reunion, I had expected that Williams would often be on my mind and I would frequently pen posts about my thought.  But, now with the first events of our reunion fewer than 48 hours away, I find I have hardly posted on this journey, the last time just after staying with Williams friends in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Now, I’m in Boston, having followed a route similar to that I first took when my Dad drove me to college for my freshman year.  Only then time, instead of heading from the New York Thruway to Route 2, I took the MassPike into Boston.  On Thursday, I’ll take Route 2 West to Billsville.

One thought which has crossed my  mind from time to time was more  a hope than a thought, the hope that when my class assembles again, they won’t remember me as I was when first we assembled as freshmen in the Fall of 1981.  But, as I noted in a previous post, “some of the sharpest memories I have are of freshman year“.  I would dare say it’s the same for many of them.

While I came to embrace many of my lifetime passions in the Purple Valley, when I first arrived I was uncertain about the propriety of expressing any of them, more concerned about fitting in than in “finding myself” (to borrow an expression which has become a cliché).  But, then I think that many of us tried to mask our own insecurities in false identities.  And we sometimes became judgmental of those not in our circle (or our entry) to cover our own anxieties.

For most of us, that judgmental attitude melted away as we became more comfortable in our own circles more confident in our talents and more aware of our own interests.  Perhaps, it was the support of a good friend or the encouragement of a professor.  Or the inspiration of a coach (or other mentor). Read more

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Williams Conversations

Shortly after I graduated from Williams, when I was studying at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg, Germany, I approached a professor lecturing on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival to ask her about a concept in that epic (I believed was) similar to one in Beowulf. “Approach” may not be the best way to describe how I sought to contact this scholar. It was more like chased down. I had to rush after her at the close of the class. Unlike her peers in the Purple Valley, she did not stay after to field questions from students, leaving almost immediately after she excused us.

When I did track her down, she seemed almost stunned by my intellectual interest in the epic–and the comparison I was making (without her prompting) to another great medieval poem.

One could say that is the difference not between Williams and the university in Freiburg, but between an American and a European university.  And to be sure, I often enjoyed conversations with professors at  the various graduate institutions where I have studied on this side of the Atlantic, even dropping by to visit a law school professor when I was in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend.

Yet, we didn’t just have conversations with our professors at Williams.  We often had spirited exchanges, touching on the subject matter of our courses, student life at a small college and even about our career goals or the news of the day.

I was reminded of that when I related the above anecdote to Gail Henderson ’86 while visiting her in Charlotte Monday night.  And like our days at Williams, we ended up talking well into the night, sharing stories of our lives since college and discussing the various challenges we have faced over the years.   Read more

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Williams Couples

Given how much we complained how little dating there was at Williams when we were students, it’s fascinating how many of my classmates are married to each other.  And of those couples that formed while we were in the Purple Valley, it seems the better part survived long after those happy golden years.

As I drive now down the eastern seaboard, heading first south before turning north with the ultimate destination of Williamstown for my reunion, I have visited family members and friends, including two Williams couples.  I am now in Charlotte, North Carolina. staying in the home of a good friend from the Class of 1987 and her husband, also of that year.

They are now the second coupled classmates I have met on this journey, the others from 1984.  Pardon the double negative, but I had never not known the elder couple as anything but a couple.  What I didn’t know was that they waited until five years after Williams to marry.

I had just always assumed that they would.

As to the second couple (whose hospitality I now enjoy), well, I can still recall learning of their romance when she wrote me in Germany (where I was then living), telling me of this guy she met and had started dating.

Now, these couples met at Williams, but going through my reunion book, I found quite a number of couples who got together only after graduation.  Perhaps, some day, someone will study why it is that people who knew each other as Williams waited until after graduation to connect.  But, for now, I will just note the high percentage of people who started dating at Williams and ended up married.

From my experience at least, It seems almost that if the relationship survived Williams, it would survive into the real world.

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Reunion Nostalgia

I write this post from a Comfort Inn in Richfield, Utah, having completed the first leg of my cross country drive (or x-country x-cursion as I have dubbed it) so I can attend both my niece’s Bat Mitzvah in New York and three weeks later my Williams Reunion in Billsville and in the between time, visiting friends and family on the east coast while taking time to pay homage to the subject of my dissertation at her North American shrine.

And in the past few days, few weeks really, I have spent much of my time remembering Williams, with odd memories cropping up at strange moments.  Because this is a big reunion (25th), the college sent out a facsimile of our original Facebook, only replacing our dorm and high school information with our current address and professional situation.  So, I page through it, particularly at moments when I needed a break from dissertation writing (or was procrastinating that writing) and remember classmates and wonder at their current situation.  I never would have thunk he or she would end up in the UK.  Or that he would teach high school.  Or she go into finance.

And her spouse is a woman!?!?  (Cool!)  But, she and Steve (not his real name) were the most coupled people at Williams, smooching in the snack bar, holding hands in Hopkins.  Their relationship didn’t last, but it was fascinating to note how many of our classmates married other classmates.  Some relationships just made sense. Of course they’d end up together.  But, they didn’t date at Williams, did they?  (In many cases, they did not.)

And then there were people I wished I had gotten to know better or had made the effort to meet.  And those with whom I lost contact (and regretted as much).  Thanks to Facebook, I have gotten in touch with several of my classmates, learning that one man comes up with better one-liners than some people who earn their living writing such lines in Hollywood.  (Was he this witty at Williams?)

Two things to note, some of the sharpest memories I have are of freshman year (and I do hope that that is not the same for my classmates about me).  And then, there’s something a classmate said to me when after learning (via Facebook that he was in LA for a few months) we got together for lunch.  As we talked about reunion and our class; he remarked how despite the size of the school, people had so many different experiences there.  So many people loved the place–and for so many different reasons.

It is amazing the diversity at such a small college.

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Bloggers’ Panel at Reunion

I have contacted the Alumni Office about doing a bloggers’ panel at reunion next month.  They think it’s a swell idea. I have confirmed Dan Drezner ’90 in addition to myself to speak.  But, with myself on the right and Dan in the middle, we have a gaping hole on the left.  In the true spirit of our alma mater, we should balance this out.  So, if there is anyone on the left politically who’s going to be at reunion and wants to participate, please e-mail ASAP, so we can make this happen.

Thanks, Dan Blatt ’85

(Ronit has long since asked me to blog here, so I may just do that in the future.)

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