Class of 1850 Attends First Documented 50th Reunion at Williams

In 1900 members of the Class of 1850 attended a 50th reunion luncheon at the Greylock Hotel (near the present Greylock Quad). It is the first documented event of this kind. Only four classmates attended in person, but many more either sent messages of greeting or were represented by letters from relatives.  Male and female relatives were invited to attend in place of classmates who were deceased or incapacitated, but none managed to do so.  The letters spoke of major personal accomplishments, both in career and community activities, and, predictably, contained some reports of physical infirmity and financial misfortune.

The diverse geographic distribution of the attendees and the letter writers indicated that by 1900  the College had already become truly national in its reach.  Indeed, one of the attendees was from Cheyenne, Wyoming. This was in sharp contrast to the members entering in 1846, who, as the Reunion program book notes, were “largely poor young men, many of them earnest Christians, having the gospel ministry in view, coming from the small towns and farms in central New York, central and western Massachusetts and southern Vermont, where it was often a struggle even to eke out a bare living”.

The program contains many reminiscences about student life in the 1840’s, including the generosity of the Williamstown citizens, who generally kept open houses for visitors for the week before Commencement.  It also boasts about the “firsts” at Williams, including the establishment of the Society of Alumni.

Although it speaks of a bygone past, the program contains this timely statement of the College’s enduring mission:

Williams has no desire to ever become a University, with classes so large that members of the same class shall not even know all the members of their same division—much less know the Professor personally, and be taught in great masses….


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