Sine qua non: tribute to the Williams 50th Reunion geniuses

For any of us who worked behind the scenes on our 50th in June 2018, the above-pictured Mark Robertson, Chris Robare, and Darlene Alderman are not only magically talented planners, organizers, and logisticians but also now good friends. They are pictured at our Pass the Baton dinner on September 29, 2019.

For other classmates, or anyone else who witnessed the tour de force sequence of events leading up to and culminating with the June 8-10 2018 extravaganza, it’s tempting to start with a question like “Who was that masked man?” except there are three magicians at work here, not just one.

Another way to describe the magic that this team pulls off, making a lot of hard work appear effortless, is to remember F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description from The Great Gatsby.

Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless
halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour, if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s

For our class and others, Mark, Chris and Darlene press thousands of buttons thousands of times, always with enthusiasm, dedication, and good cheer. Preparations for a Williams 50th reunion begin four or five years in advance. That means that this small team has responsibility for four or five different classes at the same time, each at a different point on the schedule. Each fall, a mini reunion is produced which all reunion-bound classmates can attend, and typically the organizational cadre does attend. Speakers, panels, coordinating presidential presence, catering, lodging, event location management: it’s not all that far away from Wavy Gravy’s announcement of breakfast in bed for 400,000. That would be Woodstock. 1969.

Each class moves through 5 Fall mini-reunions, one Presidential Forum weekend, one week long Oxford trip, and finally one big huge party at the end. Multiply that by 4 or 5 and you begin to get the idea of the magnitude of tasks this team takes on.
Oversight of reunion outreach programs, reunion fund committees, communications, coordination and management of conference calls, preparation of class information packets, it is a never-ending series of chores and decisions.

Mark, Chris, Margaret McComish (Director of Gift Planning), and Darlene in Oxford, June 2017

Let’s take a closer look at this team, ladies first.

Chris Robare

Sadly for Williams, and perhaps somewhat for her as well, Chris Robare is concluding a spectacular run as Associate Director of the 50th Reunion Program on January 2, 2019.

A Berkshire native, Chris grew up in North Adams, and attended North Adams State College, later collecting an MBA from Western New England College in Springfield. Prior to joining the 50th Reunion staff at Williams, she led multiple sequential professional lives, starting as a medical assistant (Williamstown Medical Associates, North Adams Internists), before retraining herself in accounting which led to a ten year stint with Berkshire Gas Company (public utility) where she rose to the position of Financial Analyst. An opening at Willams beckoned, and  between 1999 and the present, she served as Manager of Gift Administration, Alumni Fund Development Officer, before joining the 50th Reunion Program, initially as Assistant Director, and then serving as Associate Director from 2015 to present. Which is where we came in.

Along the way, Chris did much to modernize and make more efficient the way Williams works with its alumni. She was instrumental in seeing the evolution of Alumni Fund Thank-A-Thon, enabling the online giving platform on the alumni web site, and streamlining and automating the reporting toolkit for finance committees of each 50th Reunion class. She is rightfully proud of these accomplishments.

When the Class of 1968 overwhelmed the enrollment capacity for its pre-reunion year Oxford Trip in 2017, Chris deftly managed to double the number of buses (oops, coaches), excursion schedules, guides, and room reservations, while making it seem like nothing at all.

This website would not be what it is without her special support. We’ve relied on Chris to find contacts in the Williams Archive Department, to marshall student help for special data research projects, for helpful inside information on getting things done at Williams. That she has managed to weave in time for our concerns during a work week that at times took up between 60 and 70 hours is further testimony to her dedication to Williams and its alumni.

What’s Chris got planned next?

It’s likely she’ll keep up her golf game and also continue her role as spin instructor (torturing people with hurry up commands while they ride stationary bikes). There’s also skiing, snowshoeing, and a lot of reading to catch up on.

Travel is on the list as well (Jamaica is one destination), as well as spending more time with grandchildren (fortunately all within reach).

Darlene Alderman, 50th Reunion Program Coordinator, the only New Yorker on the staff, commutes daily to Williamstown from Petersburg NY. (Some of you may remember the ski area at Petersburg Pass where PE skiing instruction was held for a number of years). Prior to joining the 50th Reunion team, she has served as Manager of Human Resources at Taconic (a leading producer of advanced engineered composite materials) for many years before accepting an administrative position at the President’s office at Bennington College. Migrating south to Williamstown, she lent her talents in various capacities to the Development Office before joining the 50th Reunion Program in her current role.

Darlene manages the day to day needs of the office, keeps track of things and keeps everyone sane (to quote Chris). She is lightning fast to respond to email and unerringly accurate when it comes to providing information about the program. Due to her cheerful and efficient collaboration,  our web site has always boasted complete and up to date information about events, lodging, and logistics.

Like Chris, Darlene finds that working with a great team to be one of the top rewards of her position and cites the excitement of getting to know each 50th reunion class as they approach the goal line of their milestone reunion.

Mark Robertson ’02 edited the Williams Record as an undergraduate, then briefly pursued a career in journalism in his native Ohio before returning to Williams to work for the Admissions Office, at a very exciting time. As part of Dick Nesbit’s team, he played a crucial role in redefining admissions policy that opened the gates to a much broader and diversified student body, with special focus on students of high ability and low income.  Seeking a larger perspective on education, he took off for the green pastures of Harvard University where he completed his Masters degree at Graduate School of Education (HGSE). He remained at the university and held positions at HGSE in academic affairs and development before moving to Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research as Project Director for research related to college access and success.

After seven years in Cambridge, he was glad to return to Williamstown as Director of the 50th Reunion Program in the summer of 2015. Drinking quickly and capably from the fire hydrant, he soon mastered his new role while helping the classes of 1966-1968 plan for their milestone reunions. He’s already been hard at work innovating and modernizing procedures, streamlining, for example, the transmission of data to and between 50th Reunion fundraising team members. He moves deftly among his various responsibilities, making sure the right people get the right information in the most efficient way, whether fundraising or friendraising, or assembling a Presidential Forum weekend. And he’s also there at the end of the party, together with Chris and Darlene, making sure all goes well with the caterers and clean up staff. Bravo, Mark. You clearly have a bright future ahead of you.

Chris, Darlene, and Mark: our class is enormously grateful for all you’ve done for us. Williams is very lucky to have you.


Mark, Chris, and Darlene taking a bow on June 9, 2018

2 thoughts on “Sine qua non: tribute to the Williams 50th Reunion geniuses

  1. Mark, Chris, and Darlene are each players in some of my fondest memories of my volunteering and enjoying five years of Reunion planning…with the Oxford trip a mega highlight. Thank you Three Amigos and bless each of you for what you’ve done for ‘68 and also insignificant classes. Tom

  2. I wish to add my thanks to the entire team for all they have done for our class, and personally for the most generous and helpful assistance they have provided to me, during the build-up to and roll out of our fabulous 50th reunion weekend, as well as the presentation of the capstone event of passing the baton in September.

    As she approaches retirement, Chris can plan her new life adventures secure in the knowledge that she has made a substantial and lasting contribution to the 50th reunion development process at Williams.

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