You did WHAT? A survey of career choices we made

Created by Williams 68 Web Team Historian John Dirlam. If you changed careers after that, let us know in the Comments section below.

What Were We Doing Back in 1993?

The 25th Reunion Class Book offers a snapshot of the early career choices we made, as well as what some of us did immediately after graduation. The information readily available for data mining includes the biographical sketches supplied by most of us at the time of the 25th Reunion, along with skeletal information—occupation and residence, but not much more—furnished by the College for the 75 classmates who did not submit a statement. Of the latter group, ten of us were on the “lost list” at the time, and nine were deceased. In all, the total is 303.

Of course, a liberal arts education provided us with the tools to be flexible and to try a variety of paths during the course of our working lives if we wished to do so. Subsequent class notes have reported, and our 50th Reunion Class Book will reflect, changes—some dramatic—in our professional lives that have occurred since our 25th.

It is noteworthy that, before settling into a career of some sort, at least 55 of us served in the military, due in large part to an ancient relic known as the draft, and America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It appears that 25 served in the Navy, 25 in the Army, and the rest spread among the other three branches of the service. Three classmates actually made the military their career.

No one from our class was killed in action in Vietnam, although the death toll from all the other classes is believed to have been ten. By comparison, a much smaller Williams community lost 30 men in the Civil War, 47 in World War I, and 118 in World War II. It is no secret that those wars took a much higher toll of the college-educated than did Vietnam.

On a more peaceful note, eight of our classmates served in the Peace Corps before “settling down”, and two served in VISTA. Others were involved in idealistic endeavors such as teaching in the inner cities or serving as public defenders.

The range of early career choices represented in our class includes expected categories as well as some more varied and in some cases even unusual fields. More than one third of us gravitated toward law or medicine. Not surprisingly, 70 of us became lawyers, including some who went into business or government and are double-counted for this purpose. Forty-five of us became doctors or dentists, but we do not have a good breakdown between medical research and actual practice. Another 82 of us—more than a quarter—went into business or finance, including several of the lawyers.

Teaching and government also attracted a number of us. Thirty four of us became educators, from grade school right on up to the post-graduate level. Twenty five of us went into state, local or federal government, including several of the lawyers.

Others of us made our contributions to these diverse fields:

  • 10 of us became freelance writers or reporters.
  • 8 of us became architects.
  • 7 of us joined the entertainment world.
  • 5 of us joined private, non-profit organizations.
  • 4 of us became ministers or pursued other religious vocations.
  • 2 of us became farmers (yes, really).

Finally, five of us had such a variety of different jobs in the first 25 years after Williams that it was impossible to assign them to any one category. They may well have had the most interesting lives of all!

It would be fascinating to compare these results to classes 30 or 40 years before us, and 30 or 40 years after us, but that is a project for another day. The earlier classes may well have had a similar concentration in business and finance and the professions, but that is strictly anecdotal, and the plural of anecdote is not data! The more recent classes may have had greater diversity of occupations, but that may not be entirely by choice, given the tough economic circumstances they have faced.

Moreover, the leading major at Williams for some time has been economics (ours was probably history), so the business world still has plenty of allure. Perhaps, as the saying goes, the more things change, they more they remain the same.





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