WILLIAMSTOWN -- It was from Williams College that five alumni have gone on to make significant contributions to the fields of travel, medicine, education, agriculture and journalism.
While they will each be honored with a Bicentennial Medal from the college during Convocation on Saturday, four of the five honorees shared their life stories with students, faculty and staff and the Williamstown community Friday afternoon in the Adams Memorial Theatre.
Kathleen Merrigan, class of 1982, David S. Paresky, class of 1960, Norman P. Spack, class of 1965, and Charles N. Waigi, class of 1972, each spoke candidly about their roads to attending Williams, and how their time at the college impacted their lives moving forward.
"My success has had so many inputs, not the least is the foundation laid by the education I received at Williams College," Merrigan, who is deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and author of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, said.
She wanted to thank the village of Williams alumni who generously made possible a scholarship that allowed her to do a summer internship in Washington, D.C., along the lines of what she is doing now, she said.
Stack, a pediatric endocrinologist and co-founder of the Gender Management Service at Boston Children's Hospital, said being chosen to receive a Bicentennial Medal gave him the opportunity to reflect on events that occurred throughout his
He attended Williams at a tumultuous time in the college's history when the college's board of trustees decided to eliminate the fraternity system, he said.
"The residential housing transition laid the groundwork for other transitions here. One decade after we graduated, the first class of women who matriculated as freshman sat here ready to graduate," he said.
Paresky said he vowed to someday repay Williams for its generosity in giving him the opportunity to attend the college on a full scholarship. Now, he is known as a travel industry pioneer and philanthropist.
"[On Saturday], I will accept this medal on the part of my parents and grandparents for their work ethic that was inspirational to me," he said.
His parents and grandparents believed in honesty, hard work and integrity, and that is the foundation on which he and his wife, Linda, built their travel business, he said.
Waigi said when he returned to his native Kenya after graduating from Williams, he realized the importance of the education he received at the college.
"It was an invaluable asset for my official work back in Kenya," he said.
That work included working for the Kenyan government and in various finance and development organizations. In 1999, he and his wife, Teresia, founded the Jeremy Academy, a nursery and primary school that goes up to the eighth grade.
While he feels greatly privileged that he and his wife are able to play an important role in the future of their country, he is grateful to have had the opportunity to attend Williams, Waigi said.
"I was anxious to discover what this experience had in store for me," he said. "There were many enriching things to do at Williams."
Erin Burnett, class of 1998 and host of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront, will also receive a Bicentennial Medal and give the Convocation address Saturday.
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