Class of 1966 Environmental Center Dedication Weekend

In mid-April, the Williams College community celebrated theopening of the Class of 1966 Environmental Center during a weekend-long celebration. The Class of 1966 Environmental Center was built in an incredibly sustainable method in order to meet Living Building Challenge certification, an environmental building standard much stricter than LEED. Built with sustainable materials, this new Center will produce and recycle all of its energy and water and grow a substantial portion of food on site, and when certified, it will be the first renovated Living Building Challenge building in the country. Such an incredible achievement was made possible by the Class of 1966 who secured funding for the project as part of the 50th Reunion class gift to the College.


Campus Lecture: William Moomaw ’59

The weekend began on Friday night with a lecture by William Moomaw, ’59, one of the professors who founded for the Center for Environmental Studies in the 1970s. Though starting as an academic chemist, Moomaw has been a leader in global environmental policy, notably serving as the lead author on five Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. The IPCC received a Noble Peace Prize in 2007 for its work. He is currently a professor of International Environmental Policy at the Fletcher School of International Affairs at Tufts University. Moomaw’s talk, “Environmental Studies: The Essential Liberal Art for the 21st Century,” oriented the group of alumni, students, faculty, and administrators both to the history of the environmental studies program at Williams and its relevance for students. His address was an excellent grounding for a weekend of celebration of the progress of environmental studies at Williams and contemplation for its bright future.


Community Plantings, Open House, and Dedication
Students Plant in Raised Beds
Students Plant in Raised Beds

On Saturday, alumni and the environmental community gathered at the Class of 1966 Environmental Center for a full day of plantings and tours. The student-led Williams Sustainable Growers, along with the Sustainable Food and Agriculture Program, helped with landscaping and planted perennial asparagus and strawberries in the raised beds on site. Inside the building, students donned with yellow commemorative hats gave tours to the alumni.

The event culminated with the afternoon dedication of the building led by President Adam Falk. President Falk, alongside Ralph Bradburd, Center for Environmental Studies Director, and Amy Johns ‘98, Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives Director, gave short speeches about the project to the gathered group of alumni and a large assembly of orange-clad student and community divestment enthusiasts.

On this warm and sunny spring day, Ephs young and old interacted with each other and the building, and with such enthusiasm and spirit in the air, the building felt like it finally came to life.

For photos of the plantings and open house, please visit the following website:


Panel Discussions

Leaving the sunshine for a few hours, groups now had the opportunity to hear a variety of perspectives on the possibilities of the Environmental Center. On the first panel, “Bridging the Academic and the Applied:  The Class of 1966 Environmental Center as a Living Laboratory,” Professor David Dethier began with a comprehensive history of the many buildings that have housed the environmental studies program on campus since the 1970s. Next, Eirann Cohen ’15 and Robert Yang ’15 described how they saw the building as a wonderful space for student group work, a gallery for artists, and, because of the new work spaces, a great draw for other, non-environmental students to link themselves to sustainability on campus. After Ben Benedict, professor in art, lent his perspective, Amy Johns described the Zilkha Center’s Eco Advisors program and how it intends to involve students who may not be active in environmentalism at Williams in environmental work through a teaching and action program. Then on the second panel, “Making Buildings Smarter: Using Technology To Achieve A More Sustainable Future,” Sarah Abramson ’15 and Jeannie Albrecht, Associate Professor of Computer Science, discussed their project of designing their data system for the building to help it achieve its Living Building Challenge certification.


Reception and Dinner

At the end of the lovely day exploring the Center and learning about its implications for the community, the Class of 1966 and others gathered in Lasell gymnasium for a dinner in a beautifully decorated space. After a reception with local food producers, many of whose products were in the meal, attendees sat around wood tables under strings of lights, sharing experiences and celebrating the achievement of the alumni in making the Center possible.

After dessert, President Falk and Professor Bradburd offered remarks of thanks and gratitude to the Class of 1966, environmental studies faculty, and Center staff who worked behind the scenes to make not only the weekend possible but the environmental studies community throughout the year. Finally, Sara Clark ‘15, political science major and environmental studies concentrator, gave the closing address, “Place and Consciousness: How the Class of 1966 Environmental Center Will Strengthen Community and Shape Belief.”

To view a video recording of Clark’s speech, please visit


As a whole, the weekend was a wonderful celebration of the generous work of the Class of 1966 and highlighted the potential of their Class of 1966 Environmental Center as a home for the environmental studies community on campus for generations of students to come.


By Sara Clark ’15