Tribute to Peggy Williams

By Samantha Allen ’11

The College honored its seventh and first female president, president emerita Peggy R. Williams, this past October with the dedication of the Peggy R. Williams Center and the inaugural presentation of the Difficult Dialogues Symposium.

“It was only fitting that we should choose to name this amazing facility in her honor,” said Bill Schwab ’68, chair of the Board of Trustees, in his dedication speech. As a gateway building, the center will be among the first places that prospective students and their parents visit when they come to campus.

Schwab also stressed the importance of recognizing Williams’s service in behalf of inclusiveness, which included establishing the Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity and the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Education, Outreach and Services. With this in mind, the trustees also chose to create a program emblematic of Williams’s community-building efforts.

The Difficult Dialogues Symposium takes its name — with permission — from the Ford Foundation’s program to promote academic freedom and religious, cultural, and political expression on college campuses. The inaugural symposium, held Wednesday, October 7, in Emerson Suites, featured a presentation by Marc Ellis, director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Sanford Gutman, professor emeritus of history at SUNY Cortland, served as respondent.

“President Williams was committed to communication and free speech and to honoring different points of view in her time here,” says Shelley Semmler, vice president for institutional advancement. “The center and the lecture series reflect Peggy’s style.”

Designed by HOLT Architects to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum status, the Williams Center upholds IC’s commitment to integrating sustainability principles into the life of the College, another hallmark of Williams’s administration. Green features include a 6,500-square-foot vegetated garden that lines the roof to reduce pollutants and a 12,000-gallon tank that collects rainwater and will conserve 85 percent of the building’s annual water costs. The building is also designed to realize an energy savings of 34 percent over standard construction. A natural convection ventilation system and sensors control indoor lighting based on natural sunlight.