“I abide assertive that Bates is the adventure of absorbing people, not celebrities,” says the Rev. Peter Gomes ’65.
Gomes absolutely looks interesting. He’s sitting in a Bates armchair on the granite accomplish of Coram Library, decked out in a apricot T-shirt with huge block belletrist that read, “Isn’t It Funny… We Still Look the Same!” (at left, with Jim Leamon ’55, assistant emeritus of history).
Yup, it charge be the Saturday of Reunion, and Gomes is adulatory his 40th — appropriately the absurd shirt, beat by all associates of the Chic of ’65 in the Alumni Parade as they backpack photos of themselves from the 1965 Mirror.
It is noon, and Gomes has aloof assured his Sesquicentennial keynote abode to the Reunion audience. He teeters on the border of celebrity himself as a acknowledged columnist and acclaimed Harvard preacher, but his abode is all about all-embracing Bates’ “interesting” past. Except Gomes uses a bigger adjective.
“Bates was consistently peculiar,” he tells the audience. “It was appropriate in that it complex women and men on according footing. It was appropriate in that it had bodies of blush in its ancient classes. It was appropriate in that it was founded not by Congregationalists, or bourgeois Baptists, but by Freewill Baptists…. [W]e are a appropriate and odd place.”
Reunion is an exhilarant weekend area alumni already added airing “walks [that] are ambrosial with the friendships of apprentice days,” as George Millet “Goosie” Chase 1893 put it. Commencement is the added ancillary of the coin. For the faculty, it’s a apricot day. “We do feel adopted pride in their achievements. But by graduation time, the seniors accept to agitate us off as abundant as they can,” says Margaret Imber, accessory assistant of classical and medieval studies.
So Reunion and Commencement are bookends, but this year’s editions told a ancestors adventure that abounding the gap. On this Reunion Saturday as the army departs for lunch, Gomes helps to acquaint this adventure by administering what he knows about one credible “celebrity” at Commencement, Brian Williams, host of NBC Nightly News, who accustomed an honorary doctor of accommodating belletrist degree.
Brian Williams, L.H.D. ’05, afraid his father, Gordon ’38, with the present of a Bates bank installed on the Quad abreast the Chapel. The bech ceremoniousness Gordon and memorializes his wife, Dorothy Pampel Williams ’40, and Brian’s backward brother, David ’65.
The Williams ancestors adventure began and was aboriginal heard in the Chic Notes of this magazine, aback on the added ancillary of the staples, area Bates lives are told in happy, sad, and advisory moments. Sixty-two years ago, the aboriginal adolescent built-in to Gordon Williams ’38 and Dorothy Pampel Williams ’40 was David; they beatific a chic agenda announcement his birth. Sixteen years later, in 1959, aback their fourth and youngest child, Brian, was born, the brace afresh appear the account in the Academy magazine.
In backward 2004, Brian Williams — anon to accomplish Tom Brokaw as host of NBC Nightly Account — accustomed a buzz alarm from Trustee Gomes ’65 broaching the allurement to accept a Bates honorary degree.
A consecutive alarm from Admiral Hansen formalized the honor. Williams told his father, whose chic agenda took the third-person articulation of a proud-without-bragging parent: “Gordon’s son Brian Williams will accept an honorary amount from Bates in May 2005,” he wrote. “In December he succeeds Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News. I ambition his brother David ’65 and his mother Dode Pampel Williams, deceased, could allotment the day with me.”
For abounding years a affiliate of the Trustee board that considers abeyant honorands for Commencement, Gomes says he avant-garde Brian Williams beneath for his celebrity than for his absorbing Bates ancestors story, alike admitting Brian had never set bottom on campus until Memorial Day weekend 2005.
When reviewing honorand nominees, says Gomes as he confused his armchair added into the abbreviating Coram shade, “there is a allurement to abandonment to name recognition…. Grandma who comes to Commencement should be captivated to apperceive who one of the speakers is. So there should be a sizzler whom anybody recognizes. There additionally care additionally to be addition with a Bates connection: a loyal alum or a acclaimed son, daughter, sibling, or any of those characters.”
Brian Williams was this year’s sizzler and admired son. His brother David, who died in 2001 (their mother died in 1992), was Gomes’ acquaintance for two years in Parker Hall, and at aboriginal ’60s Bates, the ancient Williams was absolutely peculiar. “David was a gadfly, advanced of the curve,” Gomes says. “He was a advanced Democrat in a academy of ancient Republicans. He was a practicing Catholic amid Protestants. He was a Bates bequest but far added analytical of the ambiance than best of us. And he was actual smart.”
Ahead of the curve? David already wrote a belittling appraisal of connected testing in The Bates Student, commendation mathematician Banesh Hoffmann who already wrote that “[standardized tests] favor the acute and accomplished applicant over the one who has article to say.” To which Williams added, “As for the made-in-Lewiston variety, they are generally not alone banana but a impaired apology of the absolute thing.” Ouch. Williams additionally bragged about his youngest brother, Brian. “I’ve got a kid brother who’s activity to be president,” he’d acquaint Gomes, who chuckles: “Of course, anybody said that aback then. But David kept adage how abuse acute this brother was. ‘He watches the account every night. He’s adherent to Walter Cronkite.’”
David did not alum with his chic in 1965. He got his authority in ’66 afterwards he and a changeable apprentice ran afield of a Victorian-era Bates amusing aphorism in their chief years. The sad adventure — the Phillips administering censored Apprentice advantage of it — portended the abstraction student-life anarchy apprehension late-’60s Bates. “If there was a ability affray advancing at Bates, David was an blow cat-and-mouse to happen,” said Gomes.
Peter Gomes presents a chin-jutting, sinners-in-the-hand address best of the time. But as he sat on the belvedere at Commencement 2005, he saw Brian Williams accept his aboriginal academy degree, a Bates one at that, absolutely 40 years afterwards his brother David should accept accustomed his. (Brian does not accept a bachelor’s, accepting larboard academy to assignment at the White House.)
Gomes heard Brian allocution mostly about his Bates family. And he saw Brian’s father, Gordon, built-in in the advanced row with family. And Gomes teared up. “I’m a aloof being but it all came back,” he said. “The approximation — a acceptable old Bates chat for that occasion. I aloof admitting how admiring David would accept been. He adored that boy. He knew abundant things were activity to appear to him.”
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