The following is a conversation coordinated by Abby Wood Meczywor, Senior Writer Office of Communications, between John Berry-Candelario '99 and Matt Sigrist '99 who met at Williams on the practice football field and have remained close friends ever since
This is their conversation about transitioning to Williamstown, Mass. and Williams College by two Eph multiple-sport athletes who came to Williamstown from metropolitan areas. John Berry-Candelario (football and track & field) grew up in Washington, D.C. and Matt Sigrist (football & baseball) came from Rochester, N.Y. Both Berry and Sigrist became multiple-sport captains at Williams. They also talked about having to change positions in football, acclimating to the academic demands at Williams, and their long standing friendship that began on that practice football field in 1995 that has thrived all these years.
Today John Berry-Candelario is a neurosurgeon and Director of Spine and Spine Oncology at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Mass. He's also a Medical Corps officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Matt Sigrist is the Head of School at Renbrook School, a coed, private day school in West Hartford, Conn.
...So I found Williams based on my high school guidance counselor, who, at the time I--Matt and I both obviously played sports--and I was doing my level best to try to get out of D.C. D.C. at the time that I was growing up was, this is not necessarily now but certainly then, was the murder capital of the United States for a number of years. And so I saw a lot of friends and people who were young kids either incarcerated or killed because of drugs, and I think that I had it in my mind that I just needed to get out of that area. And so at the time, I was thinking, you know, wherever that was as far away from D..C as possible, I would try to go. And that was the impetus for, you know, trying to play football and trying to do well in school. And I thought I was going to go, actually, any number of places other than Williams until my high school guidance counselor said, you need to take a look at this place because it has everything that you aspire to be. And I didn't know what that meant at the time other than I wanted to do something that could help my family in the long run.
So I went up to Williams on Winter Carnival Weekend, which I don't know if they still have that, it's in February. I was there for three days, spent some time with Coach Farley--and I had already spoken with him a number of times. And I went up there and I absolutely fell in love with the place. Now, the thing about Winter Carnival, it's like Disney World. Right? You go to Williams and you're spending time there and it's like this incredible experience because everyone's happy, there's no classes, and everyone's in a good mood. And that to be honest with you did not jive with what my initial experience was like.
So then I basically decided to come back and I did a summer science program in July of that year--that's actually where I met my future spouse Imelda and had a great time. I was on campus, it was basically a transition period from growing up in the inner city to being in Williamstown. Again, it was very idyllic at that time, right? Because, you know, there weren't a lot of students around, you had the whole campus as your kind of playground. And there were eight students in this summer science program. And a lot of the stuff that we were doing in class I had already been exposed to. Fast forward to August, and football starts. And that's obviously where I met Matt, who, he and I both started kind of in the same position basically as over-talented in terms of athletic ability, but undertalented in terms of our quarterback play, and I think at least I was certainly not able to play at the level that they were asking us to. And the thing that struck me about those first few days of football was that I thought everything I had hoped would be your kind of that amazing experience has actually come to pass
And then classes start, and I got punched in the face immediately. I went in thinking, Okay, I'm going to take all these upper level courses and I'm going to, you know, just continue to do well and everything's going to be great. And then all the students descend on Williams...and football players, despite where you come from—it is why one reason why I love football, is it's such an incredible melting pot--football players are, you know, we come from a very similar ethos, and Williams College outside of the football program, at least for me, in my initial experience, was not that. So being in a classroom with a bunch of super high-functioning, very talented and incredibly motivated individuals who came from entirely different backgrounds than Washington D.C., in my own experience, it was almost like an earthquake. And I spent the better part of my first year at Williams thinking that I was going to leave, and that was because it was so earth shattering, that experience. And I had a number of conversations--fast forward into the latter part of the spring because I was running track at the time, coach Farley is also a track coach--with coach Farley, which is why he's so near and dear to me, and he basically set me straight.
And I think of that first year in some respects as my, the very beginning of--if you've ever seen the movie with Tom Hanks and he's like, crash landed on a deserted island, I can't remember the name of it now, but when he finally figures out a way to try to get off the island, he spends a better part of like a year planning, trying to figure out how am I going to navigate this new challenge? And that basically, really that summer after my first year, after talking to coach Farley, that's what that was. It was thinking about how am I going to get that the best out of myself at Williams College, because the first year for me was like a wash. I mean, I was overwhelmed. It was literally like being crashed landed on an island. And I didn't know what to do with myself. Even though it may seem like I had my life together, it did not feel that way at all. So, I'll stop there and Matt can jump in.
Yeah, similar to John, though a slightly different scenario--I also came from an environment with some hopelessness and a large portion of the population that wasn't going to college. And part of my motivation to get to a school like Williams was to find a way out of that. And there were certainly elements that were hopeful and great and I loved about my neighborhood and my friend group. But there was definitely a sense of 'I need to find my people.' My people that appreciate, you know, academics and a commitment to athletics, that are engaged, that just share a desire to be well rounded. So Williams to me also was just this wonderland of interesting people, of commitment to excellence kind of across the board, whether it was in athletics or in the classroom. And just so loved meeting folks like John and Kenny Becker, who was a captain with us our senior year, and so many other people that shared the same breadth of experiences and were pursuing a really neat balance in their lives. So I love my time and the contrast between my background and what we found at Williams.
Yeah, I would piggyback on that, and say that element of meeting people who really reshape how you think about the world was completely impactful for me. And that was one of the things that that I took home with me after that first year that I thought a lot about. And Coach Farley, you know, pushed me in my thinking--you know, you get shaped by your environment in so many ways as a child that you don't even realize. And I think I came to Williams, to be honest with you, with a lot of anger. Anger at the realities of the environment that I came from. And then you show up in Williamstown and it's like a biosphere. You know, where there are a lot of people who are high achievers, who have this, you know, they have this element about that they can take on the world. And I had seen a different side of that world, right. I had seen a side of the world where people are 15,16, 17 years old, they're in jail or they're dead. And it seemed, what I had to balance in my mind, certainly both mentally and emotionally, was how can I take everything from this place, i.e. Williams, and take it back to my own community and show them that there's a different way? At the same time recognize that there are challenges that they face that I could potentially be able to bridge. That was the biggest thing about Williams for me, having that experience, but also being able to take from the experience and go back home with some really important life lessons.
Yeah, just looping around to something John said, I too was very much challenged at Williams and I think both of us found ourselves being forced to be comfortable with a pretty steep learning curve in all aspects of life. And I think that has stuck with me. Just the sense of humility in the face of the challenges that you face and a belief that you can get there.
And relatedly, John I think I'll probably speak for you on this...both of us came from environments where we really needed to strive to get up and out. And we were pursuing and we were pushing and trying to get there. I think I found at Williams a real peace about being present. And in particular, understanding that there are really important relational elements of achievement, that if you are constantly striving and reaching, you don't have an appreciation for. So, as John said, being in a place around such talented, thoughtful, present people, outside of the hustle and bustle of a city, just impressed upon me and understanding that we only achieve in life by connecting with others, and by finding commonality, and then striving together, in that order. John, can you relate to that at all?
Absolutely. I think that actually encapsulates in my mind what Williams actually represents, right? Because there's an awareness I think of the kind of this need to take on and to learn, and to elevate oneself, right, to present oneself with challenges when you're there. But because there is this kind of, I want to say freedom of thought I mean, you know, we take for granted sometimes in this country what that means, but like there's this passage of ideas when you're sitting in a classroom, or sitting in the Quad or you're on the practice field. I can tell you...I had as many intriguing and elevating conversations in classrooms as I did on the football field, like in between sessions, like, you know, when we were our DB group, one of my good friends, Graham McPhail, I can recall like, you're having like these conversations about what's going on in the world. And that kind of elevation of your consciousness becomes pretty critical to I think your overall development--that's what Williams inspires in you.
Because those conversations can happen almost anywhere. They happen in Chapin...And they happen all over campus. And I think that that environment, what Williams provides for you is the opportunity for that--you just have to be willing to listen. And to end to dial down--to piggyback on what Matt was saying--dial down the noise that comes from, you know, in my case, certainly my background in the inner city...because that's there, right, you bring your past is your prologue, you bring that with you. But if you can dial that down, you can hear so much more, that allows you to elevate your level of consciousness, because ultimately, right the goal isn't just to stay there. And obviously, many people like yourself Abby have gone back. But the goal is to take what you've learned out into the world. And I think that's what Williams has always wanted to inspire people to do--to take what they learned there, through those conversations, through that collective energy, and apply it in a positive way.
Let's talk a little bit more about your friendship. And so obviously you met on the football team in those days prior to even your freshman year in the summer. But could you talk a little bit more about how you know one another and how that friendship grew over the four years and beyond?
Yeah, sure. I'll start first. John alluded to the fact that we came in thinking we were one thing and then found ourselves in different positions, actually on opposite sides of the field eventually. But you know, so that first experience of humility I mentioned before, I think was formational for me, and I would say probably for John as well, in particular for John, who was a much better quarterback than I was and did see himself as that. I think both of us too benefited from being wanted at another position, which was also formational for us, right. We had the benefit of suffering a little bit through freshman year and not reaching that, you know, some part of a dream, but then reframing our aspirations there and seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in a new position, which every freshman didn't have, at the time, every first year didn't have, there were just a lot of kids that were grunts that were never going to step on the field and just waited for two or three and four years.
So we both, I think, saw opportunity in the near future, and we got some attention from the coaching staff, and that was important for us. And we both contributed a little bit freshman year, which was fun. And I think it brought us together because there also is some--John I'm curious whether you felt this--some resentment of upper class kids who really had to wait their turn. So we had to navigate, you know, that kind of mindset of, you know, wait your turn, know your place, and eventually you'll get some attention--but we were getting it. So we had a shared experience there. And I think had to help each other through that. And I'll pause and let John maybe jump in there, too.
Yeah, I completely agree with that there because, you know, that formative transition of, 'you know what, you're not going to make it here at this particular position,' was something that, at least for me, was kind of like a kick in the gut, especially coming in thinking that this was kind of where I wanted to be. And it's one of those moments in life where you feel, okay, I could either decide that I'm just going to pout and, you know, allow myself to dwell in my own feelings, or I'm going to keep challenging myself. And that's certainly where you draw on your past experience.
But to tag along some of the things that we talked about in our first part of our conversation... When you meet individuals, I think I actually had this conversation with someone here at work recently, there's some work in neurosciences--I don't want to go off the deep end here--but there's some work in neuroscience that talks about how human beings resonate on a certain frequency, like your brain actually has a frequency to it. And there's some suggestions that the reason why certain personalities or people come together is not just about the shared experience, right?
Because in a football team, at the time there are 90 people. But there's something about certain individuals that allow you to connect. And no one really knows what that is, you know, there's a whole bunch of science on neural networks and stuff like that. But I digress, because I don't want to kind of drill it down to that. But I will say this, there is something about Matt and I, our shared experience, but also that there is this kind of humility in how we approached life, that I certainly appreciated very early on with Matt. And that was that, nobody's going to give you anything. And you got to fight tooth and nail for everything that you want. And ...what we had to navigate then was this idea that there were people around us, who maybe weren't as talented, maybe didn't have the same opportunity as we did. And how that was going to shape us and also allow us to influence our growth, right? Because ultimately, no one could have predicted that he and I would become captains. But that transformative moment of, all of a sudden you're playing early, but you also have to navigate that there are other team members around you who've been there for four years who are not playing. You have to learn how to be a leader in those moments, even a quiet leader, a way to kind of navigate those types of challenges.
The other thing I would say, and this was borne out over the course of the next three or four years that we were there together, was Matt and I actually competed on opposite sides, literally positions that competed against each other every day in practice. And you know, Matt knows this because I've told him this many a time, I would not have been as good as I was if I didn't compete against him every single day. It was this mindset that you took with you to practice, that I certainly took the practice, and I know Matt did, where we had these one on one drills. And every time Matt would come up, I would go up. Every time I would go up, Matt would come up. And it was like this, this idea that we knew somehow, again, I can't explain as neuroscientists will talk about this, but there was something about this idea that I need to compete at the highest level. And I think that this person knows how to compete at this incredible level. And that translation, not just on the football field, right? It translates into everything else that you do in life. And Matt and I've become very close over the years. And ... Matt is like a superhero to me. I absolutely adore him and the trajectory of his life and what he does and how he influences people, literally the next generation of human beings that will be walking across the planet are going to be touched by this man, and how he shapes them. And I think that I would like to think, and this is maybe me not being so humble, like to think that some of our one on one battles, right freshman year, sophomore year, junior senior, helped to influence that. Because certainly they influenced me in some of the challenges that I faced after Williams.
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Thank you for that. I feel the same way and would just jump on that notion a little bit. I think what I learned from John and I think both of us took away from the way that we made each other better, was finding a joy in that competition. We can extrapolate beyond just our own little football experience, to what any student that's considering a college experience. That being around like minded, excellent, curious other people raises your game. And it doesn't raise your game and kind of a zero sum scarcity mindset, you know, we're going to compete and we're going to be better. Although I think John and I both would say that that was characteristic of our relationship, we were going to do it. And we were going to do it with joy every second I mean, every day I can hear John's cackle laugh or, you know, some aspect of the joy that he found in making himself better and stepping up.
I think I fed off of that in some small way. If you're a track athlete, considering coming to Williams, you're going to find that same experience with another outstanding runner, and if you're passionate about, you know, the oboe, you're going to find yourself with really good like-minded people in the orchestra at Williams and, and similarly in the classroom. And it's a place because people are so at peace with being in the present there, they find themselves really attentive, I think, to the relationships.
You know, what are the real distinctions between Williams and Amherst people? They're probably not that significant. But if you take two very similar people and you say which school would you rather go to--one in the middle of the mountains, or one in the middle of the city where you benefit from, you know, the five college triangle or whatever you call it. The folks that are attracted to a little bit slower place, find themselves, I think, and are in some way the kind of people that appreciate those relationships much more and find themselves four years later looking back to the people, and the ways that they grew as people in subtle ways more so than, you know, your ability to take classes at one of the other three or four colleges.
What was your experience as student athletes like, as far as the balance balancing of the load of football and coursework. And what would you want to say to students coming in thinking about doing that?
So, I think that, you know, Matt had a great pivot, obviously, into the broader conversation that we're having, which is, if you're someone that's considering Williams, what should excite you bout it? Right?
I mean, at least when we were there, I remember hearing a statistic like 75% of the people there at Williams at the time, were receiving some aid and were working, you know, on campus in some job and so, there was this connection where you would see an athlete like, Matt Stiles, Kathleen, shooting hoops, but then she'd be working in the cafeteria on a Sunday. If you're anything that Williams is not--I've had an opportunity to be on Ohio State's campus during football season. I've had a chance to be on Duke University's campus during basketball season. Williams is not that. And what I mean by "that" is, is that the energy that's there in those places because of the student body and the kind of grandiose nature of the event that's kind of taking place, creates a great deal of what I can only describe as restlessness. I still remember a bunch of what they call like "Cameron crazies" camping outside before a Duke UNC game. And while that experience someone can talk about in a very elevated way and it is exciting, you can walk into a Williams basketball game at halftime and buy a ticket and find a seat like in the front row. You know, maybe not during NCAA Tournament time, but certainly, there's just this kind of lack of restlessness about being at Williams College that I thought was really interesting, that allows you to kind of be at ease with what it is that you're doing.
Now, having said that, transitioning to your question about balancing being a student athlete--I still recall leaving campus and going down to Cole Field House for football practice, and then finishing practice at 5:58 PM. And having to run up to the Fieldhouse, change clothes, not shower and then run to my organic chemistry lab, which was at the old Bronfman. And so, and then finishing lab, and then having to go to a study group, and then go to get a quick dinner and then Matt and I actually worked the same job, and then going to pick up keys to go lock a bunch of buildings around campus. And that was a Tuesday, or Thursday, or Friday. And so, you know, there is certainly something to be said--And this is probably true of many college experience--of trying to balance the workload of being a student athlete, of being someone who has to work when you're in college, certainly. The thing that I would say that that probably separates Williams from a lot of places in that regard, is that so many of the other students at Williams are doing that. Right?
So there's this there was always this connection to, you know, finding a balance. But you looked around and you saw other people kind of doing it and you're like, Okay, I can do this because look like literally everyone around me, it feels like everyone around you is doing the exact same thing.
And that's what again, that shared experience that elevates, that connects you, and you know people say all the time that perhaps too glibly that, you know, you meet some of your greatest friends in your life when you're in high school. I did not, I left high school with no friends, to be honest with you. But I went to Williams and I, despite the fact I would say, you know, with that first year, and because of that first year, I learned to love that place so dearly, because of the people, because of the instant connection that I have two people. I actually saw Williams alum here at the UMass campus recently, class of 77, he stopped me in the hallway because I have like a little Williams tassel on. And we had an hour long conversation. I just happen to have like an hour to spare between clinic, and we just talked about Williams and the evolution of that place from the time that he was there when I was there. Of course, he had had a recent reunion. And then we had, this is actually right after our reunion or 20th reunion. So I can only say that being a student athlete is a shared experience, right? It's something that connects all of us and continues to I think influence the things that we do in life.
Yeah, the thing that came to my mind initially and especially hearing John talk about being a student-athlete there, is just the work ethic that's developed, that's required. And I've today not seen someone with a stronger work ethic than John has. Just being witness to the way that he got after playing three sports and being pre-med, and working, is exceptional. And there were other people that to a lesser degree found their own really high level of production. But none like John, truly. And he did it with and others do it with such grace and peace about it too.
I think back to that kind of striving nature of the way that probably both of us were in college and when I hear John talk about the fact that he probably didn't pull with him relationships from high school. You know, to some extent I think I probably found my best relationships in college too. Because we found ourselves in a place where we can work really hard in each of these different areas but also be present in the moment. And I think I can't put my finger on exactly what it was about Williams that allowed you on one hand to be free for your motor to be running on overdrive in a cadence of your life and work that it was, you know, very achievement oriented, yet having have such a focus on people and relationship. I think so often settings that have that kind of level of achievement and business can't find that peace about it. And I think that is what I just cannot explain about William, except that there are just a lot of other people of like mind who have found themselves together in the same place and time.
John gave me a pretty good segue into the next topic here, in talking about running into another alumni ...You've just had your 20th reunion last year. So how is how is Williams still a part of your life now? In what ways is it still part of what you do?
I know that there is great commonality in the Williams people that I run across professionally. They are good people, first and foremost. They have time for a conversation. They are happy. They are largely a really smart bunch. But you know that comes in so many different shapes and sizes and contexts, So I hesitate to say that. But that's the first thing that I would jump in with though, but Johnny jump in.
I don't think that my circle, actually until I moved back to Massachusetts, my circle of connections to Williams outside of alums was something that I really had a great experience for. You know, since moving back to Massachusetts, I run into Williams people left, right and center. But even being out of New England, you know, I spent a number of years in North Carolina, and then I was in New York last year. And what I found was there was no shortage of people who would reach out to me from the college and say, Hey, I know that you're living in this area, there's a student who, you know, is considering Williams and was wondering if you would mind having a conversation with them. And I would always get jazzed up about that. Because, you know, as someone who came from DC to Williamstown, the thing that struck me the most about my experiences, is that I had no connection to Williams, other than my high school guidance counselor who was not a Williams person. His father was an athletic director at Louisville, and I was actually, you know, planning to take a scholarship to Louisville, and he actually came to one of my practices and says, Have you lost your mind? like, you're not going to the University of Louisville. You need to go talk to this guy. He knew Dick Farley, and the rest is history. But I think that I try to be as often authentic in these conversations with prospective students about Williams, as I possibly can. And I think that every time that I have them, I hope that what resonates is this idea that Williams is in just an incredible experience, And I wouldn't trade that for anything.
The next thing I would say is that in the context of seeing current students, in my role as a physician now, you know, I get a number of emails through people who would contact me through the alumni association with people who are interested in medicine and they want to have a conversation about how do I get from here to there, and I actually have this conversation a lot of times both with our mid-levels who work for us here in our department, but also with faculty in residence. And that conversation is about how do I get from here to there. And every Williams student that I talked to, I have a spiel that I kind of go through where I kind of talk about my experience, but then I just kind of stop talking. And I say, you know, tell me about what Williams is like, give me a sense of what Williams is like for you right now. And the thing that keeps resonating, and I've been doing this for probably the last 12 years now--is that it doesn't change what comes at me, right. And what keeps coming at me is exactly what Matt and I are talking about, is that each of these students talk about this incredible shared experience, this incredible sense of like, people that surround them, that continue to challenge them, how they think, their backgrounds, but also allows them to kind of have a voice of their own, and continues to elevate their own consciousness. So, you know, whether it's current students or prospective students, it's something that I get really excited about. I think that it's a thread that I think most, you know, I can't say all because I don't know all but we're a small cohort of alumni. But I would say, I would argue that probably most of us really get excited about talking about Williams, because even as it's changed, it's pro forma kind of shape in terms of where things are stocked, where buildings are, and what's where, I think we all kind of still go back there for our reunions. And we think, Wow, what an amazing experience this was to be here.
I had a thought in response to your question, and I think it's helped me better understand a more comprehensive answer to something that we're aiming at. In addition to the people who I referenced first, I would say, you know, I look forward to different Williams publications because I want to hear how Maud [Mandel, Williams president] is thinking about the challenges that she's facing at Williams, and being in school leadership, seeing how she approaches these questions helps me approach related questions. I look forward to the Williams alumni magazine, again because you know, the, the issues of the day are the issues of my day.
So what is that right, what am I doing? I mean, I think she's helping me understand, the school is helping me understand how to approach the world. She's tuning me into what matters. And I would say Williams again, just expanding on that, Williams in my four years there tuned me to what matters. It helps me look at problems in a way that I think are human, in a way that are appropriately analytical, and kind of related to the human elements of problems. So just it takes me on a thought plane that I source to my time there.
I think Matt actually triggered a thought in my head as well. The other thing that I think we can't put too light of a point on is, you know, there's an evolution to what happens on college campuses, right. You know, we were in college in the late 90s, and Matt and I could both recount for you with regalia what was going on in the late 90s, none of which were probably good other than, you know, MC Hammer pants and people were singing Prince's party like it's 1999. But what is interesting is some of the conversations I've certainly had with students who are there now, is some of these new challenges that they're facing.
You know, we live in a world where don't ask, don't tell no longer exists. I am a member of the military now. And my brother was a member of the military at the time and don't ask don't tell was actually enacted. We live in a different world now, and so the conversations that students are having, have certainly evolved. How do we get to a place from there, from where we were, to here? In many respects, it takes great leadership. I certainly applaud Maud on what she's done, and past presidents as well. But that also extends to the faculty. And it extends to in many respects, right, the students who are there, right. Students have to take up the mantle and say, you know, we also have to be forward thinking and have to really reach for that next elevation.
So, at the time, Matt will certainly remember this, at the time that we were at Williams, a gentleman was murdered in New York City--I can't remember his name. He was a Muslim on his doorstep--and some certainly some strife on campus….but there was an element there was a conversation that we had during that time that really allowed us to dig into, you know, ideas about police brutality, and dig into some of the things that needed to be talked about at that time. And while we still have some of those conversations today, we have different conversations. Right? We have conversations about borders, we have conversations about what it means to be Xenophobic, what it means to have an immigration policy that's not inclusive, especially on a campus like Williams that recruits so internationally. And maybe we weren't having those conversations in the late 90s. I think that evolution that continues to transpire there is so critical. And the only way that that happens in an elevated way, as opposed to one that kind of tears people down tears communities down, is that you continue to recruit people like Matt, like Kathleen, who are forward thinking, who are not willing to settle for the status quo, but at the same time can come to a place like William and say, you know what, I'm going to turn the volume down on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc., and, and really dive into these, these other people that come from different backgrounds and have different experiences and listen, and be open to new possibilities. That to me is what separates Williams. I've been on a lot of college campuses, certainly over the last 15 years, having gone through medical school and spent some time doing some recruiting. It's different conversations at places like at Ohio State and at Duke, then they have it at Williams. I feel very strongly about that, and I'm certainly witness it. Williams is a special place for that reason.
As you know, the students that will be reading this interview on the college website are obviously admitted, and they have their choice among top ranked schools all over the country, of course. And so, if you put your recruiter hat on, what is the one thing out of everything we've talked about, or maybe it's something you haven't mentioned yet, but what's the one thing you would be sure to tell them about Williams?
I would focus on the people. I think we are social animals. And folks are I know choosing from outstanding schools with unrivaled resources and opportunities beyond. But there is a focus on people and a collective kind of mindset that appreciates this, that I think you feel when you come to campus. And it pervades all aspects of campus from athletics, to theater, to singing, to the academic departments, I think, to the school's mission. And I think there is a differentiator that you know, as a school I, having done a lot of work on branding, it's difficult to articulate that in a brochure, if two graduates from very different places, as John and I are and Imelda, John's wife and my wife, Kathleen, can all spend four years there and come out basically talking about the same central element of our experience--I think there's something really powerful about that.
Absolutely, I mean, I'm sitting here actually getting goosebumps. I'm looking out my window and I can see kind of, you know, UMass Medical School which is basically attached to the hospital here. And I walk through there every day and we have medical students who come through. And I've been here at UMass now for nine months. And there's a word that I often use when I talk to resident applicants who want to come to UMass. And the word is ethos. I would echo Matt's comment by saying that we should focus on the people, but also I would talk to those applicants or have them hopefully when they read this, they will say to themselves, what is my ethos? What is my frequency? How do I resonate? Because the truth is that as an 18-year old, certainly you think you have an idea of who you are, but you don't necessarily know, but you should absolutely take the time and effort to really sit in that place in that space to try to figure out who you are. And understand that who you are at that time is not necessarily who you're going to become and evolve into. But you want to go to a place that I think has an ethos about it, that you can resonate with.
Again, having spent time at Ohio State and spent time at Duke, there's a different resonance of those places, Williams has its own frequency that it resonates. And if you're a student who goes there, understand what that is and what that's about. And if you don't quite get it, ask somebody. We're certainly willing to talk to you about it. I'm sure you are as well Abby. That there are people who come from Williams, who can give you a sense of what that ethos is. And you know what, maybe it's not for you. But I can tell you this, I firmly believe this, from the day that I graduated till the day that I am laid to rest, that I will sing Williams praises because I think that the mission of that place is magnanimous, what it has accomplished in its storied history is actually quite incredible.
And I actually don't know all the history of the place, but I've spent some time reading up on it. And at every kind of stage and phase of its development, it was always forward thinking, and that actually is quite transcendent, right? As Matt eloquently stated, you can't quite put your finger on it, but you know it when you see it. And Williams has done that almost at every era of its development. And I think that, again to circle back to Matt's point, it's about the people. Williams has always had an eye for talent just as Harvard does just as Amherst does, as many of these other schools and programs that these applicants will be looking at. But I think when the folks in the admissions office, obviously are looking at the overwhelming number of people that are applying there, and they decide that this student should come here, you know, maybe they're not always right, but I can tell you this, the class of '99, they got it right a lot. A lot. And I feel very privileged to have come through and been introduced to people who have changed my life in incredible ways. And they have gone out and changed the world and incredible have always and that's what Williams is. That's the Williams ethos.