Nick Tortorello produced the following report based on the survey he created for our 25th Reunion:

Williams College ’71 — WHAT HAVE WE BECOME?

By Nicholas J. Tortorello*

The portrait our recent class survey draws of the typical Williams graduate circa 1971 is nearly identical to the group first identified by pioneering direct mail marketing experts in the late ’70s — Baby Boomus Upscaleus Americanus — a genus known for its high educational achievement, financial success, and sense of social responsibility. And yet while on the face of it the Williams grad of 1971 shares many of the same traits as Boomus Americanus, beneath this thin veneer of achievement and respectability, our survey finds pockets of peculiar, even cultish activity based upon political orientation, i.e.: Liberal rat breeders, Middle of the Road snorkelers, and Conservative gun-toting backpackers. Indeed, using sophisticated calculations employed by NASA in the design of the Hubbel space telescope, we have identified new species of animals among Williams ’71 Purple Cows.

But first, let’s look at the broad outlines of the Class of 1971: those general attributes shared with Boomus Upscaleus Americanus. Then, we will look at various demographics and attitudes shaped by political affiliation. All findings represent the 127 classmates who completed the survey. Ordinarily, that high percentage of returns would mean a very reliable survey, but in this case — ?

Educational Attainment

High educational achievement is a hallmark of our class, yet Williams grads may be too educated for their own good. Three in ten graduates (31%) have doctorates. Another three in ten (29%) have a masters degree. Incredibly, two-percent (2%) have two or more doctorates. In fact, less than one fifth overall (18%) stopped after four years of collegę. Twenty percent (20%) have other postgraduate degrees in various disciplines such as cooking, child-rearing, and cigars. Some of us have so much “edu-ma-cation” that we are referred to as lightbulbs.


Median household income last year among all ’71 graduates is $132,000. Those with graduate degrees, as is typical, did somewhat better than those without ($135K vs .$118K).


Professionals abound among ’71 Purple Cows.  Nearly one fifth of ’71 Williams grads are in the medical field, including physicians, (18%), and to keep them from being sued for malpractice, another fifth (20%) are lawyers. Twelve percent (12%) are in finance or banking, 10% aręe educators. Eight percent (8%) are in “business,” while 4% say they are in publishing, which as everyone knows is a very bad business. Two percent (2%) are homemakers; 1% are volunteers; 4% did not answer. Twenty percent (20%) fall into the “other” category, listing occupations which are not readily classifiable (i.e. organizers of Buddhist education centers, builder of passive solar homes, owner of rare book store, etc.) This high percentage of “other” responses is not typical of the general public. We hypothesize the Williams college experience may be in some way responsible — i.e., the relative isolation of the student body in the snow and cold of Billsville during undergraduate years and the high proportion of later graduate training may have created a super specialized subspecies who cannot describe, be described, or understood, by the mainstream.

Nearly nine in ten (87%) are employed full-time, 4% are employed part-time, 3% are looking for work. And while none have as yet declared themselves “retired,” 2% indicate they have reached same “other” type of employment status. While we don’t know exactly what this “other” status implies, we believe there is some evidence in the data to suggest it may also involve the printing and distribution of millennial pamphlets about the coming rapture.

On average Williams surveyed have had four full-time jobs since graduation. A fickle 15% have had seven or more, probably moving on each time to a bigger paycheck. The average number of jobs they have left voluntarily: three. Average number left involuntarily: one. Among these, anecdotally, we know of numerous cases where companies went out of business or were victims of hostile takeovers.

Marriage and Family Life

Williams folks arę mostly the marrying kind. More than eight in ten are currently married (83%: 72% “married” and 11% say they are remarried). Eight percent (8%) are currently divorced or separated, 7% have remained single.

Altogether the one hundred twenty-seven graduates who completed the survey have produced two hundred fifty-four children. Or two children among those who have had children, about the national average but far below what might be expected given the rampant braggadocio about sexual potency voiced by certain małe undergraduates in days of yore. However, some classmates claim that early yasectomies cut down on their progeny. This also prevented possible law suits for child support.

Those with children now have the unique experience of reliving the joys of college from the perspective of parenthood. Although a few already have sons and daughters in college, or even graduated, the average age of the first child among our families is fifteen. Only a few short years before tuition comes due. Average age of second child: 12. Average age of third child: 10.


Like Boomus Americanus, Williams’ ’71 grads can be found nearly everywhere. Since graduation they have scattered to thirty-one states and to Canada, Hong Kong and England. What are the states most likely to have Williams grads among their population? Massachusetts hołd 16% of grads. New York has 10%, followed by Connecticut (9%), California (7%), Ohio (5%), Vermont (4%), and Washington (4%). States occupied by 3% of ’71 graduates are: Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Grads have taken up residence in many types of communities. The suburbs (27%), large cities (21%), towns (20%), small cities (18%), rural areas (11%) and foreign countries (2%). Graduates have had, on average, 7.4 different addresses since leaving Williams.

Spiritual Life

Most of the class are Protestant (55%) and many of these are classic WASP’s. However, nearly one quarter (32%) indicate they have no religious affiliation. Catholics (8%) and Jews (8%) comprise the remainder of mainstream religions. Six percent are “others.”

Analysis by Political Subgroup

Employing sophisticated mathematical analyses of the highest government standards, we have identified certain special characteristics of the Class of ’71 based upon political orientation.  While these characteristics sometimes mirror the attitudes and demographics we have come to expect of Conservatives, Liberals, and Middle of the Roaders among the general public, the Class of ’71 has developed unique traits which appear to be based on pet ownership and frequency of outdoor activities.

This section describes the ways in which the political affiliation of Williams grads affect behavior in ways that are similar to political belief among the general population. The section immediately following lays bare the disturbing rituals and practices that have evolved among Williams grads in particular.

Class of ’71 Conservatives comprise 35% of the total surveyed population, MOR’s (Middle of the Roaders) comprise 26% and Liberals comprise 38%. This compares with 41% Conservative, 33% MOR and 20% Liberal in the generał population. Williams grads are therefore about twice as likely to Liberal as the rest of Americans — which may explain a general disappointment in the state of the union.


Despite attempts to turn back the clock, Conservatives are the same age as those in the Middle of the Road or Liberal.

Educational Attainment

In keeping with their moderate views, no MORs earned more than one doctorate. Two percent of Liberals and 2% of Conservatives completed work on two or more doctorates.


MORs, no doubt keeping a slow and steady financial course, have the highest median incomes: $187K as compared to $166K among Conservatives and$112 among Liberals, the latter undoubted devoting time on social causes rather than time researching tax shelters.


In keeping with general stereotype, nearly all graduates involved in banking are politically Conservative, and are less likely to be in the “helping” professions, i.e., medicine or education.  Liberals and MORs are more likely to be lawyers and health professionals than Conservatives.  As might be expected, Liberals are more likely to fall into the “other” category as compared to MORs and Conservatives (25%; 15% and 18% respectively).

MORs are most likely of the three groups to be employed full-time (97%) as compared to 86% of Conservatives and 83% of Liberals. Also, MORs have had three jobs since leaving Williams as compared to four among Liberals and Conservatives. And as you might suspect, MORs are less likely to have left jobs either voluntarily or involuntarily. In other words, their lives and politics are both less extreme.

Marriage and Family Life

Conservatives are most likely to be married. Liberals are most likely to be re-married and MOR’s are somewhere in the middle.

Conservatives, practicing birth controllers, have 2.2 children on average, Liberals have 1.9, and MORs — you guessed it — have 2.1.


Massachusetts residents among Class of ’71 graduates are nearly all Liberals. Didn’t McGovern win just Massachusetts and lose the remaining forty nine?

Liberals have had on average 7.8 home addresses since graduation, Conservatives have had 7.2 and MORs have been standing relatively still: 7.0 addresses.

Spiritual Life

The 23% who indicate they have no religious affiliation are more likely to be Liberal and live in the West. Those who are “others” here are twice as likely to be Liberals as either Conservatives or MORs.

Media Behavior

Oyerall, Williams graduates watch l.7 hours of TV a day.

  • Liberals and Conservatives watch the same amount (1.8 hours), MORs watch less TV (1.5) which may account for their relative sanity.

Oyerall, Williams graduates read 17.5 books year on average.

  • Liberals read the most books (20.6), next are Conservatives (17.9).  MORs read 12.5 on average, probably because so few recent books have been written about them.

Languages Spoken

Overall, 16% of Class of ’71 grads speak French.  Bonjour!

  • Least likely to speak French are MORs (12%), most likely to speak the language of love and medieval politics respectively are Liberals (19%) and Conservatives (16%).


This section discusses the odd rituals and practices which seem to have evolved among Williams grads with respect to their political affiliation.

Pet Ownership

Overall, three-quarters of all Williams graduates have pets (76%). The average number of pets among pet owners: 2.3. Dogs are most popular. Among those with pets, nearly seven in ten (69%) have dogs. Half (46%) have cats. One-fifth each have fish (20%) or birds (18%). Ownership of rodents is as follows: 6% have rabbits, 2% have hamsters, 1% have mice and/or rats.

  • Conservatives do not own hamsters, mice or rats. Liberals do own mice or rats, but especially have a weakness for hamsters (3% own hamsters). Four percent of MORs own hamsters, 4% own mice, 4% own rats. Clearly, moderation in all things applies.

Frequency of engagement in outdoor activities involving natural resources

Overall 44% of Williams grads say they engage in outdoor activities several times per week.

  • Half (52%) of Conservatives indicate they engage in outdoor activities several times a week as compared to 45% of MORs and 38% of Liberals, which is probably why they are overweight. We originally projected such heavy outdoor activity among Conservatives could be traced to time spent surveying old growth forests for purposes of strip mining and papermaking, but as seen below, this is not the case.

Activities Participated in within past 12 months

Overall among all ’71 graduates, the top five outdoor activities/sports participated in are: bicycling (68%), hiking (68%), walking (61%), swimming (61%) and picnicking (54%). Rounding out the top ten are golf (5o%), tennis (50%), downhill skiing (47%), running/jogging (46%), and driving for pleasure (40%).

  • Twice as many Conservatives engage in target shooting as compared to either MORs or Liberals (14% vs. 6% vs. 4%, respectively).  Conservatives are also more likely to engage in hunting (11% vs. 9% vs. 6%), recalling Oscar Wilde’s observation of English aristocrats going fox hunting:  “the unspeakable going after the uneatable.”
  • Snorkeling is a big pastime among MORs. Thirty-six percent indicate they have done so in the past twelve months as compared to 21% of Liberals and 16% of Conservatives. Perhaps in snorkeling MORs find a welcome respite for the rancorous debate on the mainland. Or perhaps they just like looking at all the pretty fish.
  • Interestingly, although Liberals as a group are often thought of as big outdoor, environmentalist types, Williams’ Liberals are least likely to engage in almost all outdoor activities. Clearly, they prefer sitting in cafes drinking caffeine-free expresso, or alcohol-free beer talking about Marxism’s demise and giving lip service to the great outdoors.

Charity Work

Three-quarters (77%) of ’71 grads did charity work in the past year.

MORs appear to be somewhat more charitable than their more political cousins—88% of MORs did charity work as compared to 75% of Conservatives, and 73%° of Liberals. We suspect that the time they save not reading right or left wing diatribes, or loathing or applauding the Liberal media may be spent instead on actually helping their fellow man.

We hope you have enjoyed learning about our class. We have found much that confirms our original expectations and our own prejudices, which is always a pleasant experience. But we have also found the evolution of the Williams Class of 71 since graduation to have been particularly enlightening. Knowing what we now know, we shall endeavor to join the ranks of those in the blessed political middle where the snorkeling is good, and where not ąuite so much nor so little seems to happen. And where perhaps, yes, perhaps, where Purple Cows live in the Purple valley for evermore.

* With help from Peter M. Silsbee, SUNY graduate and radical, and adopted honorary Ephman.