A photo of members of the Williams community celebrating the opening weekend of the Davis Center.

Williams students, faculty, staff and nearly 200 alumni and guests gathered on campus April 12-14 to mark the reopening of the Davis Center. The jam-packed schedule of events, held in conjunction with the Bolin Legacy Mentorship Weekend, included student performances, a drum circle and block party, speeches, panel discussions and career mentoring workshops. Among the performers were the R&B a capella group Purple Rain, Nothing But Cuties hip-hop dance group, Casey Cai ’27, who performed a traditional Chinese dance, and Misty Blues, led by Gina Coleman ’90.

Among the highlights, President Maud S. Mandel and Professor of Africana Studies Neil Roberts presented the Ephraim Williams Medal to Joseph E. Harris, who served from 1969 to 1975 as Williams’ first Black professor with tenure and as the first chair of the then Afro-American Studies Program. Harris is the 15th person to receive the medal, awarded to a member of the Williams community who is not an alum and who “has demonstrated exceptional service and loyalty.” 

William “Billy” Green ’03, winner of several prominent teaching awards, gave the Bolin Weekend keynote address on “The Power of Creating Learning Spaces Filled With Love, Access and Belonging.” He told the audience how his Williams experience inspired his teaching, adding, “I show up with [my students] because my professors came with me. And I wanted my New York City students to have that joy that I found.”

A photo of Gordon J. Davis ’63
Gordon J. Davis ’63 is joined by several family members for the opening weekend of the center named in their honor. Photograph by Bradley Wakoff

The weekend wrapped up with a conversation between artist Meleko Mokgosi ’07 and Laylah Ali ’90, professor and chair of studio art and faculty fellow of the Davis Center and the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, about the center’s array of artwork, including a newly painted mural by Mokgosi, whose work is also featured in the Williams College Museum of Art’s collection.

The Davis Center traces its founding to the spring of 1988, when the student-led Coalition Against Racist Education took over Jenness House and included among its demands the creation of a multicultural center. Echoes of the Davis Center’s activist roots were apparent during the opening weekend, with student protests and a sit-in in the center held by Students for Justice in Palestine and Williams College Jews for Justice. 

Mary Ellen Moule ’91, Jean Moule and Davis Center Co-directors Bilal Ansari and D. Clinton Williams, listen to a speaker with their hands over their hearts.
Mary Ellen Moule ’91, Jean Moule and Davis Center Co-directors Bilal Ansari and D. Clinton Williams. Photograph by Maya Chugh Singh ’27

As a dedicated space that symbolizes the college’s commitment to and progress toward a fully inclusive community, the reimagined Davis Center is designed with an eye toward creating inclusive, accessible and sustainable spaces that take into account the histories of Williams’ many communities and the surrounding region. The $31.5 million project, developed with extensive input from the nearly two dozen student groups that call the center home and supported significantly by alumni gifts, included renovations to Jenness House and Rice House, plus a new building with a bridge connected to Rice. A hub of programs and spaces supporting historically underrepresented communities within the larger Williams family, the center advances broad campus engagement with complex issues of identity, history and cultures as they affect intellectual, creative and social life.

Learn more about the Davis Center project.

Photo at top: Members of the Williams community celebrate the opening weekend of the Davis Center. Photograph by Maya Chugh Singh ’27