John Chandler's "Rise and Fall of Fraternities" Explores Deep Current of Williams History

Media contact:  Rob White; tele: (413) 597-4144; email: [email protected]

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., May 8, 2014—A new book by Williams President Emeritus John W. Chandler tells the story of the beginnings, blossoming, and eventual banishment of Williams fraternities. The Rise and Fall of Fraternities at Williams College: Clashing Cultures and the Transformation of a Liberal Arts College also describes the 1960s transition from fraternities—led by Williams’ 11th president, John E. Sawyer ’39—and the ensuing transformation of the college as a new residential system replaced the old fraternal order.

As Sawyer’s acting provost, Williams’ first dean of faculty, and successor as Williams president, Chandler was deeply involved in that pivotal moment in the college’s history. “A large part of this story concerns the vision, struggle, and courage required to accomplish that goal,” he writes. “The central actor in this drama was President Sawyer, but the cast was large, and it included many others—students, faculty, alumni, and trustees—whose leadership was essential to achieving an array of far-reaching changes with many interrelated aspects and dimensions.”

A graduate of Wake Forest College who earned his Ph.D. in philosophy of religion from Duke, Chandler holds 16 honorary degrees, including one from Williams. As a Williams professor and department chair he established a major in religion. He left Williams in January 1968 to become president of Hamilton College, served as a Williams trustee during his Hamilton tenure, and returned to Williams as president in 1973. After serving for 12 years as the college’s 12th president, he was named president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and chaired the board of Duke University.

The Rise and Fall of Fraternities at Williams College is available for purchase at Water Street Books in Williamstown and on On Saturday, June 14, at 2:15 p.m. in Griffin Hall, room 3, John Chandler will join an alumni panel discussion, “From Fraternity Gentlemen to Global Citizens,” as part of Williams Reunion Weekend.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.