A Word From the Board

The torch has been passed. Lois Banta, the Gaudino Scholar from 2014 to 2017, has now handed it off to Susan Engel, a member of the Psychology Department and Director of the Program in Teaching, who will carve her own path in the college’s efforts to continue the legacy of Bob Gaudino.

Lois’ main theme, around which she organized many of her Gaudino initiatives, was “At What Cost,” a topic that meshes well with Gaudino’s core goal of helping students become aware of aspects of their learning to which they might not otherwise attend—in this instance, helping students and others identify some of the hidden costs intrinsic to the choices we make.

Undaunted by some of the turmoil that has been swirling around college campuses with regard to “free speech” and the introduction of often controversial speakers, Lois worked diligently with faculty and students to ensure that such events offered ‘equal time’ for all sides of an issue and that each perspective was given a voice.

She effectively utilized a variety of mediums to expose students to a diverse population of individuals and experiences, supporting the Human Library and its use of the narrative format to hear personal and touching stories from people different from ourselves, incorporating the use of film in the students’ documentary work with the Estonia Institute of Historical Memory, and ensuring an open and free dialectic between opposing sources, a central component of Gaudino’s educational model.

From all reports, her untiring efforts made Gaudino’s legacy an increasingly visible component of Williams students’ learning and provided a diversity of opportunities for students to participate in and/or create meaningful experiences that will surely become lasting memories for all who participated in such heartfelt activities.

We also bid a fond goodbye to our latest Chairperson, Jon Kravetz.

Jon was one of the original participants in one of Gaudino’s seminal experiential programs, Williams-at-Home, in which students traveled to different parts of the country to live and work with families from the Deep South, rural Appalachia, farming communities in Iowa, and urban Detroit.

Jon’s deep and intimate connection to Gaudino, and the importance he placed on full engagement with people from different cultures and backgrounds, is perhaps best represented by Jon’s 40-year involvement with his host family in Iowa, where he often returned to visit so that they could celebrate important family and religious events together.

During a period when the Board was in an important transition from the leadership of Jeff Thaler and others who were instrumental in establishing the Fund and Gaudino Scholar, Jon, with his characteristic humility, offered the Gaudino Scholar his unwavering support, and the freedom to apply Gaudino’s vision in her own creative way, a context from which she could help her students shape their own “uncomfortable” learning in deeply personal and meaningful ways. As Gaudino shepherded his students through their various learning experiences, he increasingly recognized the value of their making it “their own.”

Jon helped to ensure that students, and their specific concerns, remained a central focus of our attention, supporting their increased presence and ensuring an educational experience that was responsive to their needs.

From an alternative vantage point, he also worked to recruit alumni who had first-hand experience with Gaudino, in his effort to preserve some of the central tenets of Gaudino’s pedagogical mission.

Jon reminded us that Gaudino believed the learning process should be approached with “imagination and grace,” an attitude and approach which most certainly pervaded Jon’s tenure as Chairperson.

All of us who worked with him are deeply appreciative of that and wish him well.

—Randy Thomas ’73, Gaudino Fund Board Chair