I was familiar with India because I had been there as a Fulbright Scholar in 1963. India was a dangerous place to one’s health. That was before the Green Revolution and in a big Indian city at that time the sanitation department would come and pick up the corpses off the sidewalks and streets every morning. The food and water were extremely risky. Illness was virtually inevitable for anybody who went there. Bob was well aware of the physical risk of going to India. And also the emotional trauma of facing the spectacle of death and disease and poverty all around. And of course the cultural divide in every way was so broad. That’s why Bob warned his students that what they saw, what they learned about themselves could be very uncomforting. And at that time, of course, ventures of this kind were very unusual at Williams. Students didn’t take off for study abroad in the way they do now. Travel was more difficult. Just the beginning of the jet age. So it was a big news item at Williams, made bigger by what Bob was telling his students.

I think by then the campus was beginning to catch on to Bob, to figure him out. But I would say, particularly among his faculty colleagues, except for a few of his very close colleagues, it had been a slow process because some people thought of Bob as being intentionally teasingly elusive and mysterious. And maybe that was true. He was deliberately elusive. But now we all were beginning to see why he had this great impact on students and why he was such an important force at Williams.

John Chandler,
former Williams College president