A Lifelong Love Affair

8 June 2020

Candace Williams ’73 says being on the Every Carl for Carleton campaign core committee is like going to college all over again.

portrait of Candace Williams
Candace Williams ’73

Carleton almost didn’t happen for Candace Williams ’73, P ’06, P ’11. Like her older brother, the Kansas City native planned to be a Jayhawk, until one day when she was hanging out with her boyfriend, Mark Williams ’73, P ’06, P ’11, who was a science wunderkind.

Carleton physics professor William Butler had heard about Mark—who built his own telescope in high school—and decided to drop by for a recruiting visit. As Candace listened in to the conversation, her own future came into focus. “I was just enchanted by what I heard,” Williams remembers. “My family had no money for a private school, but I told my parents, ‘I can’t not try to go to this amazing school.’ I was hungry for that broad education.”

Candace and Mark both applied for admission, and together they began a lifelong Carleton journey. She studied philosophy, and he studied physics. After graduation the two married. Mark became a Rhodes Scholar and a director with Royal Dutch Shell; Candace became an attorney.

In 2016, a year after Mark passed away, Candace—who was a 25th-reunion trustee between 1998 and 2002—joined the Every Carl for Carleton campaign core committee. In many ways, she says, the experience has been like going to college all over again: “Through my reunion planning and other Carleton roles, I am making new friendships and developing a deeper relationship with the school.”

What makes Every Carl for Carleton significant?

The campaign is a unique opportunity for the Carleton community to join together and strengthen the endowment fund. Comparing endowments among our peers, Carleton has consistently punched above its weight. It will be fantastic to increase the endowment to a level that cements Carleton’s role in delivering the very best to this and coming generations.

How has the campaign been received by alumni?

The campaign’s four vital priorities resonate deeply with alumni: financial aid to ensure access for the best students, enriching teaching and learning environments, preparing every student for a rewarding life and career after Carleton, and bolstering the Alumni Annual Fund, which serves Carleton’s most crucial needs. As is the case for so many others, I could not have attended Carleton without financial aid. Ensuring broad access to a Carleton education is a goal Carls believe in and actively support.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about participating?

Participating in the campaign at any level is a powerful step that demonstrates Carleton’s shared values. Your participation makes a difference to amazing young students and first-class faculty members. Consider the awesome power of a small acorn to become a mighty oak. Let’s grow a forest of mighty oaks with a gift from every Carl.

You and your family have made significant gifts to Carleton, including the Mark Williams ’73 Physics Lab. How have those experiences affected you?

Mark was a first-class intellect, theoretical physicist, and avid lifelong amateur astronomer. Throughout his career he credited his Carleton liberal arts education and the amazing faculty for much of his success. Ensuring that Carleton remains a powerhouse—especially in the hard sciences—was a fundamental goal of Mark’s and our family’s, including lending financial support to help make it happen. As a trustee and chair of the buildings and grounds committee, he helped develop plans for the new science building, including its physics labs. Seeing the labs in action with current students last fall was a thrill for me.

Your family has meaningful connections with other institutions. Why is Carleton such an important focus for you?

The Carleton liberal arts education was foundational to our lives. Our children, David ’06 and Megan ’11, also graduated from Carleton and found remarkable life partners there. It’s practically in our family DNA to do all we can to make sure that Carleton remains strong far into the future.