The Williams College Legacy

Williams College Art History Professors

Whitney Stoddard, Lane Faison, Bill Pierson

Professors S. Lane Faison Jr., William H. Pierson Jr. and Whitney S. Stoddard, also known as the “Holy Trinity,” led the art history department at Williams from 1940 into the early 80s.  Using the Clark Art Institute and the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown as their resources, the three professors instilled in their students the same passion they had for art. 

So special was the legacy, the New York Times coined the term “Williams Mafia” to refer to the group of talented Williams alumni taught by the “Holy Trinity.”  “Legacy; One College’s Long Shadow: Looking Back at the ‘Williams Mafia,’” the New York Times article written by Stephen Kinzer on March 31, 2004, looks at how Faison, Pierson and Stoddard taught and influenced a group of prominent alumni who went on to lead world-renowned museums and continue to manage much of American art today.  The list includes Brent Benjamin (St. Louis Art Museum), Michael Govan (Los Angeles County Museum), Thomas Krens (Guggenheim Museums Worldwide), John Lane (Director of Dallas Museum of Art), Glen Lowry (Museum of Modern Art), Earl Powell III (National Gallery of Art), James Wood (Art Institute of Chicago and the J. Paul Getty Trust), James Rondeau (Art Institute of Chicago), Shamim Momin (Whitney Museum of American Art), Laura Hoptman (New Museum of Contemporary Art), Joseph C. Thompson (MASS MoCA), Nancy Spector (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), and Charles Wiley (Dallas Museum of Art), Sam Hunter, and Kirk Varnedoe.  Current Williams College Professors Eugene Johnson and Ed Epping are also part of this remarkable group. 


Jo Ellen Harrison and Whitney Stoddard, 1979 

Jo Ellen Harrison, director of the Harrison Gallery, is another offspring of the Williams College Mafia.  Having been taught by professors Whitney Stoddard, Lane Faison, Tom Krens and Ed Epping, she graduated Williams College in 1979 with a B.A. in Art History and Studio Art.  She went on to further pursue Art History in graduate school at Harvard University, and then ventured off into the corporate world where she learned to master the art of business.  In 2001, Harrison returned to her first love, deciding to apply her education to a commercial venture.  Carrying works by fellow Williams alumni like Barbara Ernst Prey (Class of ’79) and Susan Read Cronin (Class of ’75), the Harrison Gallery is as much a part of the legacy as well as a supporter of the Williams College Art Mafia.