Williams College President 1994-1999
Hank Payne assumed the presidency of Williams on Jan. 1, 1994 and
initiated three major planning processes focusing on the curriculum,
student life outside the classroom, and the college’s major financial
He oversaw the total renovation of Griffin Hall — a rejuvenation of the
oldest classroom building on campus that was historically sensitive and
integrated the latest teaching technology. He guided the planning and
construction of a $45 million addition and renovation of the college’s
science facilities that transformed teaching and learning in those
fields. He also launched the initiative for a new center for theatre
At the same time he worked to increase attention at Williams to civic life and the instilling in students of civic virtues.
Payne taught European intellectual history since joining the faculty at
Colgate in 1973. He continued teaching while provost and then acting
president of Haverford and while president of Hamilton. As professor of
history at Williams he taught a course on historiography.
He served as president of the American Society for
Eighteenth-Century Studies, the field in which most of his scholarly
work has focused. He wrote The Philosophes and the People, edited three volumes of Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, and produced more than 50 scholarly articles and reviews.
Payne graduated as the highest ranking B.A. candidate in the Yale
College Class of 1969 and earned an M.A. at the same time. His Ph.D. in
history, also from Yale, came in 1973. He was awarded honorary
degrees by Hamilton (1988), Colgate (1989), Williams (1993) and Amherst
He was a Danforth Fellow from 1968 to 1973 and an honorary Woodrow
Wilson Fellow in 1968. He won a National Endowment for the Humanities
Summer Stipend in 1975 and won the American Society for
Eighteenth-Century Studies’ annual article prize for 1975-76. He was an
overseas fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge University, in 1977.
Payne served as president of Woodward Academy in Atlanta from 2000
until his death in 2008. He and his wife, Deborah, have two sons,
Jonathan ’97 and Samuel.