Williams College President 1985-1993
Francis Christopher Oakley, Edward Dorr Griffin Professor of the History of Ideas, was inducted President of Williams on October 5, 1985.
Oakley has been a member of the college faculty since 1961, was Dean of the Faculty from 1977 to 1984, and resumed teaching after retiring from the presidency at the end of 1993.
As president, Oakley was instrumental in the establishment of the tutorial form of instruction both in the Williams-Oxford Program and at Williams itself. He also founded the Bolin Fellowships, the Center for Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Multicultural Center, oversaw the successful completion of a $174 million capital campaign, and led the development of a community reflecting the diversity of American society. The college’s minority student population was doubled (to 25%), programs for minority students and faculty were expanded, the first women were named as Dean of the College and Dean of the Faculty, and the Williams College Jewish Religious Center was built.
Oakley is a former president of the New England Medieval Conference (1983-84), of the Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America (1999-2002), and of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS, 2002-2003). He was chairman of the boards of ACLS (1993-97), the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (1998-2005), and the National Center for the Humanities, North Carolina (2004-2007). He is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
A lifelong scholar, Oakley is the author of thirteen books, coeditor of three others, and contributor to the journals of around two hundred articles, translations and book reviews on topics in medieval history and on American higher education. In 2004 his Conciliarist Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2003) was awarded the Roland Bainton Book Prize. His most recent book is Empty Bottles of Gentilism (Yale University Press, 2010).
Of Irish immigrant parents, Oakley was born and raised in England and served as a lieutenant in the British Army. He was educated at Oxford University (B.A./M.A. – First Class Honours), the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, Canada, and Yale University (M.A., Ph.D.) He holds honorary degrees, LL.D., L.H.D. and Litt.D. from Notre Dame, Northwestern and Wesleyan Universities, from North Adams State College, and from Amherst, Bowdoin and Williams Colleges.
He is married to the former Claire-Ann Lamenzo. They have four children and seven grandchildren.