As Archimedes is to mathematics, you have been to the modern math and stats department at Williams–the closest thing it has to a father. Since your arrival, the number of math majors has been in an upward Archimedean spiral, growing six-fold. More than ten percent of today’s graduates are math/stats majors–an astounding five times the national average. There wasn’t anywhere you wouldn’t talk with any students at any time about the joys of math–in dining halls, at concerts, on television–and the more math-phobic they thought they were the better. At the same time you have drawn to the department a generation of similarly passionate proselytizers. As Archimedes was the first thinker to apply mathematics to the physical world, your research has focused on soap bubbles, including the breakthrough proof of the theory that the double bubble is the most efficient way to enclose and separate two given volumes. Along the way, you fathered a summer undergraduate research program that has become a model and launched countless students into careers in the field. The American Mathematical Society’s national award for outstanding undergraduate research bears your name. Archimedes is also known for his study of buoyancy, and, boy, have you been buoyant, whether leaping up at a faculty meeting, bounding across campus with a student, or catapulting the math department into the twenty-first century.
I hereby declare you Webster Atwell — Class of 1921 Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, entitled to all the rights, honors, and privileges appertaining thereto.
June 5, 2016