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Bill Laramee '69 Says Western New England Made it Possible For Him to Prosper

By Kenneth Stratton '19 TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2019 - 1:00 PM WNE100

Even in the August before many of his peers would begin their first semesters, the future college Dean had no plans to attend college. But driven to explore the mystery of higher education, Bill Laramee ’69 made a last-minute decision to attend Western New England College.

“At the time, all students at WNEC either planned to enter business or engineering,” Laramee recalls. So, he entered as a Business Administration-Management major, soon realizing that Management or Human Resources was the best fit for him.

“I tend not to be a linear-type thinker but rather enjoy the mystery and nuance of questions related to human nature and leadership,” Laramee explained. At Western New England, he also began to understand the impact this work could have. “I began to understand at WNEC… the importance of being grounded by a deep sense of moral purpose that helps to enlarge the opportunities and lives of others,” he said.

Laramee flourished while on campus, involved in student government, athletics, and serving as a Resident Advisor and Head Resident.

“I would say that WNEC provided the type of environment, encouragement, and support that made it possible for a first-generation college student to prosper and to move from a place of uncertainty to a greater place of clarity of purpose,” Laramee said.

With influence from Western New England’s Dean Andrew Mulcahy, Laramee saw first-hand what it meant to be a firm but fair Dean. Now driven to go into the field of Student Personnel, Laramee attended UMass Amherst and received both his Master’s and Doctorate in three years. Years later, he would return to school once more, for a Masters in Liberal Arts from Dartmouth University.

After UMass, Laramee found work at Berea College in Kentucky. Berea was the first interracial and co-educational institution in the South, and his wife Monica’s alma mater. First hired as the Associate Dean of Men, Laramee eventually became Director of Student Development and enjoyed the opportunity to teach.

“In the 70’s we were teaching about racism, women’s equality, Appalachian culture and justice, and environmental sustainability. I’d like to think that we have moved well beyond the need for such instruction in today’s time but, tragically, that is not the case,” Laramee said.

After Berea, Laramee and his family moved back to New England, where he enjoyed a long tenure at Lyndon State College (now Northern Vermont University). The culture at Lyndon State was very different from the Christian values and Southern hospitality Laramee became accustomed to at Berea.

“Let’s just say that the students and I grew-up together,” said the former Lyndon State Dean of Students. To help balance his perspective of this new student body, Laramee coached Cross Country Running and Skiing in addition to teaching in Education and Business.

After ten years in that role, Laramee would become the College’s first Dean of Institutional Advancement. Here the Dean was responsible for leading fundraising and alumni relations efforts. The experience made him a viable candidate to return to Berea as a Major Gift Officer.

“I was to direct a staff of 45 and work to secure $4 million in annual gifts; on average, $19 million in planned gifts; and managed a campaign that successfully raised $165 million over five years,” said Laramee, who would also become Vice President for Alumni and College Relations during this return to Berea. Today, Laramee is an Honorary Alumnus of the College he served for so long.

“In terms of my career to this point, one might say that my vocation became a place where my deep gladness met some of world’s deep need,” Laramee said. This is true, even in retirement. Currently, Laramee is a trustee at Warren Wilson College, a special mission work college like Berea where all students are required to work as part of their education. In addition, he works with a small Advancement Consulting firm located in Lexington, KY, and is also a board member for Sustainable Harvest International, working with small farmers in Central America.

“My continuing interest is to be of help to small, special mission institutions in an economy that is skewed to the ‘rich and famous,’” Laramee explained.

Of course, in retirement, Laramee has also found more time to spend with family. He and his wife now divide their time between KY and VT, while enjoying the families of their four children, including seven grandchildren.

Laramee, a lifelong college administrator, didn’t even plan on attending college. But he’s glad he did, and he’s glad it was at Western New England that he began his journey of self-discovery and service.

“[The University’s] mission reads, in part, ‘At Western New England University, excellence in student learning goes hand in hand with the development of personal values such as integrity, accountability, and citizenship. Students acquire the tools to support lifelong learning and the skills to succeed in the global workforce….’ These words define many of my life choices and contributed to any success I may have had as a college administrator and world citizen,” Laramee concluded.