How it all began: CSS Archives

Some History on Campus Security at Williams College

Background: The directorship of college security first appears in the Bulletin under the

Office of the Treasurer where it remains until 1967.  From 1967-1978 the position can be found under the office of Buildings and Grounds.  It returns to the Treasurer’s Office for 1978-80 and then is transferred to the Dean’s Office until 2011, at which time it transferred to the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life.

Before listing under the offices of the Administration there were night watchmen (Williams Record, March 13, 1954 tells of duties) and in 1956 the first “Campus Cop” was appointed to enforce driving regulations (v.49 no.1 Nov. p.25 WAR).  In 1957 the retired local chief of police was appointed Head of Security over the night watchmen and “campus cop”. (v.49 no.4 July p.3 WAR; Williams Record Sept. 29, 1956, Nov. 13, 1957).

Millis, George W. – Campus Cop – 1956-? [Appt.: v.49 no.1 Nov. p.25]

George Royal, Former Head of Security
George Royal, Former Head of College Police Force

Royal, George – Head of College Police Force – 1957-1961 [Interview while Chief of Police: v.45 July p.23 (WAR); Appt.: v.49 no. 4 July p.3 (WAR); Obit.: v.71 no.4 summer p.26]




Walter O'Brien, Former Director of College Security
Walter O’Brien, Former Director of College Security

O’Brien, Walter – Director of College Security – 1964-1979 [Appt. v.56 no.4 July p.8 (WAR)]




Ransom H. Jenks, Jr.  Former Director of Security
Ransom H. Jenks, Jr. Former Director of Security

Jenks, Ransom H. Jr. – Director of Security -1979 – 1994

Jean Thorndike, Former Director of Campus Safety & Security until 2010
Jean Thorndike, Former Director of Campus Safety & Security






Thorndike, Jean – Security Supervisor 1987-1988; Asst. Director of College Security 1988- 1994; Director of Security 1994-2010




WAR v.5 no.1 Feb 1913 p.11 tells of the appointment of early night watchman, John Kelly.

College Night Watchman Appointed

John Kelley of North Adams, a former night watchman at the Richmond Hotel of that city, has been appointed College Night Watchman to patrol the campus.  The object of his appointment, as officially announced, is to provide a safeguard to College property and to aid in the saving of light and steam consumption, and to that end he will have a general oversight of the College buildings in the dark hours, turning out the lights in the dormitories at dawn, shutting off the steam at midnight and turning it on at 5 a.m.  He has also, at the request of the College, been sworn in by the town as a special police officer, with the power to arrest lawbreakers.  He is to be under orders not to arrest any student, but to report to the Dean cases of drunkenness or destruction of College property only.  Mr. Kelley is about 6 feet high and weighs over 200 pounds.


[1953]  Interview while Chief of Police: v.45 July p.23 (WAR)

‘Chief’ Reviews Eph Fashions

“The boys aren’t what they used to be,” Police Chief George A. Royal reminisced recently while reviewing highlights of his 25 years on the force.

The Chief started his 26th year as law-enforcer in Williamstown in February.  He was appointed the 13th and sworn in on the 20th.

“I remember when the favorite hangout was ‘Link’s and Jink’s,’ a restaurant located where the Bemis Store is now.

“This was back in 1928 or ’29, when everyone was having a good time.  I don’t know how the students ever found time to study.  It seemed that they were always riding around enjoying themselves all day.

“Then some would head out to Hoosick Falls or any of a number of places where bootlegging was going on.  In fact, we even had a few ‘blind tigers’ in Williamstown.  After the fellows finished carousing, they’d head to Link’s and Jink’s for a bite to eat.  There were enough following that program so that the restaurant found it worthwhile to stay open all night.”

But the depression change all that.

“It brought other changes, too.  That’s when the students started wearing dungarees.  Before that, you could always tell a student because he was so well-dressed – plus fours, coonskin coat and all.

“It wasn’t until after the war that the dungarees gave way to suntan pants and shorts.  Now some cut off the bottoms of their trousers and call them shorts, quite a change from the fashion plates of the 20s.”

Chief Royal also remembers the famous drinking clubs which were popular at Williams about 40 years ago.  The clubs were modeled after the German Student Corps which thrived on dueling and drinking..  The Williams men wore colored caps, and the clubs served no constructive use other than socializing.  Dueling wasn’t included on the agenda.  Largely through the efforts of Gargoyle, these clubs fell by the wayside in the 20s.

The Chief seldom has any trouble with students.

“Even when Link’s and Jink’s was so popular.  The fellows had their fun, but they kept it under control.  They acted up as lads will, but they never gave me real trouble.

“You see, most of them were personal friends of mine.  When I asked them to do something, they were pretty good about doing it.  Now and then a freshman got wise, but my friends among the upperclassmen set them right in short order.

“Friendliness is a pretty fair policy and they were fair boys, willing to reciprocate.  In recent years they have quieted down even more so that life gets pretty routine at times,” he said not unhappily.

Part of the reason for the Chief’s friendly relations with students, stems from his amiable disposition.  But in the early years it also was a practical solution because he was a one-man police force for 18 years, except for a constable that was added now and then.

Seven years ago a full-time officer was added to help the Chief, and now he commands a squad of three.

When the Chief started his law-enforcement activities, he has to borrow a gun and billy club and he used a constable’s badge because there was no police force before he arrived.

For headquarters, he had a desk in the corner of the selectmen’s office in the Old Opera House.  In 1940 they condemned the old lock-up in the town yards, and gave him an office over the Railway Express Agency across the street.  Prisoners that must be held overnight are lodged in the North Adams jail.

The Chief enjoys recalling his adventures such as the time he helped knock out the 1000-gallon still on Oblong Road or when he helped recover the Shakespeare folio stolen from Chapin, a trip that took him to Montreal, Canada.

He also flew out to California checking on a missing person, had his hands full in the floods of 1936, 1945 and 1948, and the flood and hurricane of 1938.

In 1930, he supervised 30 state cops who were here to control the American Legion Convention, biggest in the area.  The Chief also guarded such visitors as Charles Lindberg, Count Von Luckner, Edith Nourse Rogers, Admiral Richard Byrd, Empress Rita of Austria and in 1948 General Eisenhower, now president.

1938 Effigy Event
1938 Effigy Event1938 Effigy Event 2

Most amusing recollection of a student escapade was in 1936 or ’37, when the man-with-the-mustache was taking over.

“All the faculty had to go to Griffin Hall to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.  Fox Movietone News was on hand to film it.  Well, three of the students decided to present the ‘Spirit of ’76.’  The started at West College, one beating a snare drum, another with a clarinet and the third carrying a Swastika flag, with about 50 other students trailing along.  The newsreel men caught it all.”

The years have made little change in the Chief.  When he stared in, not long after being discharged from the Navy as a boatswain’s mate, second class, he weighed 190 pounds.  Married life pushed him up to 225 in the middle 30s, but now he’s down to a trim 190 again, and quite satisfied that the modern Williams man is still lively, but easy enough to control.


Williams Record, March 13, 1954

Night Watchmen, Unsung Campus Heroes, Relate Seldom Told Tales of Ephmen; Note Mattress Fire, Frosh-Soph Riots

By Arne Carleson ‘57

When Hillary led his crew up the treacherous slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, the world stood still acclaiming this heroic deed; queens crowned him with kissed and the Clark Gable pinups on the Smith walls were immediately torn down in hast to make room for the more romantic countenance fo the renowned mountain climber.

Yet for years Williams has had its own staff of climbers who ascend up 5,200 stairs a night totaling 7,000 feet in addition to walking 7 ½ miles.  At this rate it would take them only three days to get to the peak of the Himalayas.  Nevertheless, the only memento comes in the form of calloused feet and aching muscles. Ah! But the lot of the nightwatchman is not a pleasant one.

West College Fire

Bill Donaher, a former watcher now engaged in managing the Student Union game room, recalls the New Year’s Eve a few years back that he was driving with the North Adams fire chief when they spotted the West College blaze.  Fortunately, only one student was in the building at the time, and he was roused of the bed by Bill.  Although the building was a complete loss, Donaher’s quick alarm prevented the flames from spreading to nearby buildings.

At the present time there are four nightwatchmen who alternate in making the rounds (termed “winds”) punching clocks strategically located in every college building.  The leader, Charles Maxymillan, former Massachusetts athlete, Wilfred Barry, the oldest member, and Frank and George Sumner (not related) comprise the staff.

The “Winds” System

Every night each man makes two winds in addition to walking around during oftbeats.  One wind starts out at Jesup covering the laboratories, A.M.T., Greylock Hall, West College, Clark, Baxter Hall, Williams, Safe and Lehman.  The other route commences at Morgan through the gym (including the squash courts), Goodrich Hall, East College, Lawrence, Fayerweather, the library, and concludes at Hopkins.

Unfortunately their work does not end here.  They are also responsible for the Hockey Rink as well as any other building that may be in use during the night, such as the A.M.T. and study rooms.  Each evening a check of the college calendar must be made, in addition to forming the schedule of the night.  The person taking the final wind has the most difficult job for he must check every floor for lights carelessly left on by students.

Controlling Student Antics

During a wind last year, Frank Sumner strolled into a lighted room in Berkshire interrupting the pleasure of a student who was busily burning a pile of rags including a pair of underwear.  The fire was promptly extinguished and the student put to bed.  In that same year, Sumner smelled a fire and found a student burning his mattress because “it was uncomfortable”.

While Wilfred Barry was trying to prevent the freshmen from attacking Morgan Hall last term, Dean Brooks authoritatively walked into the midst of the riot only to get a bucket of water poured on him by some unsuspecting sophomore.  According to Barry he never saw the crowd disperse more rapidly in all directions than did that riotous bunch.

All is not excitement in the life of a watchman though.  For six nights a week throughout the entire year they are on guard preventing fires, theft, and constantly aiding students in dire straights.


[1956]  v.49 no.1 Nov. p.25 WAR – Williams Hires a ‘Campus Cop’

Campus Cop Hired

To solve the campus parking problem authorities have instituted a registration fee which helps pay for a campus cop and an increase in the number of parking spaces on the campus.

George W. Millis of North Hoosac Road is enforcing the new driving regulations.  Each student authorized to operate a car must pay a registration fee of $10 for one semester, or $15 for the year.  Sophomores have been given driving privileges for the three houseparty weekends, but there has been no change in the regulation that scholarship or loan students are prohibited from operating cars while the college is in session.

Specific parking spots have been assigned to each students, and additional areas have been constructed near the hockey rink, behind Fernald House adjacent to Lehman Hall, and near the Placement Bureau.  Designated as open parking areas are: the section between the library and chapel; between Baxter and Sage Halls; behind the Adams Memorial Theatre; and East of Currier and Berkshire Halls.

A breakdown shows that 272 cars have been registered.  Seniors account for 140, and juniors for 132.  Besides the usual number of jalopies, there are 50 new cars, 2 Jaguars, a Porsche, 2 Hillmans, a Morris Minor and 4 Volkswagens.  Fords lead the list, but the roster includes nearly all makes.


Williams Record Sept. 29, 1956

Dean Explains Need for Campus Police

Student Registration Fee Helps Meet Expenses

Saturday, Sept. 29 – “We tried to get by as long as possible without a campus police officer, but there is no point in having restrictions without enforcing them” Dean Robert R. R. Brooks told the RECORD today.

“We did just what other colleges have done all along.”  Brooks said.  He explained that Amherst has five campus officers on full-time duty and Dartmouth uses many more.

$6000 Cost

Through registration fees drivers will bear about 75 per cent of what their automobiles cost the college each year, Brooks said. Registration of student cars is expected to net approximately $4500., while the cost of these cares to the college will be about $6000 this year.

Brooks refused to five out a breakdown on the $6000 expenditure figure but stated campus cop George Millis’ salary was “less than half, but still a considerable part.” Other items were a college police car, clerical time and parking lot maintenance.


Student fines are not expected to fill much of the $1500 deficit.  Brooks explained, as the main penalty for violations will be suspension of driving privileges.

“We hope to make as few fines as possible,” Brooks stated.  He said officer Millis’ first job is to enforce registration for all college cars, his second to stop campus parking violations.

Illegal parking results in a $3 fine for first offense, automatic two-week driving suspension for second offense and longer suspension for added offenses.


July 1957 – Appt.: v.49 no. 4 July p.3 (WAR)

CHIEF George Royal who has headed the Williamstown police force for nearly 30 years, will become head of the College’s police force in September.  George W. Millis, current campus cop, will assist the Chief.


Williams Record, Nov. 13, 1957

Record Appraisal: College Police Force Performs Many Jobs

In this RECORD Appraisal, Junior Associate Editor Bill Edgar has evaluated the duties of the college police force and recommended that its responsibilities be enlarged.

By Bill Edgar

Is the campus Police Force necessary to Williams College?

College Treasurer Charles A. Foehl, Jr. estimates the two-man force will cost about $10,000 this year.  Is this money well-spent?  Are two policemen needed here?  After investigation, the RECORD found they are.

Fulfill Obligation

“We wouldn’t be fulfilling our obligations,” said Dean Vincent M. Barnett, Jr., “if we had no police force, or a smaller one.”

From time to time things of value are stolen from students or extra-curricular organizations.  Since college buildings here are not public property, “you’re not going to get town or state police to patrol dormitories or locker rooms,” Dean Barnett explained.  A college policeman can.

The most pressing need which the police fill is, of course, the administration of registration of automobiles and campus parking which was overloading the already too-busy dean’s office.

George A. Royal, who joined the campus police this fall, has been given the supervision of the night watchmen, formerly a duty of the Department of Buildings and Grounds.

48-Hour Week

Both Mr. Royal and George A. Millis, hired by the college a year ago, work a 48-hour week.

The police are present at rallies, meetings, lectures and dances to control potential disorder.  They patrol football games, a job formally filled by policemen hired from the town.  From now on they will also be in charge of preventing disorder at all houseparty functions.

They keep all trespassers, such as objectionable itinerant salesmen, out of Williams dormitories.  They work to solve any petty crimes committed on campus, such as recent thefts at the Field House and the AMT.  They are also informed of small thefts or disorders committed by Williams Students off campus.

They study reports of accidents had by undergraduate drivers.  If they find the driver negligent, steps may be taken to suspend his driving permission.


The institution of a campus police force, we have found, was a good and necessary thing.  We recommend that their duties be further enlarged: that a well-publicized lost and found bureau be centered in the Hopkins Hall office, that they expand their investigations of Williams accidents and speeding violations in order to have more driving safety.

The police force is there.  It is being used well.  It can be used even better.


O’Brien, Walter – Director of College Security – 1964-1979 [Appt. v.56 no.4 July p.8 (WAR)]

Capt. O’Brien Named Director of Security

Massachusetts State Police Captain Walter C. O’Brien, Troop B commander formerly in charge of the six Western Massachusetts state police barracks, has been appointed to the newly-created post of Director of College Security.  He heads the College police force and night watchmen, and is responsible for the administrative side of security, according to Dean Labaree, who pointed out that with the increasing number of College-owned building and properties, problems of security have also increased.  The College has not only assumed responsibility for a number of former fraternity buildings, but has a major construction project under way on the Greylock Corner which will result in the addition of five new buildings by the fall of 1965.  In addition, Williams last fall purchased Mount Hope Farm, an estate of 1,200 acres with a mansion and many other buildings.  The appointment of Capt. O’Brien is in line with these increased responsibilities, and will permit the present uniformed force under Chief Peter Gelheiser to spend more time out on Campus, Dean Labaree said.  The new security director will report to both Mr. Labaree and Peter Welanetz, director of physical plant.  Capt. O’Brien, 49, comes to his new job after more than 25 years with the Massachusetts State Police.  He enlisted in 1938 and has served in all parts of the Commonwealth.  He was promoted to corporal in 1950, to sergeant in 1953, to lieutenant in 1957, and to captain in 1961, when he assumed command of Troop B headquarters in Northampton.


George A. Royal, Head of the College Police Force Dies [July 1979] Obit.: v.71 no.4 summer p.26

George A. Royal, Williamstown Police Chief from 1928 to 1957 and head of security at the College from 1957 to 1961, died June 15 at his retirement home in Richmond, VA.  He was 85 years old.

He is remembered by large numbers of Williams students as the only police officer in the area.  He personally directed security operations at many College functions, including sports events, academic processions and reunion parades.