History

In 1955, Philip R. Mallory, a descendant of the great shipbuilding Mallory family of Mystic, encouraged his sister, Cora Mallory Munson, to endow the Frank C. Munson Institute, named for her late husband. The Institute was to function as a summer program in maritime history at Mystic Seaport; fifty years later, the Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies has earned a reputation as a distinguished summer teaching program. In the mid-1970s, Mallory gave further funds to the Munson Endowment for the establishment of the undergraduate program that would later become Williams-Mystic.

Professor Benjamin W. Labaree of Williams College, a member of the faculty of the Munson Institute since 1966, conceived the notion of a one-semester program in maritime studies after several winters spent bringing a group of Williams students to Mystic Seaport Museum for the January academic term. Professor Labaree and his students sketched the original plan for a full semester on a napkin in a Dunkin’ Donuts, where they had paused for a snack on their ride back to Williamstown.

After several years of planning with Waldo Johnston, then Director of the Mystic Seaport Museum, Professor Labaree founded the Williams-Mystic Program in 1977.

Four decades later, the Williams-Mystic Program is thriving with over 1,700 alumni in a variety of career fields and professions. Williams-Mystic is the only undergraduate program that offers interdisciplinary semester-long courses in maritime literature, science, history, and policy. We are a member of the Twelve-College Exchange and welcome students from all accredited colleges and universities across the United States.