THE GREEN CHICKEN
Williams won its fourth consecutive Green Chicken title and 25th overall with a 125-118 win over Middlebury in the math competition between the two schools on November 10, 2012. The Green Chicken math competition serves as a prep for the annual National Putnam exam each December.
Leading the Ephs to the 2012 title were Jared Hallett ‘14, Samantha Petti ‘15, Jack Bequeaith ’16 and Sam Donow ‘16.
Williams holds a commanding 25-9-1 lead in the series that began in 1978.
The Green Chicken – A Most Unusual Trophy
A wedding gift that had been re-gifted many times and left as a house-warming gift has achieved cult status today as the top prize in an annual math competition between Williams College and Middlebury College. Since achieving fame The Green Chicken has even been stolen and held for ransom!
Hard to imagine a coach or a professor encouraging his or her team with the inspiring words, "let's go out there and win The Green Chicken," but that's the case at Williams and Middlebury each October or November.
This green ceramic chicken "trophy" is as unusual as befits its appearance. It has been described as a ceramic chafing dish and it had been passed around the Ithaca, New York area for a number of years before it found a secret home in Middlebury, Vermont.
When Bob Martin took a job as math professor at Middlebury
College his sister Linda
figured it was time that The Green Chicken leave the Ithaca area.
Linda had started The Green Chicken on its first journey in and around Ithaca, but when it came back to her after a number of years she knew she needed a new plan
Bob Martin's move to Middlebury College gave Linda the opening she was looking for. After spending a few days helping her brother settle into his new place in Middlebury Linda left and The Green Chicken stayed.
The Green Chicken even stayed with Bob Martin when he married his wife Holly shortly thereafter.
Bob Martin and his Middlebury colleague Bill Beckmann joined Bob's University of Maryland grad school chum Peter Andrews, who was then teaching math at Williams, in creating the math competition between the two schools in 1978. The competition was to be used as a way to prepare the math students at both schools for the National Putnam Exam in early December.
The original name of the competition was "The Middlebury-Williams Pre-Putnam Exam" and the first competition was held at Middlebury in 1978 on the morning of the annual football game between the two members of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
Williams and Middlebury annually rank among the top national liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News & World Report survey, but neither has an abundance of math majors. There are many talented math students on each campus, but not all of them major in math or participate in The Green Chicken competition.
The national profile of the two institutions athletically is equally impressive with Williams topping the NCAA Division 3 rankings in the Directors' Cup 15 of the 17 years it has been awarded and Middlebury winning the 2012 Cup.
Competition between the two schools has a rich tradition dating back to the early years of the 20th century and today the two schools match up in 27 sports annually.
Williams won the first Green Chicken competition back in 1978, only no one knew it was The Green Chicken competition until the professors who were grading that first exam gathered at Bob Martin's house. While the professors were at the Martin house grading the exams they decided that the event should become an annual affair rotating between the two schools, but they also wanted to have an award for the winner. Enter Bob's wife, Holly, with the suggestion that "The Green Chicken" should become the award. Williams took The Green Chicken back to Williamstown in 1978. The winner now holds The Green Chicken for the calendar year until the next October/November showdown.
The winner of the annual competition used to be announced at halftime of the annual football clash between the two schools, but a subsequent change in academic calendars has eliminated that flash of public acknowledgement.
Williams also won the next two years before the fourth competition ended in a tie. The first Middlebury win came in 1982 and The Green Chicken finally got to return to its Middlebury roost for a calendar year.
The Green Chicken now sits proudly on a polished wooden base adorned with a plaque proclaiming the year and winning team of The R. P. Martin Trophy – that would be Bob Martin.
On the Williams campus The Green Chicken used to be used as a cookie dish throughout the academic year, that is until it disappeared one night and a note was found with words cut from a magazine suggesting that The Green Chicken would be returned if the math majors were taken out to dinner.
"Various other notes followed including one that had attached to it a piece of green porcelain that appeared to be a piece of The Green Chicken," said Williams math professor Colin Adams. "Finally, The Green Chicken was returned. Ted Welsh '95 was accused of having stolen it."
Of course at Williams that could not be the end of the story. In January Ted Welsh went on mock trial with Colin Adams representing him, but Adams did it as his math character that he has created for teaching purposes -- Mel Slugbate. Only this time Mel Slugbate was not teaching math, he was in the role of a defense attorney.
Professor Ollie Beaver was the judge and professor Tom Garrity the prosecutor. "Ultimately, Mel Slugbate produced time cards showing that Ted was working during the times that witnesses claimed he was stealing The Green Chicken," said Adams. "Ultimately the student audience/jury freed Ted and convicted one of the student witnesses, much to Tom Garrity's horror. Ted Welsh is now a math professor at Westfield State University."
The Green Chicken when in Williamstown is now kept under lock and key in a closet and only brought out for special occasions.
There is such a thing as "home court" advantage in The Green Chicken competition as the host school makes up the questions for the exams. The students at the host school are pretty adept at figuring out what kinds of problems will be featured on that year's exam.
In 2007 the Williams won its fifth consecutive Green Chicken title. It was the second time in the 30-year history that the Ephs had constructed a 5-year win streak [1992 – 1996].
Middlebury's best streak was a 3-year run from 1997 – 1999.
October 13, 2008 The Green Chicken was profiled in the Boston Sunday Globe magazine and lo and behold it was soon discovered that The Green Chicken has a cousin – a Brown Chicken. Math professor Steven Miller drove to central Massachusetts to pick up the Brown Chicken and bring it home to reside with The Green Chicken in the Bronfman Science Center.
Williams leads the all-time series in The Green Chicken competition 25-9-1.