The award was presented Sept. 1 at the 35th annual Council for Opportunity in Education Conference in San Diego, Dr. Williams was among the six 2016 honorees who all received guidance and assistance from a TRIO program during their high school and/or freshmen years and have gone on to experience great success in their professions.
The federally funded TRIO programs provide college preparation, mentoring and college admission assistance to low-income and first-generation students. Those established throughout the country include the Upward Bound, McNair Scholars and Student Support Services programs.
Dr. Williams, who came from a low-income family in North Carolina, enrolled as a freshman at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., in 1982. He was immediately embraced by the TRIO’s Student Support Services Program at that university, which he credits with giving his higher education journey a good start.
“It is without a doubt that I wouldn’t be president of Delaware State University without the support I received from TRIO during my undergraduate years,” Dr. Williams said.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Communication Broadcasting, his academic journey continued with a Master of Arts in Education Media (also from Appalachian State) and culminated in 2000 with an Ed.D in Educational Leadership from East Tennessee State University.
Meanwhile, the native of Greenville, N.C., also found his calling to be in higher education, leading to his service in a number of ascending administrator posts at Appalachian State and at the University of North Carolina, and later his 2008 appointment as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at Delaware State University and ultimately as the University’s president in 2010.
“It wasn’t until I became a higher education administrator that I came to understand the full breadth of TRIO,” Dr. Williams said. “I have since come to know countless students who were blessed with the support of a TRIO program, many of whom – like me – credit such support as having great and positive impact on the subsequent academic and career success that followed.”
Since he became the 10th president in the history of DSU, the University’s enrollment has increased from 3,819 to 4,560 students. Among the other numerous accomplishments of the institution under Dr. Williams’ leadership:
- He achieved the support of state government to establish the Inspire Scholarship Program.
- The University has been awarded more than $108 million in research-related grants.
- The construction of the Optical Science Center for Applied Research (OSCAR) Building was completed in 2015.
- DSU was recognized as the 1890 Land-grant Institution of the Year in 2013 and as the 1890 University of the Year in 2015, both by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
- DSU’s initiatives to increase student success have led to partnerships with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education “First in the World” program, resulting in $3.6 million in grants in support of the University’s work in these areas.
- The University has established the Early College High School that features a STEM-emphasis curriculum as it prepares students for higher education.