May 29, 2007
National association honors Herman WilliamsCARBONDALE, Ill. –Southern Illinois University Carbondale students flock to Herman Williams, asking advice, sharing a laugh. It's easy to see the natural rapport that makes the assistant director of intramural sports for Recreational Sports and Services so popular. Now, Williams has earned national recognition for his efforts.
The National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) honored Williams for his devotion and hard work on behalf of students recently with two major honors at the association's Annual Conference and Recreational Sports Exposition in Minneapolis.
The NIRSA People of Color Distinguished Leadership Award honors Williams for his work on behalf of students, recreational sports and increasing minority involvement. In addition, Williams is now the namesake for the Herman Williams Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Founders Outstanding Service Award, given annually since 2003 by the NIRSA Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Committee and the People of Color of NIRSA. The award recognizes an individual for creating an atmosphere of open exchange and for being at the forefront of social change. Williams' family surprised him by appearing at the awards presentation.
"I'm just happy that I've helped somebody along the way, and they've told me with these awards that I have," Williams said. "I've had a lot of awards but these really touched me more than anything. When the students and your colleagues tell you something, it makes it feel that much better. It's a great honor to me. As an educator and coach, it's my job to work with the students. It's all about student services, getting them involved. What makes this so special is that it's truly a service award and that's what it's all about. It's about the students. The kids make it worthwhile."
Williams credits his parents and a special high school coach with instilling in him the values and love of sports and mentoring youth that have guided him through the years.
"It's nothing but love," he said.
Displayed prominently on his office wall, Williams has a quote he lives by. Based on a quote in the movie, "The Emperor's Club," it says, "A great teacher (administrator) has little external history to record. His life goes over into other lives. These men are pillars in the intimate structure of our schools. They are more essential than its stones or beams, and they will continue to be a kindling force and a revealing power in the lives of all they touch."
Williams played basketball, football and baseball in high school and earned a football scholarship to Dillard University in New Orleans. He received his bachelor's degree there in health and physical education and then obtained his master's at the University of Southern Alabama in Mobile, Ala. A Birmingham, Ala., native, Williams coached the basketball team of his alma mater, A.H. Parker High School, to two state titles and a third-place finish while also serving as assistant football coach.
He arrived at SIUC in 1974 and was assistant basketball coach until 1978 when he followed head coach Paul Lambert to Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. Tragically, a hotel fire killed Lambert before he ever coached an Auburn game. Williams stayed until 1981, at which time he said he was thrilled to get the opportunity to return to SIUC.
"I've really enjoyed working here," Williams said. "It's a great place to be."
An assistant basketball coach for the Salukis until 1986, Williams then went to work for Recreational Sports and Services where he's been ever since.
"My experience here at the recreation center has been great," Williams added. "I've worked with some great people like Mike Dunn, Bill McMinn, Anthony Daniels and now Sally Wright. I've had many great graduate assistants and intramural sports officials too."
Williams' connection to SIUC is quite strong. Wife Yvonne, who he proclaims is "my backbone," is associate director of the Center for Academic Success. Their children, Kesha Williams and Herman Williams II, both graduated from the University. Kesha now works in the financial aid office while Herman II is with Bank of America.
"We have tight ties with SIUC," Williams said.
The SIUC community is equally as pleased Williams is a vital part of the University.
"I can't think of anyone more deserving of this award and recognition," said Sally Wright, interim director of Recreational Sports and Services. "I feel really proud and lucky to have had the opportunity to work in his presence."
Williams received a beautiful clock and a pair of plaques in conjunction with his awards from the NIRSA. The organization traces its roots to February 1950, when representatives of 11 black colleges met at Dillard University and established the National Intramural Association, which later became the NIRSA. By 1991, a majority of the professionals in the group were white males and some NIRSA members perceived the need to address the issue of introducing more minority students to career opportunities in campus recreational sports.
The Office of Intramural Recreational Sports at SIUC established The Emerging Minority Leaders Workshop in 1992 with endorsement from the NIRSA. There were several workshops throughout the United States in ensuing years to help guide and mentor minority students with interest in the field of recreation. Williams said those efforts have been very successful. He notes that there are now many career options in the recreation field.
"The field has really expanded," Williams said. "It's more than coaching and teaching now. There are so many opportunities. There are some great facilities out there. In fact, we have really great facilities here. Our students are very lucky."
Although Williams will retire Sept. 1, he insists he isn't going away.
"I will still be involved with the students who are here, who have left here, and who will be here in the future," Williams said. "I want to be there for them."
Caption: Williams honored — Herman Williams, assistant director of intramural sports for Recreational Sports and Services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, won two honors at the recent National Intramural Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Annual Conference and Recreational Sports Exposition in Minneapolis. Williams received the inaugural NIRSA People of Color Distinguished Leadership Award. In addition, Williams is now the namesake for the Herman Williams Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Founders Outstanding Service Award given annually since 2003 by the NIRSA Emerging Recreational Sports Leaders Committee and the People of Color of NIRSA. The award recognizes an individual for creating an atmosphere of open exchange and for being at the forefront of social change.
Photo by Rusty Bailey