Tribute: Emory Williams Sr.
Emory Williams Sr. 32C, a dedicated alumnus and emeritus trustee, died Tuesday, February 11, in Hobe Sound, Florida. Williams was 102.
Williams, former vice president and chief financial officer of Sears Roebuck and Company and chair and CEO of the Sears Bank and Trust Company, maintained a lifelong connection with Emory. He began serving as a trustee in 1964 and was elected to emeritus status in 1981.
“In addition to his remarkable professional career, national service, and family life, Emory Williams was deeply committed to the university and to helping to stimulate and enrich the life of the mind,” says Emory President James Wagner. “He took his role as a trustee seriously, attending meetings—including last November’s Board of Trustees meeting—and writing to me regularly words of guidance and support.”
In 1972, Williams established the Emory Williams Awards to honor faculty for fostering participation, inquiry, and creative expression in the classroom; proving a model for teaching and scholarship; and serving as a mentor to students.
Williams’s commitment to the notion of the “great books” led to the establishment of a voluntary core curriculum in Emory College focused on “great works of the Western tradition in politics, philosophy, literature, and history.” He established a lecture series to support the program, which Emory College named the Emory Williams Lectures in the Liberal Arts in his honor. He attended lectures and classes on occasion, maintaining a keen interest in the program, says Patrick Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History and a 2012 recipient of the Emory Williams Teaching Award.
“He was eloquent, amusing, and full of interest in the details of the curriculum, wanting to know exactly what the students did and did not like, how much work I was asking them to do, and how good or bad they were as writers,” Allitt recalls.
In 2011, Williams received the Judson C. “Jake” Ward Golden Heart award for longtime service to Emory and the community.