Deep gratitude for a professor’s long and inspiring career with the Franklin College Economics, Business and Accounting Department motivated a group of alumni to create an endowed internship fund and host a party in his honor. Both were a surprise to James “Jim” C. Williams, who retired from the college in May.
Williams taught at Franklin for 35 years and earned three of the college’s top awards for faculty excellence, distinguished service and academic advising. He also was the longtime occupant of the Edna B. Lacy Chair in Business and Entrepreneurship.
Williams’ approach to teaching was “provide high challenge and high support,” both of which he gave generously.
The effectiveness of his methods is evident in student outcomes. Since 1992, senior business majors have scored remarkably high on a nationally administered major field test that gauges students’ ability to retain and apply economics, business and accounting principles and practices. More than 400 U.S. colleges and universities use the same test, and Franklin students consistently score in or above the top decile of individual scores. The 2018 seniors cumulatively scored in the nation’s top 3 percent.
Franklin College graduates of the economics, business and accounting program also have a long history of earning full-time employment or admittance into graduate school within six to eight months after their graduation.
Williams said, “When I look and see all the people throughout the program who have succeeded in business that is very satisfying, but there is more to it. Most of them also are very involved in their communities. They are charitable, and they have a strong work ethic. They are balancing families, work and service, and that is incredibly challenging.
“That success goes back to the initial assumption I make about every student I meet. I believe students are capable and can do well, with a little guidance from me. Sometimes that means a pat on the head, and other times that means a kick in the pants, but I sincerely care and want them to succeed. Many of them do not realize that until much later in life, and that is fine,” said Williams.
Several successful and grateful alumni approached the Franklin College Development Office with the idea of commemorating Williams’ retirement with a special fund to continue helping students after his departure from teaching and advising.
Audra Ferguson-Allen, class of ’04, Kevin A. Allen, class of ’02, Kory T. Bell, class of ’99, Joseph D. Copeland, class of ’05, Ryan Cripe, class of ’98, Kelly (Smith) Fulford, class of ’96, J.D. Fulford, class of ’97, Chad A. McCullough, class of ’96, Rebecca L. Ogle, class of ’96, Chris Pennington, class of ’10, and Katie (Neff) Pennington, class of ’11, collaborated with college development officers on creating the fund and revealing it to Williams and special guests during a surprise retirement party in Franklin.
Copeland said, “This fund came about because so many of us are profoundly grateful for Jim’s influence as a professor, mentor and friend. When we learned he was retiring, we knew we wanted to help cement his legacy at the college.
“We can’t give Jim back all the time he sacrificed offering office hours for students over the years, but we can honor him in perpetuity with this fund, which we would like to see keep growing. Jim helped many of us find college internships and, in some cases, even jobs. Without hesitation, he wrote recommendation letters, offered interview advice and gave referrals to help us reach our goals. This is our opportunity to help carry on his tradition of helping young professionals become workforce-ready.”
The newly created James C. Williams Endowed Internship Fund supports and enables economics, business and accounting students to pursue high-quality internships that will complement the rigorous academic preparation that Williams always championed.
“Jim’s greatest legacy is the sheer volume of anecdotal testimonials offered by his students–after they have entered the workforce full time. Their ability to lead, perform and succeed in professional settings as diverse and demanding as corporate accounting firms and philanthropic foundations affirms Jim’s impact as a professor,” said Lori Schroeder, Ph.D., provost and dean of the college.
If you are interested in supporting the fund, please click here and note “Williams Fund” as your gift designation.
(Posted Aug. 28, 2018)
POSTED Sep 13, 2018