Former AU President Williams buried

Former AU President George H. Williams was laid to rest June 13 at Arlington National Cemetery. Williams died May 18 at his home in Evanston, Illinois at the age of 85 of complications from gastrointestinal ailments.

Williams served as president of the University from 1968 to 1975. His seven years were marked by both national issues such as the Vietnam War and campus issues such as tuition raises and the construction of a new library.

"He lead [AU] through seven years, which I think were probably among the most difficult for higher education in American history," Reverend R. Bruce Poynter, a close friend of Williams and former AU Chaplain and Vice President of Student Life, said. "Throughout that time, other colleges and universities closed their doors and took other backward steps while President Williams kept the school open."

During Williams tenure, the College of Public Affairs, now called the School of Public Affairs, was founded and a new Lecture hall was constructed, which is now the Experimental Theatre. His time also saw the addition of the Ward Circle building and an increase in the diversity of the student body.

Williams stated in the 1973 Talon, "I'd like to see the student body drawn from a wider geographic area, as well as wider diversification of people at different income levels."

Williams's goals for the University were some times cut short by student protests as well as fundraising concerns. He was often criticized by the AU Board of Trustees for not significantly adding to the AU endowment, according to Poynter.

A group of approximately twenty family members and friends came to Arlington for the Williams internment. Williams was honored with burial in the national cemetery after distinguished service in World War II.

Williams had received the Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and, most notably, the Silver Star while serving in the Army. He was awarded the Silver Star after a battle in southern France during October 1944. Williams, while serving as Battalion Commander, was forced to run between two of his companies that were separated by German troops, according to the Washington Post.

Williams successfully conducted the counter attack but was captured by the Germans and spent the next eight months as a prisoner of war. He later escaped into Poland where he was recovered by American troops. Williams returned to the U.S. after the war and completed his law degree at New York University and did post-graduate work at University of London. He would later join the NYU faculty before being hired as AU President in 1968.

Williams is survived by his wife, Molly; four children, Stephen, Kevin, Mary Beth and Jeanne; a sister, Jeanette; and five grandchildren. The family requests all memorials and donations be made to the St. Mary's Church Renovation Fund, 1012 Lake St., Evanston, Ill. 60201.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle