UO remembers Tom Williams, committed supporter of education

Carol and Tom Williams

Thomas Ray “Tom” Williams, a former University of Oregon Foundation trustee and creator of the Williams Fund, passed away May 8 in Sarasota, Florida. He was 83.

A long-time resident of Eugene, Williams attended Eugene public schools and graduated from Eugene High School in 1955. He met his wife Carol at Stanford University. He returned to Eugene after graduation to work in his family’s business, Williams’ Bakery. Williams assumed the presidency of the company upon his father's death in 1963.

Tom and Carol Williams are known in the UO community for their generous philanthropy and commitment to higher education. They established the Tom and Carol Williams Fund for Undergraduate Education to support faculty-led initiatives designed to enhance teaching for undergraduates.

“Tom’s vision for supporting innovative teaching at the university has provided opportunities for so many of our students to experience their classes in new ways,” said UO President Michael H. Schill. “His legacy of supporting our faculty’s teaching and our students’ success will continue at the University of Oregon for years to come.”

After 25 years, the Williams Fund continues to support innovations in teaching and learning at the university. For many instructors, the grants and fellowships make all the difference in bringing their course ambitions into a reality.

Sierra Dawson, associate vice provost for academic affairs, helps facilitate the selection process for the Williams Fellows and instructional grants.

“Support from the Williams instructional grants allows our faculty to dream ambitiously about the innovative learning experiences they could design for our undergraduate students if they just had some financial support to get their unique project going,” she said. “The Williams Council regularly hears back from faculty about the exciting student experiences that have come to fruition thanks to Williams instructional grant support and how a Williams fellowship was valuable recognition of their teaching practices."

To date, the Williams Fund has awarded 41 fellows and 117 instructional grants.

Three outstanding examples of instructional grant projects include the Inside Out Program, where honors college students go behind prison walls to study with incarcerated men and women; the School of Journalism and Communication’s Science and Memory reporting initiative on climate change; and DesignBILD, in which architecture students find clients, design projects, get permits and build them.

In 1968, Williams was selected as a White House Fellow, serving as an assistant to the secretary of commerce and participating in the fellows educational program. After a year in Washington, D.C. the family returned to Eugene and Williams was appointed to fill a vacant seat on the Eugene City Council.

In addition to serving on the UO Foundation Board and city council, Williams also was a member of the airport commission and the YMCA board.

Williams is survived by his wife Carol, son Scott, daughter Shannon, grandchildren Rachel (Alex Fernandes), Jade and Soren, and great-granddaughter Alina. At his request, no services will be held.

Remembrances in his memory may be given to the University of Oregon Foundation, Planned Parenthood of SW Oregon or the Oregon Community Foundation.

—By Anna Nguyen and Jesse Summers, University Communications