April 6, 2016//
Meet Lawrence Williams. He's been a part of UTSA's faculty for 33 years, and is now preparing to head back to his hometown for a parade in his honor.
I loved growing up in a small town. I had great times there, and most of all I remember having great teachers.”
– Lawrence Williams
"I loved growing up in a small town," Williams said. "I had great times there, and most of all I remember having great teachers."
Williams, vice provost and dean of the UTSA University College, was born in Point Blank, Texas but grew up in nearby Livingston. He was raised by his grandmother while his parents and 10 siblings lived about an hour away in Houston. Williams' father was the pastor of the local church, so he still saw his family every week for Sunday services.
"Being a preacher's kid definitely came with a certain status," he said. "Whether that was a good thing or a bad thing changed depending on what day it was."
Williams recalls his first grade teacher asking him and his classmates what they wanted to be when they grew up. He had no idea, but was encouraged by his friends to say he wanted to be a minister, since that was his father's profession.
"That's not exactly how things turned out," he said.
Williams had a passion for mathematics, so it seemed natural he would major in it when he started his undergraduate studies at Texas Southern University. However, he still didn't know what he wanted to do once he graduated.
"The chair of the math department took me aside and asked me if I'd thought about going to graduate school," he said.
Williams pursued a master's degree and a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Michigan, where he realized academia would be the right fit.
After Williams finished his Ph.D., he returned to Texas and started his career at the University of Texas at Austin. But he was enticed by UTSA.
"Something about it was just so exciting," he said. "It was a new frontier. I had a chance to make an impact on developing programs. It was really thrilling."
He joined the UTSA Department of Mathematics in 1983.
"Math can be really difficult for so many students," Williams said. "It's always exciting for me to help them through a problem, and see that light bulb moment happen, saying, 'Oh, now I get it!"
Williams says that teaching takes him back to memories of his middle school math teacher, who was able to take problems that seemed impossible and empower students by teaching them how to solve them.
In 2001, he became the dean of what would eventually become University College. He says he enjoys helping new students transition into college, since one of his toughest obstacles was going away to college and leaving his home in Livingston.
On April 23, Williams' hometown will celebrate his accomplishments and dedication to generations of students with a parade and a banquet in his honor, hosted by his high school alumni association.
"Every day, I get another e-mail or phone call from a friend or family member telling me, 'I just heard about Lawrence Williams Day. We have to be there.'" Williams said. "It's exciting. I've done a lot of things in my life, but I don't think anyone's ever thrown a parade for me. It's incredibly humbling."
Do you know someone at UTSA who is achieving great things? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we might consider your submission for an upcoming installment of Meet a Roadrunner.