Big gift, new name

Williamses’ pledge expands to $10 million, comes on verge of possible no-confidence vote in faculty senate


Kristina Aiad-Toss

UA alumni Pamela and Gary Williams give introductory remarks at yesterday’s Honors College ceremony.

By Grant Morgan, Managing Editor

Yesterday, UA announced plans to change the name of its Honors College after receiving a $3 million gift from alumni Gary and Pamela Williams.

The gift expands the Williamses’ $7 million bequest given to the University in 2008, which turns their total commitment to more than $10 million. But even before 2008, they had given “several hundred thousand dollars,” according to Mr. Williams.

In their honor, UA’s Honors College will be renamed as the Dr. Gary B. & Pamela S. Williams Honors College. A vote will take place on this name-change at UA’s next board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

The public announcement of the gift accompanied a large, decorated ceremony in the Honors College common room, where President Scott Scarborough, Board Chair Jonathan Pavloff, Vice President of Advancement Larry Burns, two students, and the Williamses spoke before a full crowd.

About 10 students protesting University leadership stood outside the College St. Honors College entrance as well, approaching those who walked in and out about their grievances and concerns.

In a news conference at the event, Burns said the donated money would be used to continue funding the Williamses’ Endowed Lecture Series in Biology and their Endowed Scholarship for Gifted Students, both of which have been in place for more than 20 years.

The Honors College's new name and emblem.
Courtesy of the University of Akron
The Honors College’s new name and emblem.

The gift will also be used to establish an Honors College Endowment Fund. Lakeesha Ransom, new dean of the Honors College, said this endowment will be used for initiatives in three categories: travel, design-thinking, and service. As an example, she talked about a trip some Honors students will make next summer to southeast Asia, where they will spend 10 days volunteering in an elephant sanctuary before traveling to other countries for more service projects.

Graduating with a biology degree in 1968, Mr. Williams went on to become a surgeon at Summa Akron City and St. Thomas Hospitals. He met his wife while at the University, where he participated in Greek life and the Undergraduate Student Government, and was editor-in-chief of The Buchtelite. Some of his other accomplishments include serving as president of the Ohio Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, and being a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

Mrs. Williams graduated with a degree in elementary education and taught for more than 40 years in the Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, and Worthington areas. She spends much of her time volunteering and doing philanthropic work, especially with the American Red Cross. Along with receiving many leadership awards, she has been on the United Way of Summit County Board and was president of the Leadership Akron Alumni Association.

Both are members of the Founder’s Club of the John R. Buchtel Society and UA’s Society of Tomorrow.

This news comes at the same time as UA’s faculty senate prepares today for a possible vote of “no confidence” in President Scarborough.

Faculty previously voiced their discontent with University leadership in a September 2015 survey, which showed more than 80 percent of bargaining-unit faculty have neither confidence in nor support for the UA Board of Trustees, president, and direction the administration is taking the University.

The faculty senate formed an ad hoc committee at its meeting on Nov. 5, 2015, to consider and draft a no-confidence resolution.

The resolution to be presented tomorrow says the “University has been negatively impacted over the past year, as evidenced by” declining enrollment, miscommunication of the “$60 million problem,” reductions of key services, declining donations, constituent discord and faculty dissatisfaction.

It adds that shared governance has not been present on many administrative decisions, including rebranding, graduate assistantship cuts, faculty hiring, dean and director hiring, and outsourcing.

At yesterday’s press conference, Mr. Williams touched on these matters, but said he did not want to make a direct comment.

“I do want to say that while I have been a resident of Akron and working, there have been at least seven presidents at UA,” Mr. Williams said. “The University of Akron is going to be here. Different policies will come and go, but it will be here, and I want to make sure that I’m part of the continuing progress of [the University].”