NASHVILLE, Tenn. — David Williams II didn’t necessarily choose a journey that focused on athletics. Perhaps, rather, athletics chose to be part of his own journey.
Now, nearly three years after his death and four years after his retirement from Vanderbilt University, Williams’ legacy in athletics continues to grow with his enshrinement into the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame this weekend.
“He would be exceptionally proud,” Williams’ wife Gail Williams said. “He would be humbled by the fact that the athletics department and Candice (Lee) decided to choose him to be part of the hall of fame. He would say, as he always said, he was just doing his job. He would just be very humbled by it.”
Williams came to Nashville in 2000 from Ohio State to join the Vanderbilt administration as a vice chancellor, general counsel and secretary of the university. Two years later he took on the task of handling student affairs and then, in 2003, began working with athletics.
In 2012, he was officially given the title of vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director.
All the while the Commodores were beginning to experience unprecedented success on the playing fields and courts under Williams’ leadership. Vandy won four national championships – two in bowling, one in women’s tennis and one in baseball – and more than 19 league and tournament titles. The football program made a postseason bowl game six times.
Those moments brought Williams tremendous pride, but so did reconnecting men’s basketball greats and civil rights pioneers Perry Wallace and Godfrey Dillard with the Vanderbilt community. The collective grade-point average and graduation success rate of all Vanderbilt student-athletes all made Williams sleep a little bit easier at times.
“David’s focus was over his entire career and his whole life was about educating,” Gail Williams said. “Dave was an educator. From beginning to end, he is an educator. He made sure that student-athletes had the opportunity to have an education that would be consistent of the goals of Vanderbilt and what Vanderbilt is – everything was about education for Dave.”
Williams will be one of 11 new members of the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame and his life and legacy will be celebrated throughout the weekend. Friends, faculty and former Commodores from across the globe will undoubtedly be thinking of the Detroit, Michigan, man who meant so much to each and everyone of them.
And that’s because the lessons he taught live on to this day.
“Dave was a visionary. Dave saw where kids could be successful,” Gail Williams said. “And he made certain that he put things in place to make certain that that success was a reality and the students knew how to go get it too.
“He was extremely proud when there was student success and being a part of it and making sure those tools and the opportunities were there.”
— Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com.
Follow him @MrChadBishop.