The first time I saw Don Williams, he was standing under the campus flagpoles on a cold, gray day in January 1994. Huddled in a long trenchcoat, he patiently gazed at the seagulls and students out on "Red Square" as I approached.
Don had offered to meet me there and take me on a tour of campus. At the time, I was a candidate for the master's program in the area of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Other than that, and Don's own kindness, there was no reason for him to be standing out in the weather. Following coffee and introductions in the HUB, he proceeded to walk me around campus, highlighting its architectural and academic high points. It was the kind of treatment I imagined a college student might have received in UW's early days, many decades ago.
That first day with Don was pivotal for me, and it set the tone for the next three years I would spend studying under him in graduate courses, seminars and hours of one-on-one conversations. Don was a master teacher who honed his expertise at Stanford in the 1950s and at the UW starting in the late 1960s. In class, he would gently guide us toward greater questions and new conclusions about higher education, never presupposing them for us. At times, it seemed he knew where he wanted us to end up, but he always let us discover it for ourselves.
Even more important was Don's warm embrace of all people and ideas in his classroom. Rather than ignore the less-accomplished student or minimize an awkward idea, he would nurture them along until they came to light. Although his courses were highly challenging, Don always let you know he believed in you and your ideas. Whether it was a loan of books, an evening phone call or a trip to Tacoma to review an internship project, Don always walked the second mile for me.
Don retired from the University of Washington in spring 1997, as I finished my master's degree. As with the beginning, he was there at the end, to commend me at the College of Education's graduation ceremony, to greet my father, and to see me across the threshold.
I guess that's what Don did for me--he saw me across the threshold. For some reason, he took an interest in me and extended his hand. Thanks to that initial embrace, I entered the Ed.D. program the following year, and have now completed half of it. Whenever I see someone looking in from the outside, or hear a student voice an idea that needs cultivating, I'll always think of Don. I hope I can pass on the gifts he gave me.
Andy Lingwall, '97
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