Founder’s Day, celebrating Isaiah V. Williamson’s 216th birthday last Thursday evening in the Clara Schrenk Memorial Chapel, featured a keynote address by Trustee David Watson and the bestowing of two board of trustee awards and a Sons of the American Revolution’s award.
In his remarks, Watson gave the students what he called simple rules with a large impact for the work world. “Understand your experience level and know your strengths and limitations. Don’t be overconfident, look to people with more experience,and listen to others. Have good people skills, know how to get along with others, and treat everyone with respect.
“Isaiah Williamson was an amazing man and saw what it would take to make his school successful — funding and the Deed of Trust. He realized the only way the school could survive was to have the board of trustees make decisions to keep it relevant over the years and to maintain the core values.
“Keeping the school relevant is not an easy task and the board has done a good job of doing that over the years. Our students have always received a good education, trade skills, and values and have always graduated debt-free.”
He encouraged the students to be active alumni and to give back.
Watson also spoke of the involvement of his family in Williamson College that goes back almost 100 years. His grandfather, Conrad Watson, graduated in 1924, his uncle Gerald Watson, graduated in 1955, and his father, Wayne Watson, graduated in 1948 and served as chairman of the board for many years. “I see that their trade skills and good character were part of their education. They grew up to be respected leaders and productive members of society.”
After his remarks, President Michael Rounds presented Watson with a keepsake box with a picture of Rowan Hall on it.
While introducing Watson, Rounds said “Founder’s Day is one of my favorite nights of the year because it’s a night we celebrate our founder.” He mentioned that each day of the week different members of the executive staff spoke in chapel on one of the core values.
Samuel Wrightson, vice president of education, in his welcoming remarks, said “Isaiah Williamson was a very diligent human being. He became tremendously successful through diligence and then used his resources to help others and he created this school. A strong, vibrant Williamson College is the best birthday present we could give him. So, happy birthday, Mr. Williamson.”
Frank O’Donnell, first vice president of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) presented the William Yearsley 4W1 Outstanding Citizenship Award to Joseph Galbraith, a junior machine tool technology student. The award is presented to a junior who has shown outstanding citizenship and the qualities of industry, self-discipline, personal integrity, reliability, and contributions above the call of duty. He also must have a GPA of 3.25 or higher and have fewer than 28 disciplinary points.
Next, a Student Tribute was given by Peter Gaglio 1W9, senior class president, who said “We are making sacrifices in order to get our Williamson education. This education was made possible through the generosity of one man — Isaiah Vansant Williamson. Hundreds and hundreds of young men have taken the gift they received and did something great. The alumni have proven that the school is successful in its mission of creating humble, faithful, leaders for our society. I give my utmost gratitude to Isaiah Williamson for giving each of us the opportunity to lead and to flourish as true Williamson men.”
In his Alumni Tribute, Daniel Flood 8W1, president of the Alumni Association, said “When I graduated from Williamson my education fared me well. There were no Career Fairs back then, employers knew of Williamson through word of mouth and its reputation. My education helped me well in my career. Classes of 1W9, 2W0, and 2W1, when you graduate you will all get caught up in starting a career and a family. At some point, look in a rearview mirror and see how Williamson helped you. What will you do to give back?”
In presenting the board awards, Board Chairman Willliam Bonenberger 7W9 told the audience, “How would my life be different if I had not attended Williamson? I definitely would not be where I am today. The school helped me and you will see its value in your life over time.”
In announcing the presentation of the Young Alumnus Award to James Simpson 1W2, a superintendent at Whiting-Turner Co., he said “Jim is in Mexico attending the wedding of his Williamson roommate. That’s the kind of alumnus Jim is.”
He said the award was presented to Simpson during a chapel the week before and then a video clip of Simpson giving thanks for receiving the award was shown.
Simpson was the youngest president of the Alumni Association and, while serving as president, the youngest member of the board of trustees. For several years, Simpson sponsored several very successful Beef n Beers to raise money for the Association and to promote bonding among alumni
Simpson said, “I graduated seven years ago so the daily schedule is fresh in my mind. It’s worth it. After graduation the grass is greener on the other side. Don’t give up. It’s the best investment you can ever make in yourself. Keep yourself motivated.’
Next, he presented the I.V. Williamson Award to Trustee John Lawton, CEO and financial advisor at BLB&B Advisors. For many years, Lawton has been using his extensive financial knowledge to further Williamson’s mission as board treasurer and chair of the Finance and Investment Committees. He also helped guide Williamson’s finances for several years prior to joining the board and has given financial seminars to students over the years.
Lawton said, “I am honored to serve the students and when I look at the award plaques on campus honoring past award winners, I am grateful to be a part of the school that has such illustrious people serving it.”
Lawton then announced that the BLBB Charitable Foundation, a foundation that supports initiatives that help people discover their true and full potential through educational and leadership opportunities, is going to donate to Williamson, $150,000 a year for four years. The donations will fund the newly developed director of alumni relations position in the Office of Institutional Advancement, pay for programming expenses related to this new function, provide financial literacy and alumni giving education, and conduct freshman leadership training.
The director will engage alumni, focusing on graduates of the last 10 years, in various campus activities and develop new events on and off-campus to promote involvement with Williamson and encourage giving.
The Artisans led the audience in the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” to open the evening and closed it with the alma mater. Rev. Mark Specht 7W7 gave the invocation and benediction.
After the program, guests enjoyed a buffet dinner in the dining room prepared by Tim Burbage, food service director, and his staff.