Vanderbilt University Names Its Recreation and Wellness Center for David Williams II

Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, has renamed its recreation and wellness center to honor David Williams II.

“The name on a building should be a teacher; it should spark curiosity, admiration, inspiration,” said Nicholas S. Zeppos, chancellor emeritus of the university said. “The name on this building is a fitting tribute to David because he was the ultimate teacher. He believed that if you give someone an education, you give them an opportunity to change their lives, just like education changed his life.”

After 18 years, David Williams II stepped down from his post as vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletics director at Vanderbilt University in Nashville on January 31 of this year to return to a faculty position at the university’s law school. He died on February 8 at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center after collapsing at a local restaurant while having breakfast. He was 71 years old.

Williams was the first African American to serve as a vice chancellor at Vanderbilt. He also was the first African American to serve as an athletics director in the Southeastern Conference. A native of Detroit, Professor Williams was a two-time graduate of Northern Michigan University. He held an MBA and a juris doctorate from the University of Detroit and a master of law degree in taxation from New York University.

Speaking at the dedication ceremony, Williams’ widow Gail, who is associate director of community engagement in the Division of Government and Community Relations at Vanderbilt, said, “I thank the university for celebrating David’s body of work and for allowing it to live on at Vanderbilt. Others can come to this campus and visit and be a part of a building that celebrates the things that David was all about. Our family is so grateful. David would be so deeply appreciative, and he would have said, ‘But I was just doing my job.’”


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  1. Gilman Whiting says:

    A wonderful tribute to a father, husband, mentor, and leader. David Williams was a brilliant man with a brilliant mind. A stalwart visionary with a keen sense of justice and FairPlay, with a sense of humor. This building naming is a powerful gesture to the family and memory of a giant. I am a better person for having spent time with him
    . – Anchor Down VU. G. W. Whiting

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