Patty Williams on the third floor terrace at the Communication and Information Building, which has now been named after her.
Patty Williams always enjoyed sitting and reading out on the third-floor patio of the Communications Building when her husband, John Williams (‘71) would attend College of Communication and Information Board of Visitors meetings. Both of them knew their lives wouldn’t have been the same if it hadn’t been for their time at the college—John as a broadcast journalism major and Patty getting her certification from the School of Information Sciences to be a school librarian. CCI continued to play a role in their lives when their son, Thomas Williiams (’01), graduated from CCI with his degree in advertising.
“The university means a lot to my family, obviously the college of communication and information means a lot since all three of us spent some time there and achieved our educational goals there. It’s very easy for me to want to support the college,” John said.
That’s why he established the Patricia Williams Professorship at SIS, and to honor the memory of his wife, who passed away in June 2022. SIS Professor and Director Abebe Rorissa said the school is infinitely grateful for the gift as well as John’s continued commitment to supporting both SIS and CCI.
“In addition to honoring Patty’s memory, a great alum and advocate of our school, this gift will allow us to create the first endowed professorship at SIS and elevate the school’s global reputation immensely,” Rorissa said.
John said he didn’t know it would be the first endowed professorship at the school, and that made it all the more gratifying that Patty’s legacy is extra-special. He said he began looking at ways to honor her, and said the professorship aligned with everything the couple believed is important to education. As first-generation college students, both Patty and John understood how much their education added to their lives, John said.
“Through a professorship, we can help others achieve their dream. It’s not a one-time thing, this will go on; so we will continue, and she will continue, to have a positive effect on education and particularly information sciences,” he said.
Along with the professorship, the college is naming that third-floor patio that Patty enjoyed so much, “Patricia D. Williams Terrace,” as another way to honor the long-time school librarian. Patty earned her undergraduate degree from Stevens College and acquired a master’s in education from East Tennessee State University.
While she loved teaching, what she always wanted to do was school librarianship. She was actually working as budget officer at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville School of Architecture when she decided to get the credits she needed to earn a school library certification. She finished that in 1986 and began working in the Knox County School District as a librarian. Just a few years later, in 1990, the Williams moved to Kingsport, where she worked as a school librarian for 20 years. During her tenure, she was honored by both state and national organizations for her leadership and creativity in school librarianship, including awards from the Tennessee Library Association and Tennessee Association of School Librarians.
“It was her dream career, and it was all due to the School of Information Sciences,” John said.