KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 7, 2022 – Gerald Williams, Director of Talent Development at the University of Rhode Island, was honored this fall by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council at its annual meeting when the group presented him with the Gary S. Sasse Distinguished Public Service Award.
“Gerald is so deserving of this distinguished award,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Ellen Reynolds. “Serving as the Director of Talent Development, he has created opportunities for so many students in Rhode Island to attend the flagship research institution in the state and with the support of ‘G’ and his team, more than 4,000 have earned the designation of becoming a URI TD alum.” Reynolds went on to say, “He is steadfast in his support of student success, always working to remove barriers while creating opportunities for TD students, knowing the positive impact they go on to have not only in the state but nationally and globally.”
Williams was recognized with Patricia Sunderland, finance director for East Greenwich, at the agency’s annual meeting. RIPEC is a nonpartisan and nonprofit public policy research organization dedicated to providing objective research and analysis that addresses the critical challenges surrounding public finance and economic opportunity in Rhode Island. This year’s annual meeting marked the organization’s 90th anniversary.
The Sasse Award recognizes an outstanding state employee, with sustained superior performance in the service of Rhode Island citizens, a record of integrity and devotion to public service, and personal initiative. Williams is the second recipient of this award from URI, following former President Robert L. Carothers in 2003.
Williams and other attendees enjoyed remarks from Gov. Dan McKee and other state leaders. Ronald Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, senior editor for The Atlantic and contributing editor for National Journal, delivered the meeting’s keynote address.
URI President Marc Parlange also shared his congratulations with Williams on receiving the Public Service Award. “The honor is well deserved,” he said. “For more than 20 years G has been a mentor in our community and to all our TD Scholars. I have only been here a year, but I have seen Gerald lead with passion and commitment in everything he does. Under his tenure, TD has grown into a thriving national model for programs that give students of color and those from disadvantaged backgrounds a pathway to a degree. He cares deeply about the program and our Scholars and has worked to ensure that our students not only have access to URI but are set up to succeed. He embodies the spirit and pride of our TD program and what it means to be part of the URI family. He has devoted his life to education and youth development; just as he carved a path for himself, he works to make that dream a reality for the next generation of Rhode Islanders.”
Williams is the third and longest-serving director of URI’s Talent Development program. Under his leadership, the program has expanded and the number of students admitted each year has doubled. Williams has also led the development of career pathways into new high-need fields. The program recruits students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds, offering them a range of support services during their time at URI. From the program’s first class of 13 students in 1968, the program has grown to a community of more than 1,000 current Scholars at the University.
Talent Development’s core values are grounded in the University’s mission of enriching students’ lives through its land and sea grant traditions, with an ongoing commitment to respect, academic excellence, mental health and wellness, and Scholar success. The program has welcomed students from every town in Rhode Island and graduated Scholars from all of the University’s colleges, going on to work and contribute in Rhode Island and beyond in a range of fields. The program has provided access and opportunity to more than 4,000 Scholars since its inception.
Williams knows the journey that Talent Development Scholars make because it was his own, as well. He graduated from the University in 1992 as a TD Scholar and a first-generation college student, receiving his bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s in education. An outstanding football player at URI, he also earned a spot in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. His professional career began at the Community College of Rhode Island working for the Educational Talent Search Program. In 1996, he returned to his alma mater to serve as an academic advisor for Talent Development. He became the director of the program in 2000. “I have spent the better half of my life serving TD Scholars,” Williams says, “and am dedicated to making sure every TD Scholar lives up to our values on a daily basis.”
This fall, Williams and his team welcomed 336 new Talent Development Scholars to the University, his 22nd cohort since he returned to join the University’s staff.
Learn more about URI Talent Development.