Dr. Michael Williams was named Alumnus of the Year in October during the 2017 Alumni Medal Dinner.
Williams, who graduated from Texas Wesleyan in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in biology, said winning the award was a fantastic feeling. He is the president of the UNT Health Science Center, a position he has held since December 2012.
“It was one of the most meaningful awards and gratifications I’ve ever felt,” Williams said.
Williams said that before transferring to Wesleyan, a professor told him he would not amount to anything, and when he came to Wesleyan he never heard that statement from any professors.
“When that individual said that to me I could have accepted what he said as fact or gone the other way as I did and accepted his statement as only an opinion,” Williams said. “I did not want to be influenced by someone I considered small minded.”
Williams said he was inspired by 1946’s Man’s search for Meaning, a book by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, who survived the Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps; reading the book motivated Williams to continue with his higher education.
Williams said that the main idea of the book is that, “No matter what people say to you or do to you, you have the freedom in your mind how you will respond to that.”
People at Wesleyan, Williams said, “provided an environment that was supportive and encouraging, and future focused, where they care about their students, and they care about the future development of their students.”
Williams talked about Wesleyan’s future and how university President Frederick Slabach has made a positive influence.
“I think Texas Wesleyan has a bright future.” Williams said.
Williams said when he was a student he added value to Wesleyan and he hopes to continue to add value to Wesleyan the rest of his life.
“I would hope that they remember me by that I came and made a difference in a positive way,” he said.
Dr. Allen Henderson, Texas Wesleyan provost and senior vice president, said the university is lucky to have the alumni that it has.
“Other people go off and do things, or are in positions, or have their own business, and are successful and give back.” Henderson said.
Henderson was one of Williams’ professors while he was at Wesleyan.
“He was someone I taught and knew several years ago.” Henderson said, calling Williams a “distinguished alumni.”
After graduating from Wesleyan, Williams graduated from the College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1981, according to the pamphlet provided at the alumni medal dinner. He practiced medicine for years, and then was CEO of Hill Country Memorial Hospital from 2008 to 2013.
He was appointed by Texas Governor Rick Perry to serve on the UNT System Board of Regents in 2011, and was appointed to Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees two years later, according to the pamphlet.
Beverly Powell, Wesleyan’s 2016 Alumna of the Year, said Williams is a remarkable person and, as the head of UNTHSC, has “been a great advocate of health care. He is a great man and has achieved an awful lot in his life. We are all really proud of him.”
DeAwna Wood, director of Alumni Relations, wrote in an email that Williams was a prime candidate for the annual award because of his “service on the university Board of Trustees, his contributions to the medical field through his position [President] at UNTHSC and his professional accolades.”
The UNT Health Science Center is progressing well because of Williams, said Jeff Carlton, the center’s director of media relations.
“UNTHSC and TCU School of Medicine are pending schedule to open in 2019,” Carlton said, adding that this will be UNT’s sixth school.
1969 Wesleyan graduate Dr. Bill Jordan wrote that Williams took the initiative at UNT to provide graduate students with the chance to see cancer patients while in counseling and receiving ongoing supervision.
“Mike Williams is a man of high intention who lives his life seeing solutions and opportunities. That vision is highly contagious for us all!” wrote Jordan in a statement provided by Wood.
Williams said he has learned that the most important thing is for him to stay true to himself. The professor that told him he would never amount to anything still influences him to this day.
“It got me more focused to not listen to those shallow people, and be persistent, and develop a certain level of resiliency,” he said.