Messenger - Vol. 3, No. 1, Page 25
Fall 1993
Alumni Profile
Six degrees of success

     It seems to Freeman Williams III that his parents have been in school
all their lives, and you really can't blame him for thinking that way. His
mother, Devona, and his father, Freeman Jr., have worked long and hard for
academic and career success. They began their academic pursuits at the
University in 1975, and now, 17 years, one son and several cats later, they
have six U.D. degrees between them.
     Included in Devona Williams' resume are a bachelor's degree in art
education earned in 1976, a master of public administration degree in 1982
and a doctorate in urban affairs and public policy, awarded in 1992.
Freeman Jr.'s degrees include a bachelor of science degree in education in
1975, an MEd in 1980 and an EdD in 1993.
     Freeman Williams, the former Christiana (Del.) High School basketball
star who also shot hoops for the U. of D., and Devona, who illustrates
children's books and does watercolors in her spare time, are staunch
supporters of the University.
     The Williams met during Devona's first week on campus in 1972, but
they didn't start dating until a year later. Since their marriage in
January of 1975, they have taken turns studying for their advanced degrees,
and their 16-year-old son has grown up watching his parents study.
     Graduating first, Freeman Jr. went to work for the Christina School
District in Delaware. He taught social studies in middle schools.
     "In those days, there was a real shortage of teaching opportunities
and I was low on the totem pole, so I was transferred a lot. It turned out
to be a good experience as I got a chance to observe a lot of different
teaching, administrative and management styles," he says.
     Two weeks before she graduated in 1976, Devona learned she was
pregnant. Unable to find a teaching position in her major, she cared for
their young son, while holding a variety of jobs for the New Castle County
Parks and Recreation Department, ACTION and VISTA.
     Freeman Jr. was the first to earn his master's degree as well. Shortly
thereafter, Devona started to pursue her master's in public administration,
and the family moved to Virginia, near Washington, D.C., where she had been
awarded a prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship to work at NASA
doing institutional analysis for the Office of Management and Budget. She
also worked for a time for the EPA.
     "I have the University to thank for that tremendous experience,"
Devona says. "It was a great opportunity. It was an important
stepping-stone for my career, and as a family, living near D.C. for two
years was a marvelous experience."
     When the fellowship came to an end, the Williams family decided to
return to Delaware, to be near relatives and friends. Freeman began working
in the state's Appoquinimink School District, where he taught social
studies and worked in an alternative program, establishing a policy by
which students serve any suspensions in school rather than at home. He was
the basketball coach at Middletown High School for four years before
becoming assistant principal. He then served two years as principal of
Reading Middle School before taking his current position as assistant to
the superintendent.
     Meantime, Devona began working on her doctorate, following  a family
decision to let her go first.
     One of the highlights of Devona's time with the College of Urban
Affairs and Public Policy was the chance to serve as a legislative fellow
in Dover, Del. In that capacity, she did staff work for land development
and economic development committees. She also was in charge of staff
research on quality of life issues for growth management and land use
legislation in the House of Representatives, and she served as staff to the
Department of Transportation committee, leading to her first job offer with
the DuPont Co.
     Since going to work at DuPont, her position has continued to evolve.
Currently, she manages public affairs for flooring systems, including
Stainmaster carpet. Her duties include policy development, media relations
and promotional work.
     Both Devona and Freeman Jr. devote a great deal of their spare time to
community organizations.
     "We both feel it is important to give something back to the local
community," Freeman Jr. says. "We speak before a number of groups and take
time with young people to emphasize the importance of education, the
importance of establishing goals and the importance of believing in
yourself. You can accomplish great things if you are willing to make some
sacrifices, maybe even go against the tide. People like ourselves who have
been afforded opportunities have a responsibility to give something back."
     "One of the things we have in common is the University," Devona says.
"It's been a common thread for both of us. If you listen to the media, you
see the image of African Americans as not being involved in or as having
lost sight of the value of education. The University has been an important
part of our lives and has given us success.
     "When people point to the absence of minorities at the University, I
say, 'Look at us.' We met there, and l7 years later, we have six degrees,
up through our doctorates. Our common message is that the education is
there and that it is open to anyone who puts forth the effort," she says.
                                                  -Beth Thomas