A Special Carolina Couple

Teresa Holland Williams ’77 and Richard T. “Stick” Williams ’75 grew up near each other — Teresa in High Point and Stick in Greensboro — but didn’t meet until a Christian fellowship gathering at Carolina. With magnetic smiles and infectious enthusiasm for Carolina, they have been inspiring volunteer leaders for Carolina for many years, and each has received the GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal — 13 years apart. Teresa and Stick also are recipients of the Board of Trustees’ William Richardson Davie Award — 10 years apart.

Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

Teresa insists: “I don’t see myself as a leader. … I’m a helper,” yet those fortunate to have worked with her observe that she has long helped by leading.

Teresa’s Distinguished Service Medal citation, awarded in 2018, noted her “direct questions and get-it-done imperative” and how “her comments change the conversation. … She moves beyond talk to action, doing something to solve the problem. … She is trustworthy, nonjudgmental and known for digging deep to find resolutions.”

Although Teresa had no previous affiliation with Western Carolina University, a colleague encouraged her to fill a seat on its board of trustees. She served two terms, retired as board chair and received that university’s Distinguished Service Award.

Teresa’s decision to apply to Carolina was prompted by seeing Charles Scott ’70 make a jump shot that she witnessed on a grainy black-and-white television. She attended on a music scholarship, played the flute and sang as a soloist in the Black Student Movement Gospel Choir — her voice winning over Stick.

Teresa Holland Williams ’77 and Richard T. “Stick” Williams ’75.

She and Stick were living in Chapel Hill and raising their three daughters when Teresa took on several leadership roles. She was elected to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board as well as being elected president of the Chapel Hill Service League and chair of the PTA.

When Teresa became chair of the GAA Board of Directors, the board and staff learned that she “does her homework before going into any meeting, and that pushes other members to prepare better, too. They know she will ask substantive questions.”

Stick, one of three brothers, was born in the Ray Warren Homes housing project and raised by a single mom. While he attended Carolina on an academic scholarship, he intended to play football until he injured his knee; he later described that as “the best thing that has ever happened to me. And the most painful.”

Stick excelled, was certified as a CPA and launched a distinguished 30-plus-year career with Duke Energy. His professional and volunteer success has been greatly aided by his innate ability to make people comfortable. He smiles encouragement and listens intently. Stick describes himself as “kind of a reluctant leader … but I’ve always been very good at influencing people and being personable. … I never have the sense that I’m an expert at anything. I always pick the brains of other people. … If you are interested in people, they will absolutely tell you the world.”

Stick was chair of the GAA board before becoming chair of UNC’s Board of Visitors and chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. He also was the first chair of the Light on the Hill Society Scholarship Committee.

In each volunteer leadership position at UNC, Stick has challenged his colleagues to make decisions based on what would “raise Carolina’s standing and do the most good for all people.”

Teresa and Stick Williams are not Carolina’s only Carolina couple, but they are the only Carolina couple who have shared service as chair of the GAA’s Board of Directors — 14 years apart. And they remain inspirations to all Carolina alumni for their volunteer service and remarkable leadership.

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70

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