2003 Harvey E. Beech Outstanding Alumni Award
Richard T. “Stick” Williams ’75
When Stick Williams was sworn in as chair of the Board of Trustees in July, he became the first African-American chair of the University’s governing board. On that day, he turned to his fellow trustees and campus administrators and reminded them of what they already knew: “I love this University, and I intend to serve it with everything that I’ve got.”
Stick joined the board in 1999 and he still is awed to be a member. He believes his honor as the first black chair is part of a natural progression in the life of Carolina.
Over the years, Stick has been a stellar businessman and leader, making his mark most recently as vice president of diversity, ethics and compliance for Duke Energy in Charlotte. He has achieved other notable firsts: as the first African-American chair of both the University’s Board of Visitors and the General Alumni Association’s board of directors.
He grew up in the Greensboro projects and was the first in his family to attend college. He dreamed of playing pro football until a freshman knee injury sidelined him. Stick got his degree in accounting and four years later joined Duke Power Co. as a financial analyst in Charlotte. After a series of promotions, he was named manager of investor relations in 1984, branch manager of the Shelby office in 1989, district manager for the Chapel Hill area in 1990, Triangle area manager in 1991, and general manager of business and community relations in 1995.
In 1997, Stick was named vice president of business and community relations for North Carolina, where he worked closely with consumer organizations, regulators, elected officials and community leaders. He was named to his present position in 2002.
He joined the trustees in 1999 and his term continues until 2009. A board member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation, he has served on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, and the search committee that recommended James Moeser as chancellor. In addition, he’s a member of the Brevard College board of trustees, a state board member of Communities in Schools of North Carolina and chairman of the N.C. Mentoring Council. Stick is past chair of the board of directors for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Triangle Regional Council, the Triangle Community Foundation and the Durham County United Way.
“Stick is an amazing source of boundless energy,” says Archie Ervin ’99. “I’ve never seen him turn away an important cause or matter because his plate is full. He always finds room. If it’s something that’s important, he’ll find a way.”
Stick enjoys a statewide reputation for consensus-building, as well as a trademark terrific sense of humor and wonderful ability to not take himself too seriously.
He is, says Anne Cates ’53, the kind of person that people stand in line to get on their boards and committees.