Anthony Williams, university advancement and community relations officer and mayor of Abilene, has been named the second chief diversity officer in university history following Dr. Stephanie Hamm.
Williams grew up in a challenging neighborhood in the 79603 ZIP code of northwest Abilene, which remains a neighborhood where the average household income is below $18,000 a year. When he was just four years old, his father was shot and killed. Williams said that his saving grace was the church.
“The salvation for my family was really the Highland Church of Christ,” Williams said. “The church, having heard about my father’s death, ministered to my mother. The church family at Highland blessed us spiritually and blessed us emotionally. They taught us the Gospel, and so I am forever appreciative.”
Because of the love from his church family, Williams wanted to give back to his community. He went on to attend McMurry University and began a life of service in Abilene. In turn, Williams has spent more than 30 years volunteering in Abilene with the first major community service project he was involved in being Late Night Basketball.
In the ’90s, when Dr. Gary McCaleb was mayor of Abilene and vice president of the university, he appointed Williams to start the Late Night Basketball initiative. Williams and McCaleb started it to reach at-risk young men and use basketball to put them in an environment where they could be mentored and inspired.
McCaleb spoke to Williams’ character and heart for service.
“He really cares about people and about trying to help people,” McCaleb said. “As mayor, he carried a real quality of wanting to make Abilene a good place to live and for kids to grow up and for making Abilene a better place for all of us.”
Williams has been involved officially in various committees and boards in Abilene, including the city council for 20 years. In fact, he is the longest serving city council member in the history of Abilene and was elected mayor in 2017. He said has enjoyed serving as mayor for the last four years and says his main goal has been to make the quality of life in Abilene better.
He has worked to address crime, improve the streets and provide men and women with dignity through well paying jobs.
Williams views his new role as chief diversity officer as a way to not only serve ACU and Abilene but to serve the Kingdom.
“Though I want to be able to take and present information to the administration, the board and the greater ACU community, the world is not our hope. Christ is hope for the world,” Williams said.
Approaching this position from a lens of Christianity, Williams wants to prepare men and women for Christian leadership in the world, the university’s mission. Williams wants ACU to fulfill the Biblical command to ‘love your neighbor.’ In times of partisanship, he hopes to build relationships in the community founded on the principle of loving one another.
Dr. Kristina Campos-Davis, a former assistant professor of communication who has known Williams since 2015, attested to his openness to tough conversations with people he disagrees with.
Campos-Davis met Williams while the two were hosting a “Mayor’s Dinner Table,” where a group of people from all walks of life met to discuss diversity and read the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Though Williams and Campos-Davis do not necessarily agree politically, the Campos-Davis noted how easy he was to work with.
“I think Anthony will be great,” said Campos-Davis. “In his role as mayor, he has been able to communicate to all groups, including Latin and White.”