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John Williams takes Muhlenberg College forward as 12th president

On July 1, a new era of leadership and vision begins at Muhlenberg.

Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:59:00 EDT

Time and again throughout his career, keen and penetrating insight has helped mold John Williams’ success. Since the announcement of Williams as Muhlenberg’s next president, that insight has become apparent to the students, faculty, alumni and staff who have met the College’s next leader.

Linda McGuire, professor of mathematics at Muhlenberg, served on the presidential search committee. She was immediately impressed by Williams’ presence and the research he’s already put into exploring the Muhlenberg community.

“Williams independently and accurately identified where we want to improve,” says McGuire. “He is very much a big picture thinker.”

Higher education has been a passion of Williams since the 1970s and his days as a visible student leader on the Amherst campus. After earning his J.D. and M.B.A. concurrently at Harvard University, he was elected to the Amherst College Board of Trustees in 1984 and has served continuously since, earning an appointment as a Life Trustee in 1996. He has been active in three different capital campaigns, including Amherst’s most recent, which raised more than $500 million. He also spent time as a partner in the higher education practice of The Bridgespan Group, a strategy consulting firm that assists non-profits, and managed the consulting practice at Eduventures, an education-related information services company.

Williams is a strong proponent of the liberal arts education that Muhlenberg College provides. The focus on developing young minds into agile, critically-minded professionals is key to preparing students for a wealth of professional and career options.

“We are moving from the knowledge economy to the creative economy,” says Williams. “Unquestionably, it’s the liberal arts that best prepare you for a multi-dimensional life and career. This is reflected in the curricular choices our Muhlenberg students are making today.”

Rich Crist, chair of the Muhlenberg College Board of Trustees, believes Williams is the ideal leader to usher in the next chapter of Muhlenberg’s history. “John is a quintessential liberal arts person with a diversity of interests and talents,” says Crist. “He will take us into the future in a way that I think will be impressive and exciting.”

“Muhlenberg is already a special place,” says McGuire. “I think John Williams has the ability to harness exciting energies and translate that into a clear identity that we tell to the world. His gift will be as a storyteller of the Muhlenberg experience.”

This article is an excerpt and originally appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of the Muhlenberg Alumni Magazine. John Williams met his wife Diane Pierce-Williams while the pair were enrolled as students at Harvard Law School. They have been married for 29 years and have three adult children and one grandchild. Diane is a former member of the faculty of the Loyola University New Orleans' College of Law, and a former trustee of Hampshire College (her alma mater) and Goucher College. Visit the Office of the President to view the biography of John Williams.