Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

David B. Williams, former UAH President, turns coat to Ohio

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, March 18, 2011

I have nothing good to say about David B. Williams – save, perhaps, that he is alive. In stark contrast, three of his former colleagues are not. Williams should be thankful.

This is my speculation, that undoubtedly – which is to say, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least that – Williams was pressured to resign by the University of Alabama System‘s Board of Trustees.

Considering Williams’ ‘Bull in the China Shop‘ management approach, perhaps he learned a life lesson, or two… or three. Three living, three dead. I suppose Williams felt he could put his mark upon the university – and he did so in a way that has reflected very poorly upon him, regardless of how the local ‘dinosaur media’ spins the stories they write about him.

When a young organization wants to establish itself, there is, however short it may be, a history. So it is with UAH. Being a young university, it has done very well in a very short period of time. And yet, tradition is a strong attractant to any institution. Dave never seemed to understand that – which I find particularly curious, especially since he has an advanced degree from Cambridge. So, coming in and immediately upsetting the apple cart is never good. Beginning with changing the university name, that’s precisely what Williams did.

As well, I think Williams was in over his head. Being president was a job far too big for him.

I understand there are at least two problems present: First, although Huntsville is in the running for Alabama’s second most populous city, it has a relatively ‘small community’ feel – which, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. However, because the city largely feeds at the trough of federal tax dollars (that is a euphemism, of course) – meaning the predominate employers in the area are federal agencies and their contractors – there are close ties to the numerous federal governmental agencies, contractors and others whom no one wants their pet project cut… ever (they’re ‘sacred cows’, to be certain) the Huntsville Times is reticent to write hard-hitting, investigative news stories, and pull no punches. Thus, they cozy up to the local ‘news-makers,’ and therefore have a somewhat biased perspective.

Second, since there is a somewhat ‘comfortable’ position in the community with local news-makers, the news writers objectivity might not be so objective. This issue with Williams’ resignation is a perfect case in point. There has only been one or two direct quotes from one board member – Finis St. John, and no conversation with interim UAH president Malcom Portera, Chancellor of the UA System. The quotes from St. John were very poor ones, at that, so much that they wouldn’t even be good one-liners. Neither have there been any quotes from any other UA Board of Trustees. Noticeably also, no people on campus were interviewed, no faculty, no staff, no students, no alumni… why?

Former UAH President David Williams named engineering dean at Ohio State

Published: Friday, March 18, 2011, 11:00 AM
Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011, 3:08 PM
By Paul Gattis, The Huntsville Times

David B. Williams, former UAH president

David B. Williams, former UAH president, will be the dean of the College of Engineering at Ohio State University. (Times file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four days after abruptly resigning as president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Dr. David Williams today was named dean of the College of Engineering at Ohio State University.

Pending approval by the OSU board of trustees, Williams will start his new job April 18.

Ohio State is among the nation’s largest universities with an enrollment of more than 56,000 students on its main campus in Columbus. And according to the Ohio State website, more than 6,000 students are enrolled in the College of Engineering — almost as many as the 7,600 students at UAH.

Williams did not reveal his future plans upon resigning, only to say that he and his wife, Margie, would be leaving Huntsville after his final day at UAH on April 1.

Williams has an extensive background in science. According to his biography on the UAH website, he holds bachelor, masters, Ph.D., and Sc.D. degrees in metallurgy and materials science from the University of Cambridge.

Williams is taking a 4.4 percent paycut at Ohio State from his $413,140 a year salary at UAH. Williams will be making $395,000 annually at OSU.

“We are very fortunate to have attracted David Williams to Ohio State,” OSU President E. Gordon Gee said in the school’s announcement. “He has a superb track record as a scholar and an academic leader, and he has created substantial partnerships to spur innovation and the commercialization of faculty discoveries.”

Williams stepped down Monday after four years at UAH. He is credited with rapid growth and increased national stature at the school while also earning praise for his leadership in the aftermath of last year’s deadly shooting on campus.

During Williams’ tenure, UAH was named a top-tier research university by the Carnegie Foundation. UAH also has achieved the highest academic entry standards of any state public university.

Dr. Malcolm Portera, chancellor of the three-campus University of Alabama system, has been named interim president. He will step in for Williams after Williams’ scheduled final day of April 1.

Follow me on Twitter: @Paul_Gattis

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