Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Graduate School Mentors and Sargent Shriver as Professional Mentor

BOND: Now, at the University of Wisconsin you earned an MBA. You remember meeting Isadore Fine.


BOND: And Lewis Ritcherson. Tell me about them.

WILLIAMS: Well, they meant everything to me. Isadore Fine was my advisor in my MBA program and he's the one who opened up lots of doors for me in terms of internships during the summer. He gave me great guidance in terms of the courses I was going to take and he was a great motivator. Les Ritcherson had a very distinguished career at the University of Wisconsin. He was one of the first black football coaches in the Big Ten and so when I arrived there, he was then Vice Chancellor for Affirmative Action, so I went to see him because I needed a part - time job to supplement my fellowship and we became good friends. He became a mentor and he remains my dear friend to this day.

BOND: Really? I wondered when I was doing the reading in advance because he was a football coach that you were a football player?

WILLIAMS: No, I wasn't. No. But his son played quarterback at the University of Wisconsin in those early years.

BOND: Now, what about Sargent Shriver, John Kennedy, Nelson Mandela, people you admired a great deal. Shriver, particularly?

WILLIAMS: Well, Sargent Shriver—I had the great fortune, the great privilege and the great honor to walk in his footsteps. As you know, Sargent Shriver created the Peace Corps and today, we still follow, and I still say "we" sometimes with the Peace Corps, we at the Peace Corps still follow the tremendous vision that he put in place to promote world peace and friendship. He was a man who understood why it was important for Americans to interact. He had been involved with something called the Experiment for International Living before World War II and had led groups of students to Germany as an experiment and he understood why the world, why we were interconnected and why we needed to understand each other and to learn more about each other and so that's the vision that he brought to the Peace Corps.

BOND: How did he come into your consciousness first?

WILLIAMS: Well, interesting, I think I had heard some of John Kennedy's speeches about the Peace Corps and I heard Sargent Shriver speak in Chicago because as you know, he lived in Chicago, and I said wouldn't this be interesting, I could go to another country to learn a foreign language, I could learn about other cultures, I could explore the greater world outside of Chicago because I'd never really traveled much outside of Chicago and so it inspired me to take on this challenge of joining the Peace Corps.