NC State alumnus Cassius Williams has been recognized for his long record of voluntarism and support of the university with the 2018 Jerry and Elizabeth Godwin Red Torch Award.
The award is given annually by the NC State University Foundation in appreciation of individuals or families that have volunteered with leadership, dedication and distinction to advance the university and to further the foundation’s mission.
In particular, it recognizes those who have been heavily involved in serving different areas and programs with their expertise, counsel and resources. Jerry and Libby Godwin – dedicated volunteers and university supporters themselves – established an endowment for the award program in 2007.
Williams received the Godwin Award from Chancellor Randy Woodson and Trent Ragland, chair of the Foundation Board of Directors, during a June 7 dinner in Carter-Finley Stadium’s C. Richard Vaughn Towers – one of several NC State facilities projects benefiting from private support in which Williams has played a leadership role.
“The engagement, support and leadership of alumni like Cassius Williams continue to push our university forward. I want to thank Cassius for all he has done, and I’m honored to be here tonight to celebrate his legacy at NC State,” Woodson said.
In his acceptance remarks, Williams, who earned his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1969, paid tribute to family members and friends who have supported and inspired him.
He particularly noted the impact made on his NC State experience and journey by Gene Eisen, who attended the dinner with his wife Jackie. Eisen is William Neal Reynolds Professor Emeritus of Animal Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences but in 1965 had fairly recently joined the NC State faculty. He became a mentor for the young Williams.
“Today, I think we do a much better job of supporting all of our NC State students,” Williams said. “Back then, as a freshman, I really lucked out with my academic adviser, Dr. Eisen, who took me under his wing. No matter what he was doing, and he was a very busy man, he always took time with me.”
Williams has previously been honored for significant contributions to NC State. He received the university’s highest nonacademic honor, the Watauga Medal, in 2012. The Alumni Association gave him its Meritorious Service Award in 2003 and Honorary Lifetime Membership in 2007.
Following college graduation, Williams embarked on a successful 24-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Home Administration. Within the New Bern District of North Carolina, he led loan and grant making efforts for rural and community development.
After retiring from the USDA, Williams, also a retired major in the U.S. Army Reserves, launched a career with State Farm Insurance Companies in 1993.
As far as service to his alma mater, it might be easier to list the committees and boards that Williams hasn’t been on, Ragland said.
Williams is a former vice chair of the Board of Trustees, on which he served from 2003 through 2011, and he was on the Board of Visitors from 1996 until 2000.
He has served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors, including as president, the Friends of the Library Board and the Wolfpack Club Board of Directors, and he continues to serve on the Centennial Authority, the board that oversees PNC Arena. Among his contributions to alumni leadership, Williams played a key role in the return of the Homecoming Parade and other traditions that bring together the Wolfpack community.
Williams was a leader of the Alumni Association Campaign for Excellence and the Roy and Dorothy Park Building Committee and has been a member of Coalition 2000, the Park Scholars Selection Committee and the Alumni Association Volunteer Network. He was on the NC State University Foundation Board from 1994 until 2002.
“Very simply put, Cassius loves NC State, and he has shared his talents and served with dedication for many years,” Ragland said. “He is unwavering in his enthusiasm for providing wise counsel or making connections for the university.
“Cassius is a true ambassador for NC State, whether at a committee meeting, a tailgate or an oyster roast.”
Williams and his wife Mamie are members of the W.C. Riddick Lifetime Giving Society. They particularly have supported scholarships for student-athletes, as well as athletics facilities. Their financial support also has included the Lalla Hodges Sidbury Memorial Scholarship; the Gene Eisen Outstanding Career Award Endowment; the new Chancellor’s Residence fund; the Alumni Association Campaign for Excellence; the Caldwell Fellows Program; NCSU Libraries; and more.
A resident of Greenville, Williams also has a lengthy community leadership record in business, civic and nonprofit realms – particularly in health care. He is the former chairman of the Board of Directors of University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina (currently Vidant Health), current secretary of the Vidant Health Board of Directors and former member of the American Hospital Association Regional Policy Board Region 3. In 2008, the North Carolina Hospital Association honored him with its Trustee Merit Award – given annually to recognize valuable contributions to the healthcare field and the association.