Professor says goodbye to Francis Marion


Photo by: Elizabeth Floyd

Professor of Chemistry Ken Williams poses with the 11th annual William C. Moran Address award.

On March 28, FMU hosted the eleventh annual William C. Moran address in the Lowrimore auditorium as a farewell to Professor of Chemistry Ken Williams before his retirement.

The Moran address is named after the late William C. Moran who supported FMU and whose family continues to be by FMU’s side. The address has been an annual event meant to honor the Moran family as well as valuable faculty members at FMU.

Williams said he has always enjoyed making others laugh with his life experiences.

“I have always enjoyed telling stories that were true and amusing, and I have always enjoyed getting laughs out of an audience,” Williams said. “It was fun for me to string as many of them together as I did in the address. As a child, I was strongly influenced by the great storyteller Jean Shepherd.  If you have ever seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about the kid who wants a BB gun, he was the writer and narrator. Shepherd always saw humor in everyday events, and I have tried to emulate him.”

According to Williams, remembering people who have inspired you and making the most of the difficulties you have encountered in life help prepare you for the professional world.

“I think one thing students can take from my address is that the road will not always be smooth,” Williams said. “I think everyone will always encounter difficulties and setbacks, but they are often highly educational themselves. Persevere and remain flexible and good things can come your way.”

Williams said he enjoyed being able to share his stories with friends and faculty.

“Faculty members are asked each year to recommend speakers to give the Moran address,” Williams said. “My colleague in the chemistry department, Dr. Jennifer Kelley, was familiar with some of my old stories and asked if I would mind if she nominated me. I thought it might be a good opportunity to entertain the FMU community at large, and I agreed to be nominated.”

Allen Clabo, professor of chemistry and long-time colleague of Williams, said he enjoyed the memories the address evoked.

“I think it’s worthwhile to honor the faculty who have been here for a long time,” Clabo said. “I think the respect you can give to a person who has been here for that long and the wisdom you can gain from the stories they can tell about how things have evolved over time. It is bittersweet to say goodbye to a faculty member that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for over 21 years. It’ll be hard to miss him but it’s nice to see him doing other things he enjoys.”

Clabo also said the time he spent with Williams showed him how to become an adept professor.

“When I first started here, Williams was the main organic chemistry teacher and I was just starting out, so Williams acted as a model for me on how to handle the class,” Clabo said. “I am very thankful for him to have been there in the beginning to help me fill out a blueprint.”

Nancy Zaice, associate professor of English, said she enjoyed seeing all of the support for this event.

“I was so happy to attend this event because Ken is one of my favorite people in the whole world,” Zaice said. “He is funny, he is kind and he is a lot of fun and super smart. I think it’s important for students to attend to see someone like him at the end of their career looking back as well as hear about the struggles he had academically in the beginning.”

Zaice also said he showed her how to have a sense of humor despite difficult experiences.

“Ken has always been able to see the humor in just about any and every situation and that’s what I love about him,” Zaice said. “I have a tendency to be very serious at times so it’s always good to have friends and colleagues who make me laugh.”

Jack Evans, a senior biology major, attended the event as a student marshal. Evans said he appreciated being able to socialize with others of the FMU community.

“I think it is really enlightening because it shows the caliber of professors we have here,” Evans said. “Williams is the whole reason I was able to get my chemistry minor. I think this event is good for students to come to get connected with a new side of the campus community. Before this event, I hadn’t met most of the people in the English building until now.”

Williams said he is ready for retirement.

I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach at FMU for 34 years.,” Williams said. “In that time, I have come to know many students and colleagues on the faculty, and I feel like I have learned at least as much from them as they have from me. I think I’m finally ready to graduate. I will miss many of the day-to-day activities, but not so much of the grading lab reports.”