The award cited Williams as a "servant and model of excellence in teaching, learning, ministry, and scholarship."
Raymond Williams became a Disciples Divinity House Scholar in 1960 and earned the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees at the Divinity School. He had already earned degrees from Johnson Bible College and Phillips University. In 1965, he joined the faculty of Wabash College in Indiana as an instructor in religion. He devoted his entire teaching career to Wabash, retiring in 1999 as the Charles D. and Elizabeth S. LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities. He also founded the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion and served as its director until 2002.
From 1985-96, he was a member of DDH Board of Trustees. He served as its Secretary and also chaired the Dean Search Committee.
Mr. Williams, who trained as a scholar of the New Testament, became one of the foremost interpreters of immigrants and their religious traditions. His numerous books include studies of Swaminarayan Hinduism, Indian immigrant experiences, and Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs in America. At the same time, he never stopped teaching his "academic ‘first love,’" the New Testament.
He has given distinguished service to the American Academy of Religion. Through the AAR and the Wabash Center, he has been an advocate for excellence in teaching religion and theology.
"I think that good teaching enhances the lives of teachers and students," Williams commented in a recent interview. "[S]tudents who catch a glimmer of what it means to be a truly educated and self-educating person, and the potential that opens up for them, experience a deep joy" ("A Teacher’s Life: An Interview with Raymond B. Williams" in Teaching Theology and Religion 5:4, 216).
Raymond Williams was born and raised in Bluefield, West Virginia. An early mentor there was DDH Alumnus Eugene May, who was pastor of the First Christian Church. At the church he also met his future wife, Lois. "The best and most formative decision I have made in my life was to ask her to marry me," Williams observes (213).
Many years later, Raymond and Lois Williams honored their minister and mentor by creating the Eugene May Fund. They wanted to "commend him as a model for Scholars of Disciples House."
The Distinguished Alumnus Award honors and thanks Raymond Williams, who himself has become a "servant and model of excellence."