FORT LEE, Va. (July 8, 2021)
– An Army Logistics University conference area now bears the name of a past president of the Sustainment Center of Excellence facility.
During a memorialization ceremony July 1, the ALU Multipurpose Room – a large presentation area off the main lobby of Heiser Hall – was retitled as the Michael K. Williams MPR in honor of the man who led the educational institution since 2016 and unexpectedly passed away on May 27, 2020.
Sydney A. Smith, who picked up the mantle of ALU president in May, hosted the event that drew a mix of family and friends, members of the university’s staff and faculty, and others from the sustainment community. More tuned in via the event livestream.
The memorialization, according to Smith, was a fitting tribute to Williams who spent much of his time in ALU classrooms – including the MPR – talking to students and interacting with staff and faculty. “This is exactly the room that should honor (him),” she said. “Like Mr. Williams, this room brings people together for many reasons.”
Over the university’s 10 years of existence, the MPR has been used for academic purposes, such as seminars and faculty meetings; events that shaped the future of Army Sustainment such as commanders’ conferences; and social functions such as the “Know Your World” presentations led by international students and family readiness group gatherings.
“Mr. Williams thought of this room as the heart of ALU, and it absolutely deserves his name,” Smith reaffirmed.
A former Army officer who graduated from West Point in 1983, Williams began his civil service career as a GS-5 in 1987. He steadily rose through the government workforce ranks and achieved senior executive service status in 2007. Prior to his appointment as ALU president, he had served as the director for Supply Policy, Programs and Processes, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4, Department of the Army
Williams was behind many academic accomplishments at ALU, Smith acknowledged. Cited examples include the five staff members who were consecutively named Training and Doctrine Command Educators of the Year during his tenure. He also spearheaded the development of several courses; championed efforts to bolster technical education; and fully supported initiatives to enhance digital platforms geared to serve students during the pandemic.
Smith noted how the latter item on that list was operationally critical. “During the onset of the pandemic, he directed the rapid migration of the vast majority of our courses from resident, in-class settings to digital, distributed learning platforms,” she said, “Accompanying that was the training and certifying of hundreds of our cadre to be able to instruct on the digital platform. Just as logisticians can never pause on the battlefield, Mr. Williams ensured the development of our student logisticians did not pause due to the pandemic.”
Smith added that Williams was not only an administrator who quickly responded to the needs of the sustainment community, but also a hands-on, empathetic leader who was engaged on all fronts, willing to extend himself for all members of the ALU family.
“His legacy is memorialized in this room, but it truly exists everywhere in these halls and lives on in everyone he touched,” she said.
Mrs. Williams, who took to the lectern as the special guest, said her husband would have had a modest reaction to renaming the MPR in his honor.
“Michael would have been humbled and grateful for this kind gesture,” she said. “Knowing (him), he would have been too choked up to say the words he felt in his heart, but you would have seen (it) on his face.”
After the ceremony concluded, retired Col. Robert “Rick” Harney, who now serves as the dean of ALU’s Logistics Leader College, said the speakers painted a very accurate picture of Williams, especially concerning his compassion for people. He spoke about an occasion in which he conveyed to Williams he had been named pastor of a local church.
“When I told him,” recalled Harney, “he said, ‘Congratulations! … Does this mean you’re leaving us?’ I said, ‘No, I won’t leave.’ He said, ‘Good. Do what you got to do, and we’ll work through it.’ That’s the kind of person he was. Supportive in every way.”
In addition to his wife, Williams is survived by daughter Brooke Britt; mother Patricia Williams; stepdaughter Delaney Wallace; and stepson, Thomas Wallace IV. Other survivors include his brother, Marcellus “Boo” Williams; and sisters, Terri Williams-Flournoy and Patricia “Patty” Williams.