OXFORD, Ga. — School officials recently announced former city councilwoman and alumna Avis Williams will deliver the keynote address for Oxford College’s 177th commencement ceremonies.
Williams, a native of Covington, is a decorated Oxford College of Emory University graduate. She earned three degrees from the institution: a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry. from Candler School of Theology. She was one of Oxford College’s earliest African American graduates
Oxford College Dean Doug Hicks called Williams “extraordinary,” and said he could not wait to hear her speak.
“Rev. Dr. Avis Williams is one of the most extraordinary people in the Oxford College community—and far beyond it,” Hicks said. “As an alumna, neighbor, and local leader, she has called all of us to acknowledge our history and build a more equitable and inclusive future. Her story is one that everyone at Oxford should hear, and we look forward to her commencement address on [Saturday,] May 7.”
As a leader within the community for more than 40 years, including several years on the Oxford City Council, Williams has worked to address health disparities and equity and justice issues in local African American communities, serving on the boards of hospitals and clinics, and also has labored to help provide access to healthcare in schools and places of worship.
Williams is playing a central role in the Twin Memorials Project, according to a news release, by hosting community meetings to solicit input for memorials to be erected on Emory’s Oxford and Atlanta campuses to honor enslaved individuals who labored to build the original campus at Oxford.
Williams is reportedly a descendant of enslaved persons who lived and worked in Oxford and Covington, and she has brought together other members of the descendant community to partner with Emory in the important work of restorative justice, the news release stated.
Aside from her activism, Williams works as the owner of a Newton County environmental, health and safety consulting firm that provides training for federal, state and local agencies and performed Phase I Environmental Site assessments. She also currently serves as the Community Liaison for the Putnam County Charter School System, building and strengthening family and community partnerships. She is a former member of the Keep Covington and Newton Beautiful committee and chair of the Sandhill/Tex Alley Community Reunion program.
In partnership with Oxford, Williams founded and directed a mentoring and tutoring program from 2004-2010 where Oxford students tutored elementary and middle school students every week. She is a former member of the Oxford College Alumni Board and has been an active alumna for decades.