Alumna Avis Williams to speak at Oxford Commencement 2022

The Rev. Dr. Avis Williams will deliver the keynote address at the 177th Commencement exercises at Oxford College of Emory University, scheduled for Saturday, May 7. The ceremony will be on the Oxford College Quadrangle at 10 a.m.

Williams is a beloved graduate of Oxford College and holds three additional Emory degrees: a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Emory College of Arts and Sciences and both a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry degree from Candler School of Theology.

“Rev. Dr. Avis Williams is one of the most extraordinary people in the Oxford College community — and far beyond it,” says Douglas A. Hicks, dean of Oxford College. “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 May 7.”

Williams was born and raised in Covington, Georgia, near Oxford College’s home in Oxford, Georgia. She is a graduate of the local Newton County Comprehensive High School, was one of Oxford College’s earliest African American graduates and has been a community leader in Newton County and the surrounding area for more than 40 years. She has led efforts to address health disparities and equity and justice issues in local African American communities, serving on the boards of hospitals and clinics and working to provide access to health care in schools and places of worship.

Williams is playing a central role in the Twin Memorials Project, 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 herself is a descendant of enslaved persons who lived and worked in Oxford and Covington, and she has courageously brought together other members of the descendant community to partner with Emory in the important work of restorative justice.

Williams is the owner of a Newton County environmental, health and safety consulting firm, which provides training for federal, state and local agencies and performs 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.