AIC Announces Commencement Speaker, Honorary Degree Recipient
SPRINGFIELD — American International College (AIC) alumnus Darnell Williams will deliver the commencement address to more than 1,000 undergraduate students and master’s degree candidates at the college’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 12 at 9 a.m. at the MassMutual Center. Williams will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree for outstanding achievement in the social sciences and for significant community contributions at the local and national levels.
Williams, president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, has made a lifelong commitment to equality and the creation of educational, professional, and personal growth opportunities for African-Americans and other minority populations. He has made raising awareness and cultivating solutions to challenges facing communities of color and low-income families his life’s work.
Born in Gary, Ind., Williams attended AIC, graduating in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In 1996, he was elected president of the Springfield branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and became the president of the NAACP’s New England Area Conference. In 2001, he was appointed president and CEO of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), and, while in that role, his efforts contributed to Boston’s successful bid to host the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In 2011, the ULEM hosted the National Urban League’s annual conference, marking the first time in 35 years the conference took place in the city of Boston. Williams was elected to a two-year term as president of the Assoc. of Executives for the National Urban League in 2015, and served on the National Urban League Board of Directors.
Williams has been an active participant in many civic, philanthropic, and educational ventures. He is currently a member of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy’s Advisory Council on Racial Justice and Equity. Previously, he served Gov. Deval Patrick and Gov. Michael Dukakis as a member of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority board of directors and Retirement Fund board of trustees. He has served as trustee of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Bunker Hill Community College, and the Beaver Country Day School. He was a member of the boards of directors for several organizations, including the Boston Workforce Development Coalition, the Federal Reserve Community Development Advisory Board, and the Chief Executives’ Club of Boston. Locally, he served as director of the United Way of Pioneer Valley and vice chairman for the Springfield Board of Fire Commissioners.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino presented Williams with a community-service award in 2003 and the Paul Parks Veterans Community Service Award in 2005. Two years later, he was honored with induction into the Human Resources Alliance for African Americans Hall of Fame. Williams received the Civil Rights Leadership Award from Harvard Street Health Center in 2017, and the Transportation Community Partner Award from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials in 2018.