Seven Jacksonville State University students will get help to pay their tuition from the Major Dwayne Williams Memorial Scholarship this year.
The scholarship is awarded to ROTC and College of Commerce and Business Administration students. It went to business students Marcy Wagner, Leonard Smiley, Joshua Robinson, and Ashley Lowe. The ROTC recipients are Emerald Padgett, Russel Dean, and Brittany Noell.
A scholarship of $1,000 is also awarded to one senior at Jacksonville High School for exemplifying good citizenship, and this year’s recipient is Patiana Pendelson. The JSU students are very thankful for Mrs. Williams’s contribution to their education.
“It brings me great joy to know that I’ve made a difference in their lives,” says Williams.
Pearl Williams established the Major Dwayne Williams Memorial Scholarship back in 2007 in honor of her son, Dwayne Williams, a victim of the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
“People have given me so much,” says Williams, “and I wanted to give back to JSU students by way of this scholarship.”
The scholarship is funded by Golf tournaments coordinated by Williams, and next year’s tournament will be held in May at Siber Lakes Golf Course in Glencoe, Alabama.
Williams is an alumna of JSU, where she developed an interest in drama. Though she had a slight speech impediment, Williams persevered, taking voice and speech lessons with Dr. Sam Brown and Mrs. Sylvia Lovett, who still helps her today. Dr. Brown was known for arranging for students to perform as guest soloists at the Centurion Chapel at Fort McClellan.
Williams was one of the students to take advantage of the opportunity, and two months after her performance, she was asked to be the choir director there.
“It was amazing to know that I had soldiers in my choir,” says Williams. She eventually began directing Christmas plays at Fort McClellan and ended up writing her very own play entitled “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” It encompasses the very well-known story of the Three Kings, who stop for the night in a small shack where Amahl and his mother live. The two are very poor, and in an effort to better her family’s situation, Amahl’s mother stills the gifts that are meant for baby Jesus. However, she was caught, and surrendered everything that she had taken. Young Amahl even offers his crutch as a gift to baby Jesus, and he is allowed to follow the Three Kings to Bethlehem.
Williams is currently securing the rights to her play in an effort to raise more money for the scholarships.
Williams credits many people with her success: Opal Lovett, Sylvia Malone, Gwen Moulder, Dr. Wayne Clarence, Dr. Thereon Montgomery, Dr. Charlotte Thornberg, Dr. Glen Browder, Dr. Mickey Stallings, Dr. Don Derosches, Carlton Ward, and many others. “I am grateful to these instructors for helping me to get where I am now. I would not be here if God had not sent these people into my life,” says Williams.
Her keen interest in drama only sharpened after taking Dr. Steve Whitton’s course, entitled “Current New York Theater,” and Dr. Clarence’s course, entitled “Drama Lab.”
“The interest continued when I performed at theaters in Anniston, and I was even nominated for an award. I took more drama classes (stage make-up, directing, etc.) and was encouraged to major in drama.”
Williams did so well in the subject that she became the director and stage manager for the African American Association’s productions of “A Raisin in the Sun” and “Purlie.” Williams also directs plays at a local nursing home.
Williams is now the only person in her immediate family with a college degree, despite having withdrawn from high school for personal reasons.
“I thank God for doing immeasurably more in my life than I could have imagined,” says Williams. “I never thought that I would be a guest lecturer on a cruise ship. I never thought that I would have a college degree, especially after being a high school dropout, but I thank God for making impossible things possible in my life.”