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Mel Williams, Jr. Tapped to Lead Military and Veterans Initiatives at the George Washington University

April 15, 2013

MEDIA CONTACTS: Michelle Sherrard
 202-994-1423; mcs1@gwu.edu
Jill Sankey
202-994-6466; jpsankey@gwu.edu

WASHINGTON—Vice Admiral (ret.) Mel Williams, Jr. has been named the inaugural senior associate dean for military and veterans initiatives at the George Washington University. In this role, Adm. Williams will guide the university on issues surrounding student veterans and the military. He will join George Washington on April 29.

George Washington has a long history of serving veterans. The first recipient of the original GI Bill, Don Balfour, was a GW student. Since the passage of the post-9/11 GI Bill, which includes the Yellow Ribbon Program, the university has seen a 300 percent increase in the enrollment of student veterans. This year, nearly 1,000 veterans and their dependents using their GI Bill benefits are enrolled at GW. About two-thirds of those veterans are in graduate and professional programs, and one-third of these students are in undergraduate programs.

“Student veterans bring valuable perspectives to the classroom, and they set a powerful example of leadership and service,” said Ali Eskandarian, dean of the College of Professional Studies and GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus. “Admiral Williams’ leadership will help guide the university in how we support these students from their first days as Colonials through their eventual graduation and employment in fields related to their interests and experience."

Each fall, GW hosts a special orientation program for incoming veteran and military students. The university also partners with the nonprofit Veterans Writing Project to offer courses that enable student veterans to work through their sometimes-stressful memories by converting them into narratives they control. The student organization GW Vets organizes community service activities and advocates on behalf of veterans’ issues locally and nationally. As part of GW’s Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, the Veteran Service Initiative connects veterans with service opportunity on and off campus.

"As a former sailor, it is a privilege for me to be selected to serve at GW as we collectively support veterans, military members and their families,” said Adm. Williams. “George Washington said the following in 1756 in an address to the Officers of the Virginia Regiment: 'I shall make it the most agreeable part of my duty to study merit, and reward the brave and deserving.' So in the year 2013, I am grateful for the opportunity to join GW as we serve and reward the brave and deserving."

Adm. Williams, a nuclear-trained submariner, most recently served as associate deputy secretary of energy and was responsible for the day-to-day management and operations of the U.S. Department of Energy. Prior to that role, he served for 32 years as a commissioned officer and one year as an enlisted sailor in the U.S. Navy. In his nearly ten years in command, he served as fleet commander, overseeing the 130 ships and more than 90,000 sailors and marines that responded with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Adm. Williams is one of the U.S. Navy and Submarine Force’s “Centennial Seven,” the first seven African Americans to command a U.S. Navy submarine in the first 100 year history of the Submarine Force.

He has various military awards, and his civic awards include Adm. Williams has received the Catholic University of America 2012 Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award and the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Achievement, as well as induction into the STEM Hall of Fame, the National Society of Black Engineers Award for Lifetime Achievement in Government and the Thurgood Marshall Award for Service and Leadership.

Adm. Williams graduated with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He also holds a master’s degree in engineering from Catholic University of America and attended Harvard’s JFK School of Government for national and international security. Adm. Williams is co-author of “Navigating the Seven Seas,” which was designated by the U.S. Navy as one of the 18 books determined to be “essential reading” for all who serve.

In the heart of the nation's capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 130 countries.

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