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Business dean named as president of Fisk University

  • Dean H. James Williams

Posted on December 06, 2012

H. James Williams, dean of the Seidman College of Business and professor of accounting, was selected to be the next president of Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The appointment became public December 5.

“I’m honored to be chosen to lead Fisk University,” said Williams. “But I have mixed emotions leaving Grand Valley’s Seidman College of Business. I’ve had wonderful experiences here with talented colleagues, whom I will miss, but I know my time here has prepared me to be president of Fisk. I also know I am leaving the college in a strong position. I feel confident that the leadership in the Seidman College of Business will continue to move forward with the strong initiatives we’ve started, and they’ll do it in a magnificent new facility that will open this spring. I feel good about that and grateful for the challenges of this new opportunity.”

Williams came to Grand Valley in 2004. He helped position the Seidman College of Business as a premier business school in the Midwest. Under his leadership, the college created a full-time integrated master of business administration degree, offering students a paid fellowship and study abroad experience.

The college also broke ground for the nearly completed L. William Seidman Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The $40 million building will house the Seidman College of Business along with the Small Business Technology and Development Center and the Van Andel Global Trade Center. Williams also helped establish the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Center for Leadership and Innovation.

“James is extremely talented, and we are not surprised that another university has tapped him to be president,” Provost Gayle R. Davis said. “He’s been a wonderful dean for our Seidman College of Business, and he leaves a strong legacy of excellence and innovation. We wish James the best, and know he has set a high standard of achievement in the dean’s role. We also know Grand Valley is an attractive place for visionaries, so I’m confident we will get a good pool of candidates.”

Davis said the timing of Williams’ departure has yet to be determined, and the search for his replacement will begin soon.

Williams is a corporate and tax attorney, a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from North Carolina Central University, a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, and a doctorate from the University of Georgia. He received his law degrees from Georgetown University Law Center.

Williams replaces President Hazel O’Leary, who was energy secretary in the Clinton administration. Fisk University is a historically black university founded in 1866.

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