Working man's steady hand
Derrick B. Williams makes sure facilities are ready for faculty and students
Published: Monday, August 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 11:09
Often, the only voices heard at N.C. Central University are students, professors and administrators. Those that work behind the scenes are invisible.
The name Derrick B. Williams might not ring a bell to everyone at NCCU, but to those who work and attend class in the Mary M. Townes Science building Williams is known as the maintenance man. A kind, encouraging friend and brother.
Williams wears glasses. He is quiet, but always greets others with a smile. He maintains the Townes building with a team of other maintenance employees. Williams ensures the classrooms, conference rooms and bathrooms remain spotless.
“Being around people that are educated but don’t look down at you is a great feeling, and that’s what NCCU has to offer. The people here are very polite, something I didn’t grow up with in New Jersey,” said Williams.
Williams was raised in Newark, New Jersey. He moved to North Carolina after he decided that Newark was becoming a bad place to live. Williams’ mother was a nurse, and his father a postal worker. He was the youngest of eight siblings.
“It’s a flip side to that because I’m the only survivor out of the eight siblings,” said Williams.
They are all deceased of hereditary diabetes and high blood pressure. Williams said he is fortunate for not having to deal with any of those conditions, but he had glaucoma surgery in May.
As a child Williams remembers being picked on by his seven older siblings. He recalled his sister strongly influencing his life. She would keep him inside when he wanted to go out and play. She taught him how to cook, clean and perform household chores. Williams said he hated it, but now understands why, and is grateful that she did it.
Williams never went to college. Instead, he worked and then joined the military for three years.
“In the military, someone is constantly telling you what to do,” said Williams.
The most valuable thing Williams learned in the military was how to cook. Between the cooking courses there and what his sister taught him, Williams can cook a four-course meal. Williams said he can cook everything.
Williams doesn't hold a degree, but he understands the importance of education. He attended Durham Tech Community College and received certifications in electrical, carpentry, and plumbing.
“I’m not going after the college degree, but I am learning the trades. This way if times get hard, I can support myself,” said Williams.
Williams has been married to his second wife for 30 years, but they have no children. He said his first wife couldn't have children. When he married his second wife, she became pregnant, but had miscarriages. Williams wanted children, but said he thinks this might be the way God wanted it. Adoption was not an option because he couldn’t afford it. William considers some students and his nieces and nephews his children.
When Williams gets home from work, he enjoys watching the news. Sometimes he cooks dinner if he’s not too tired. His day after work doesn’t consist of much activity.
“I watch TV, kiss my wife, and go to sleep,” said Williams.
Williams said every day he wakes up is the happiest day of his life, but the saddest moment in his life was losing his parents.
Passion and Praise
Williams told a story of a student that was very discouraged. Williams made it a priority to speak with the student five days a week to encourage him to reach his goal and to stay focused. The student had some of the same concerns most students have. He asked Williams why he had to learn something he was never going to use.
Williams told the student that he will eventually use it at some point in his life. Williams felt a sense of accomplishment when the student came back to thank him after graduating.
Williams told another story about a student making the Dean’s List, and how he always encouraged her and was supportive. She later made what he considers some mistakes. She ended up pregnant and dropped out of school. He hasn’t seen or heard from her since.
“You’re not going to get many chances, but when you do have that chance, you have to get it correct,” said Williams.
Getting it correct is what Williams said he is all about. His message to the students at NCCU is to do their best to get it correct. He is very proud of the students, and praised the professors that educate the students.
Williams said if he could do life all over he would pursue a college degree. He said he wants to get the message out to anyone who will listen that they should stay in school and not make the same mistakes he’s made.
Dorian White described himself as a good friend of Williams. He said Williams is a hard worker, polite and kind. White has known Williams for close to eight years now. He said he can count on Williams for anything.