In Memoriam: Jo Watts Williams, 1929-2021

Jo Watts Williams, vice president emerita at Elon University in North Carolina, died late last month at her home in Burlington, North Carolina. She was 92 years old. Her death comes less than two months after the university’s board of trustees approved the naming of the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education in recognition of her lifetime of distinguished service to the university.

Jo Watts was born on May 26, 1929, in the White Store community of Anson County, North Carolina, the youngest of eight children. Following her graduation from Deep Creek High School, she followed the path of all of her siblings, enrolling at what was then Elon College in 1945. After getting married in 1948, she completed her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and graduated from Elon in 1955.

Dr. Williams then taught for 14 years in several public schools systems. She earned a master’s degree in 1971 and a doctorate in 1973 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Professor Williams joined the faculty at Elon in 1969 as an instructor in the department of psychology and education and rose through the ranks to full professor. In 1977 , Dr. Williams was named associate dean of academic affairs and director of the Learning Resources Center. Two years later, she was named director of development and later the first vice president for development. She served in that role for 16 years before being named special assistant to the president in 1995.


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