Any Auburn student who has had Ed Williams for newswriting knows the meaning of the number 30. As a professor who values tradition and the importance of the history of journalism, Williams teaches his students that “30” at the end of a news story denotes the end. This year marks William’s 30th year of teaching at Auburn University and coincidentally is the year that he has announced his retirement.
Before coming to Auburn, Williams earned two journalism degrees from the University of Alabama, his bachelor's in 1974 and his master's in 1976. After graduating, Williams worked as a reporter and editor at a number of Alabama newspapers, including The South Alabamian in Jackson, The Montgomery Advertiser, The Brewton Standard and The Andalusia Star-News. In 1983 he was offered a teaching position at Auburn.
“When I took the teaching position at Auburn I was worried that I might miss writing for newspapers, but I found that I loved teaching more than I could have imagined,” Williams said.
Along with the meaning of “30” Williams, has been teaching his students to omit needless words and that vigorous writing is concise during his 30 years at Auburn University.
Many of his past students email him with stories of how the things they learned in his journalism 1100 class appear in their workplaces on a daily basis.
Williams was also the faculty adviser for The Auburn Plainsman for 23 years. During his years working with student journalists, The Auburn Plainsman received 13 Pacemaker awards, which are equivalent to the Pulitzer Prize in college journalism.
No one adequately describes Williams’ contribution to The Auburn Plainsman better than his former student journalists.
“Ed treated his students as adults. He provided a forum for us to make and own our decisions. He set the stage for us to make mistakes or thrive beyond our wildest expectations. His dedication, brutal honesty and consistency set him apart. You have to earn it with Ed, and when you do, you receive the blessing of knowing him. It’s a gift you carry with you for the rest of your life,” said Lee Davidson, 1998-1999 editor of The Auburn Plainsman.
Williams recalled his years of teaching as he pulled out his large stack of green roll books and a smile spread a cross his face, “I can remember most of these students. I must have taught thousands.”
There is no doubt that his former students remember him as well. Williams keeps up with many of his past students on Facebook. . When he announced his retirement he received an influx of comments, many congratulating him and many sad for the students who won’t have the opportunity to study under him in the future.
In his retirement announcement Williams said, “Please don’t think of my retirement from Auburn University as the end for me. I plan to be making contributions for years to come. I know that God will open new doors in my life.”
Williams plans on spending time with his parents and his miniature schnauzer Gracie when he retires. Several years ago he took a trip with friends at his church to Israel and says he would love to go back and also travel to some other places. Williams also helps lead a Bible study at Auburn United Methodist Church and works with the Wesley Foundation.
“I know that new doors will open in my life," Williams said. "I'm not certain right now what those doors are and where they lead. I do know that I will be active and stay busy."