Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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R. Owen Williams ’07MSL, ’09PhD

In this economy, most brand-new PhDs are grateful for a job—any job. But R. Owen Williams ’07MSL, ’09PhD, isn’t most new grads. Williams, whose December doctorate in history is so fresh that it hasn’t even shown up yet in the Yale alumni directory, snagged an offer to become president of Transylvania University in Kentucky. Before you start with the vampire jokes, pause to consider that Williams, who is 58, spent 22 years as a Wall Street investment banker before returning to academia, and those Goldman Sachs types have taken enough abuse already. Not convinced? Okay, well, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Williams quit his last job rather than lay off “quite professional, quite competent, and quite productive” employees.

No doubt Transylvania—a 230-year-old liberal arts college of about 1,100 students, which calls itself “Transy”—is impressed by Williams’s finance background and presumed fund-raising abilities. But he is also a serious historian of post–Civil War race law whose dissertation was advised by David Blight, with a committee that included such scholarly heavyweights as Akhil Amar, Eric Foner, Bob Gordon, and Paul Finkelman. In January, Williams started a two-year Cassius Marcellus Clay Fellowship in the history department. But apparently college president trumps that; Williams begins at Transy on August 1.

Filed under Law School, Graduate School, education, academia, academe, milestones, appointed
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