On October 27, 2021, President Mike Williams announced his decision to step down as president of Faulkner University at the end of the spring semester to start his new role as Harding University’s president in June. Before he left, Williams sat down with Public Relations Intern Madelyn Furlong to look back on his time at Faulkner, talk about his proudest moments and share his hopes for Faulkner’s future.
What are your hopes for Faulkner in this new chapter they’re embarking upon?
“I hope the university will continue to be overtly ambitious because I believe this institution has so much more to give. I want the institution to continue to strive because there’s so much need for a place like Faulkner to grow and thrive and to make even a greater impact and greater influence. To me, it’s about aspiration.“
How has Faulkner helped you in your spiritual journey and how has your ‘chazown’ changed in this new phase of your life?
“One of the things I love about Faulkner is that it’s a rich community and the best work environment I’ve ever been a part of. There’s such a collaborative spirit here. To me, that reinforces the teaching of Jesus that calls us to community and to oneness, and it has strengthened my resolve. Jesus’ teaching on that is spot-on, and it’s encouraged my faith.
I do believe ‘chazown’ is an important word–it’s an important word to me. It was important when I got here and continues to be important, and even reinforced, as I’ve seen this community embrace running towards broken humanity. I’m optimistic that coming out of this pandemic, this institution will continue to restore some of the things we have begun and continue to do in the future.“
What were your greatest accomplishments?
“There are some easy things to point toward that are more tangible in nature. The creation of the College of Health Sciences is one of the fundamental changes that will influence the university for a long time to come. The College of Health Sciences is an outgrowth of our mission, an outgrowth of ‘chazown,’ to find ways we can launch into other areas of service.
There’s a greater community that embraces the values of this institution. We have run into the community and tried to be part of the solution, and a lot of people in Montgomery recognize this institution really is an important community aspect.
I’d love to see that continue. Going forward, I’d like for Faulkner to continue to be aspirational and bold in thinking about what we can accomplish and also recognize there is a broader audience of people out there who align with us on a lot of value statements, which creates opportunity.”
What was your best day on the job and what will you miss most about Faulkner?
“This story is one I tell a lot because it symbolizes a lot of experiences here. During my first year at Faulkner, my youngest son was a senior in high school. We didn’t want to uproot him during his senior year, so I moved here by myself. After he graduated, we planned for Lisa, my wife, and son, Quen to move here. My other son, Cade would start college, and my dad would move here as well. In October during my first year at Faulkner, my dad contracted an aggressive form of cancer and deteriorated quickly.
In March, I was flying out to speak at a conference in Washington D.C., and we were also recruiting. Like everybody else, I turned my phone off on the plane. When I hit the tarmac at Reagan International, I turned my phone on and it started blowing up with messages coming in by the dozens. Even the guy beside me was watching my phone get all these alerts. I was thinking the worst because I saw lots of Alabama numbers and numbers that weren’t in my contact list. I thought something really bad happened on campus while I was in the air. A student leading chapel at the time, led singing and he announced my dad has cancer and encouraged everyone in the audience to ‘love bomb’ the president.
I got hundreds and hundreds of texts from students at Faulkner. It was an overwhelming kind of experience to go through. I responded to every one of them because it meant that much to me. I think about that day as being one of those seminal moments for me here, and it is representative of what this institution is about.”
Do you have any advice for Faulkner’s new president?
“President-elect Henry and I are good friends. We connected during my first year and developed a great friendship. I have a deep respect for him.
One of the things I think is important, and it’s not just for Mitch but for anyone who sits at a seat like this, is to remember it’s not about you. That may be the best advice I could give.. When you look at the role from that kind of lens, you think about others in a higher light, and you also think about the institution, not just in the here and now, but long-term.
During the press conference, I gave Mitch a baton. Every day when I came to the office, I saw that baton, and it reminded me that this institution didn’t start with me, it’s not going to end with me, it’s not about me, and it caused me to think about whether my decisions would withstand the test of time. I hope it sits on his desk, so he’ll think about those kinds of things. Knowing Mitch is a spirit-led individual who’s humble and guided by the Word of God, I don’t think he’ll have any problem seeing the world through that lens.”
What’s special about the Faulkner family and what words would you like to leave with them?
“I can’t say this enough: we love Faulkner, and we hope to always be a part of the Faulkner nation. We’re going to continue to be donors to this institution, and we pledge our commitment to being a part of the future of Faulkner. One of the things I’m most intrigued by and excited about is how two Christian universities think collaboratively. To me, that just makes sense, and our board and vice presidents are excited. We don’t know what that looks like yet, but we’re going to have fun exploring it. Faulkner University and Harding University are different, but they have a lot in common, and there are ways we can collaborate and make each other stronger.
I really believe Faulkner is a great experience. I believe in the power of a Faulkner education, and I think it would be even more enriched if there were more students who came here. I think if more students knew what they could get here, they would line up. I would love for the students to be so impassioned about their experience and about their future alma mater that when they went home for spring break, they wore their friends out about it. The friend has to make the decision for themselves, but the Faulkner student could say, “Listen, before you make a decision, you’ve got to come visit and take a look around.” If our student body and alumni embraced that, the future of the institution would be greatly impacted. I want Faulkner to be intentional about that. I’d love for Faulkner to be significantly larger because I know what the experience is like, how impactful it would be for students, and what they might do when they graduate.”