Beryl Elizabeth Williams, 85,
`mother of continuing studies' at Morgan State
Subhead: Today's Obituaries from <I>The Baltimore Sun</I>
By Frederick N. Rasmussen 5/13/99
Beryl Elizabeth Williams, a promoter of black culture and
women's rights who taught mathematics and English at Morgan
State University before being appointed dean of the school's
Center for Continuing Education, died Friday of undetermined causes at Genesis Homewood Elder Care. She was 85.
Dr. Williams, whose professional life and volunteer work with
many community, civic and church organizations spanned nearly
six decades, was actively involved with many organizations when
She had lived since 1948 in a book-filled rowhouse in Wilson
Park, near Govans, where she had managed to fill a room with
a grand piano, stacks of sheet music, original paintings and
pieces of art collected from her numerous trips to Africa. She
had moved to Genesis Homewood Elder Care several weeks ago.
In her travels, she also had amassed a rare collection of hand-crafted
costumes from African countries.
Her career at the old Morgan State College began in 1948 when
she became a part-time English instructor. She became a full-time
English and mathematics instructor.
In 1963, she was named the first director of the evening, summer
and extension programs and, with her appointment in 1970 as dean
of the Center for Continuing Education, she was Morgan's
first female academic dean.
"She was an extraordinary lady whose life history was
at Morgan," President Earl S. Richardson said yesterday.
"It was clear that Morgan was always the center of her interests.
She was a perpetual member of the community here."
Dr. Richardson credited her with much of the success of the
continuing education program.
"She always said that continuing education was of great
and lasting value to the university, and as the work force changed
there would be a need for people to retool their skills,"
"And she was always admonishing me to give greater attention
to the program," he added with a laugh.
Said Burney J. Hollis, dean of the college of liberal arts,
"She really was the mother of continuing studies, and she
directed its growth during the formative years."
Dr. Hollis, who has been at Morgan since 1970, described Dr.
Williams as a "very fine person" and "one of the
most devoted colleagues I've ever seen on campus."
She retired in 1981.
Dr. Williams, who preferred to work unobtrusively for many
was born Beryl Elizabeth Warner in Bangor, Maine.
Her father was a Boston & Maine Railroad porter, and
mother owned and operated a Bangor boarding house.
When she was 7, she learned to play the piano and, with the
encouragement of her parents, began playing at church services
in jails and mental hospitals. That began a lifetime of public
service and commitment to helping others.
"Isn't everyone's life like this?" Dr. Williams
said in 1987 interview in The Sun.
After graduating from high school in Bangor, she rode the streetcar
12 miles to the University of Maine at Orono, where she was the
first black graduate to earn a bachelor's degree in mathematics
in 1935. In 1940, she earned a master's degree in math there.
The university honored her with a doctor of pedagogy degree in
She taught at several Southern colleges before moving to Baltimore
in 1948. She was married in 1942 to Roger Kenton Williams, who
established Morgan's psychology department. He died in 1989.
"She was driven by hard times, and being a black person
was very hard for her, and she was driven to prove to people
that she was the best that she could be," said her son,
Scott Warner Williams, a professor of mathematics at the State
University of New York at Buffalo.
"She always said that life was different when she was
and glad that it was very different when she was older."
Dr. Williams was vice president of the city school board from
1974 to 1984 and held numerous positions with the United Methodist
Church. She was a member of Milton Avenue United Methodist Church.
Some of her numerous organizational memberships included the
Maryland Committee for Public Accommodation, Baltimore Urban
League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
Citizens for Black History, Morgan State University Women, Delta
Sigma Theta Sorority, National Council of Negro Women, National
Negro Business and Professional Women, Red Cross, Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom and the Central Maryland
Girl Scout Council.
Looking back over her life, Dr. Williams reflected in The Sun
interview, "I see a thread of consistency. I've always
been concerned about the same things: the needs of black people
and the quality of life for all human beings.
"But I've never thought of myself as an activist. It's
possible to be conservative and still be quite concerned about
A memorial service will be held at noon May 22 at Morgan Christian
Center, 4307 Hillen Road.
In addition to her son, she is survived by a sister, Althea
Mandel of Cleveland; and three granddaughters.
Obituaries Because of limited space and the large number of
requests for obituaries, The Sun regrets that it cannot publish
all the obituaries it receives. Because The Sun regards obituaries
as news, we give a preference to those submitted within 48 hours
of a person's death. It is also our intention to run obituaries
no later than seven days after death.