About the College > Distinguished Alumni > Williams, Clement

Williams, Clement

Clement Clarence Williams, was a renowned civil engineer and educator and the seventh president of Lehigh University.

Career as an Academic

Following in the footsteps of his elder brother, Americus, a mathematician, Williams spent much of his career in academia. (Americus was a teacher for thirty-five years and vice-president of Valparaiso University.)

Williams graduated with degrees in civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1907 and the University of Colorado in 1909. He would eventually return to each of his alma maters with positions on the faculties of Civil and Railroad Engineering. In fact, he served as head of the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois. Williams was also a member of the civil engineering faculty at the University of Kansas where he helped to design the new football field and track in the 1920s. Before accepting the Lehigh presidency, Williams was the Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa.

Throughout his career as an educator, Williams received many honorary degrees as he spoke at campuses across the east coast. He won doctorates from Northeastern and Bucknell, and LL.D. from Rutgers University and Lafayette College, a Doctor of Science from Hahnemann Medical College, and a Doctor of Laws from Moravian College.

Tenure at Lehigh

Williams was president during an era of unprecedented alumni support. Undergraduate enrollment rose to an all-time high, passing 2,000 in 1938. In his first year in office, Williams had three initial construction goals for his time in office: a larger space for dances and social gatherings, a new dormitory, and an addition to the chemistry building. Richards and Drinker residential houses, and the Ullmann wing of the Chandler Chemistry Laboratory, were soon built. Grace Hall, the first arena-type facility of any size on campus, was completed in 1940, the gift of Eugene G. Grace, an 1899 graduate, who headed the board of trustees. A graduate school implemented programs in the three colleges.

In keeping with his philosophy, "A university has no more important function than teaching," Williams resurrected a tradition not practiced since Leavitt was president in 1879: he taught a class. In addition to his own instruction in the graduate level structural foundations class, he also convinced the university dean and the director of admissions to teach classes as well.

When Williams retired in 1944, the university was without a president for approximately two years until Martin Whitaker accepted the position.

Professional Engineer

Though he focused much of his time and career on educating young engineers, Williams was well-known in the field of structural engineering. He specialized in designing plants for the production of explosives and was the supervising engineer for the War Department in World War I.

He also wrote a number of books on the subject of civil engineering including Design of a Railway Locomotion, Design of Masonry Structures and Foundations, and Building an Engineer Career.

In addition Williams was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a trustee of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and elected into the Newcomen Society of England for promoting the study of the history of technology.

After his tenure at Lehigh, Williams returned to the mid-west, to Wisconsin, where he passed away in 1947 a day before his 65th birthday.

See Also

Clement Clarence Williams

Birth: February 21, 1882

Birthplace: Bryant, Illinois

Died: February 20, 1947

Department: civil engineering

Dates: 1935-1944

Notable Achievement: Seventh President of Lehigh University