Williams ’65 “Hated” PA as Lower, Returned for 27 Years

Instructor in Social Sciences Derek Williams, known around campus for his Chuck Norris jokes and smiling demeanor, has been a part of the Andover community since he graduated from the Academy in 1965. He has taught in the History Department since the fall of 1980. In 1963 Mr. Williams came to Andover as a Lower. “I pretty much hated it,” he said, and therefore decided to return to his home in Durham, NC for eleventh grade. However, the friends he had made at PA lured him back to the school for his Senior year. After graduating, Mr. Williams went on to Wesleyan University, and then became a teacher at a public junior high school in Chapel Hill, NC, where he taught seventh, eighth, and ninth graders for three years. After leaving Chapel Hill, and working as a framing carpenter for a year, Mr. Williams went onto graduate school at the University of North Carolina, majoring in government. After graduate school, Mr. Williams became the principal of the smallest K-12 public school in Virginia, near Mt. Rogers. He said, “It was a pretty wild and woolly time down there. When I was in the Virginia Mountains I had a horse and a goat.” Mr. Williams also lived in a cabin without electricity while he was principal, and dealt with many disciplinary issues. Before returning to Andover yet again, Mr. Williams wrote his Master Thesis, which he had not done in graduate school. When asked how he came to Andover, Mr. Williams said, “I knew of the place because I [went here]…[and] my mother had taught in summer sessions [at Andover]. Also, the Assistant Headmaster had just retired to Chapel Hill and he asked me if I would ever be interested in teaching at Andover. I started thinking about it because I was a little burnt out from being a principal.” In the fall of 1980, Mr. Williams began his teaching career at the Academy. At first, he planned to remain for one or two years, but instead he has stayed for 26. He said, “I love my teaching. I love my students. Why would I still be here if I didn’t like it?” He has taught electives such as History of the South and Comparative Government, along with the standard courses, History 300, History 200, and History 100. When asked what he values most about Andover, Mr. Williams said, “It’s hard not to be attracted to bright students who are intellectually curious. I enjoy being in the classroom. There are always a few tedious political issues, but that’s to be expected at any academic institution…Right from the get-go my colleagues have respected me and given me freedom in the classroom and help when I need it.” Mr. Williams has served numerous positions including the Chair of the History Department for five years in the 1980s and one year in the 1990s. He has also served on the All-School Meeting Committee and other administrative positions. Mr. Williams also helps coach the cycling team, which he founded in 1980 when he first came here to teach. After riding around France, he found some eager students to form a team including Instructor in Art Thayer Zaeder, another current coach of the cycling team. In its first year as a team, PA won the New England Championship.