Derek Williams Retires After 30 Years of Teaching History and Coaching Cycling

This profile is the fifth installment in an ongoing series about the retiring faculty members in the Voluntary Retirement Incentives Program. Though Derek Williams ’63, Instructor in History and Social Sciences, had no idea he would return to campus as a teacher, he is retiring after 30 dedicated years of teaching and coaching. “I had no idea I’d ever want to come back. I remember talking to my friends and [asking them], ‘Would you ever send your kid to Andover?’ The answer was always no,” said Williams. Williams joined the Andover community as a new Lower but left at the end of the year, returning to his hometown, Durham, NC. A year after leaving, Williams’ friends and teachers drew him back to return as a Senior. After graduating from college Williams pursued a career in education and began teaching at a public school in the South. He then became the princpial but felt worn down by the disciplinary element of his job. Williams hoped to instruct in an environment where “the classroom was primary and the courtroom was less of a piece of your day.” While visiting Andover with his mother, a former Andover Summer Session instructor, Williams met with Spike Adrians, Former Assistant Headmaster. Williams said, “I distinctly remember [Adrians] saying at the time, ‘Have you ever thought about teaching at Andover?’” During the summer of 1979, Williams spoke with Tom Lyons, Former Chair of the History department. The next year, the school offered him a position in the History and Social Sciences department as an instructor. “I didn’t intend to stay, I was just going to try it. I figured if I was going to continue in education I ought to be in a public school, but I got seduced,” said Williams. “It’s a pretty amazing community, one year leads to the next and all of a sudden you’ve been here 30 years.” During his time at Andover, Williams has been actively involved around campus, founding the first interscholastic bicycling team, chairing the History department from 1984 to 1989 and teaching a variety of History courses and electives. Williams arrived at Andover to teach in 1980 and quickly noticed that the school lacked a competitive bicycling team. At the end of his first year he approached the administration to create a long-term sport. “The athletic director, Joe Wineck, let us have a team on a trial basis. There wasn’t that much of a league in New England. [There were] only eight schools, and we won the championship our first year,” he said. One of his favorite courses to teach is Comparative Government because “It interests me and frustrates me at the same time.” He said, “It is a hands on look at some places in the world politically and it’s always a hustle for me, as a teacher, to stay on top of current events. I like how it’s always dynamic. It keeps me looking around the world.” During his 30 years as a teacher, Williams feels he has changed by his students and colleagues. “I’m a lot more ornery. I used to be really nice,” he joked. “[I’ve] really learned from [the other faculty]. That’s the best part about teaching, learning from others. [Andover] is a community composed of really interesting people. When you mix everyone together there’s a lot of learning that gets done,” said Williams. Williams does not have particular plans for his retirement, but he expects to be “headquartered in Vermont traveling, writing [and] reading.” He said, “Some would argue that I should have figured [my retirement plans] out before I decided to retire, but [the VRIP package] was an offer that was hard to refuse and it comes at time when if I’ve got a good piece of life to go. With my [good] health, I might as well get after it.” “There’s so much of it that I’ll miss. It comes down to the people, the teaching,” said Williams.