Celebrating the Life of Dr. Gene Gary-Williams
Dear Howard University Community,
I write to formally announce the death of Dr. Gene Elizabeth Gary-Williams. Dean Gary-Williams served as dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences from 1992-98 and was a dedicated member of the Howard University Board of Trustees from 1980-82. A native of Newberry, South Carolina, she received her Bachelor of Science degree from Spelman College; Certificate in Physical Therapy and Master of Physical Therapy Administration degree from the University of Iowa; Doctor of Philosophy in human development and gerontology from the University of Maryland at College Park; and a Master of Arts in religious studies from Howard University. A celebrated researcher and loyal exemplar of Howard’s mission and motto, she was a Fulbright Fellow and Professor of Health Education at Amadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. Soon after her return to Howard, she was appointed dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, which has since been renamed to the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences.
Dr. Gary-Williams was a practicing clinician from 1957–74. In the mid-1970s, she helped to establish a pioneering program at Howard University as the founding chairperson of the Physical Therapy (PT) program, which was the first physical therapy program offered by a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). She was the Chairperson of this program from 1974-79.
Dr. Gary-Williams was an authentic educator and her higher education skills proved to be transferable across a myriad of allied health fields. In celebration of her achievements, she received from the University of Iowa the College of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award for Service, and from Spelman College she was honored with the Alumnae Achievement Award—Health and Sciences. Dr. Gary-Williams had a long career of physical therapy practice, teaching, administration and service. Most notably, her service was exemplified in her participation with the National Society of Allied Health (NSAH), an organization of HBCUs that offer allied health educational programs. She was honored as a fellow and served as president of NSAH and later as executive director. She also served as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education, participated in the site visit accreditation process of the educational programs across the country, and advocated for participation by HBCUs. Later in retirement, she was a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) National Policy Council.
Service to HBCUs was a particularly important aspect of her career. “Other institutions will never be able to accommodate all the students of color who want to enter health professions,” she said. “HBCUs help us meet that need in an efficient and equitable manner.” Also, essentially, she noted, “is the chance for students to learn from mentors who share elements of their experience and culture, and the opportunity to build a PT profession that looks like the patients it serves.”
Dr. Gene Gary-Williams touched many lives and was loved and respected by her former students, faculty, professional colleagues, friends and family. As we honor her legacy and support those who knew and loved her, I find solace in knowing she will be remembered with fondness and gratitude for her willingness to mentor and help those who wanted to make a difference.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA