We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Bob Williams

Nov. 28, 2017

Like many UNCW alumni, Bob Williams ’61 enjoys watching the Seahawks play basketball. This year he has an additional reason to take pride in the home of the Seahawks because he oversaw the refinishing of the floor at Trask Coliseum.

Retired from his own heating and air conditioning business, Williams is a part-time project manager. He shares an office in the Facilities building with a UNCW contractor and two other part-timers who, like himself, retired from other jobs.

“It’s a great experience,” he said of working at the university. “One of the best things I like about this is my co-workers. Everyone is helpful in getting jobs done.”

Williams is assigned to administer a wide range of maintenance and upgrade tasks at UNCW, including soccer and baseball field maintenance, converting open rooms into office space for a growing university, replacing specimen freezers and other lab equipment and other improvements. The work utilizes many of the skills he learned from running his own business.

Higher education was not his first choice upon graduation from New Hanover High School. “I was not a good student,” Williams admitted. “I had planned on a military career, but my mom said, ‘You’re going to college.’”

He enrolled at Wilmington College in 1959 and graduated in 1961 with a degree in general studies. After finishing his history degree at East Carolina University and a stint in the Coast Guard Reserve, he found a teaching job.

“I taught for a couple of years,” Williams said. “I enjoyed working with young people, but I didn’t like being confined to a classroom.”

He went to work for Carolina Power & Light Co., a forerunner of Duke Energy Progress. By 1970 he was working in the heating and air conditioning business. In 1989 he and his wife, Judy, established Robert H. Williams Heating and Air Conditioning.

“I learned a valuable lesson when my wife and I started our business,” Williams said. “People don’t do business with companies. They do business with people.” Local residents who remembered him from previous jobs were among his loyal customers after he started his company. “People were good to us.”

Aside from work, he served eight years on the Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees and is a past president of the North Carolina Heating and Air Conditioning Contractors Association. He sold his business in 2008 and continued to work for a few more years before taking a short-lived retirement.

UNCW hired him in 2015 to supervise projects three days a week. “It’s an ideal schedule for me,” said Williams, whose daughters are also alumni: Shanda Williams Bordeaux ’92, winner of the Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award in 2012 and past chair/honorary lifetime member of the UNCW Alumni Association board; and Reagan Williams Deans ’02M.

-- Tricia Vance

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