Williams to retire as executive director of Penn State Alumni Association

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Roger L. Williams, executive director of the Penn State Alumni Association since 2003 and associate vice president of the University for alumni relations, has announced his retirement, effective June 30.

“Penn State University and Penn Staters everywhere owe Roger an enormous amount of gratitude for his superb service and unflagging commitment over the past 12 years,” said Rodney Kirsch, Penn State’s senior vice president for development and alumni relations. “The association is viewed nationally as ‘best in class’ and so much of its success as an organization is due to Roger’s leadership and love of alma mater. And the University’s recent achievements in fundraising are closely linked to the quality instilled in our alumni relations program during Roger’s vigilant tenure.”

Williams, who began his career in higher education in 1978 as a writer-editor for the Department of Public Information at Penn State, has served three institutions during his career, but his dedication to Penn State eventually brought him back to serve as leader of the Alumni Association.

“It’s been the privilege of my 36 years in American higher education to serve the world’s biggest, best and most ambitious dues-paying alumni association and, by extension, my beloved alma mater,” Williams said.

“With six excellent Alumni Association presidents, a talented and dedicated Alumni Council, thousands of devoted alumni volunteer leaders across the nation, a supportive University administration and a superb staff, the Penn State Alumni Association has made substantial progress in every possible dimension.”

Kay Salvino, Alumni Association president, said Williams “truly lives our mission of service to alumni and alma mater. Under his leadership we have accomplished a great deal. His regard for and relationship with volunteers, and all alums, is remarkable.”

Among the Alumni Association’s accomplishments during Williams’ tenure:

-- The Alumni Association grew by 27,759 members, or 19 percent, from 146,619 in 2003 to 174,379 in 2014, solidifying its status as the largest dues-paying alumni association in the world.

-- From 2004-14, total annual revenues increased by 33 percent or $2.9 million, from $8,649,710 to $11,565,919.

-- The Alumni Association made philanthropic gifts of more than $4.3 million to the University from 2004-15. The centerpiece was a commitment of $2.1 million to For the Future: the Campaign for Penn State Students to establish matching Trustee Scholarships in every college and campus of the University as well as student support units, and graduate and professional schools. 

-- The Alumni Achievement Award was established in 2005 to honor high-achieving alumni under 35 years of age, bringing them back to campus to meet with students, faculty and staff and thus complement the academic curriculum; 117 young alumni have been honored so far.

--  The Alumni Association’s affiliate groups increased from 273 to 315, and attendance at alumni events and programs grew from 52,000 to 91,000.

-- The Penn Stater, the Alumni Association’s bimonthly magazine circulated to 137,000-member households, was strengthened editorially and graphically. In 2007, The Penn Stater was the first public university periodical in 40 years to win the Robert Sibley Magazine of the Year Award, sponsored by Newsweek and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Before his leadership of the Alumni Association, Williams had served as associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas, associate vice president for communications at Georgetown University and executive director of consulting services for Dick Jones Communications.

At the start of his Penn State career more than three decades ago, Williams rose through the ranks to eventually serve as executive director of University Relations from 1986-95. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in history, master of arts degree in journalism and doctorate of education in higher education, all from Penn State.

He is author of “The Origins of Federal Support for Higher Education: George W. Atherton and the Land-Grant College Movement” (1991) and co-editor of “Future of the American Public Research University” (2007). Williams also served as affiliate associate professor of higher education at the University.

“Through the years, everything we have accomplished has been guided by our mission of connecting alumni to the University and to each other, providing valued services to members, and supporting the University’s mission of teaching, research and service,” Williams said. “Now, however, it is time for new executive leadership, new energy and a new vision of how the Alumni Association can become even more effective in its service to alumni and alma mater in the years ahead.”

Last Updated January 22, 2015