Dallas, Texas (Dec. 11, 2017) – The Honorable Michael L. Williams, a leader in Texas education and civil rights for decades, and his wife, the Honorable Donna N. Williams, honored nationally for her achievements in engineering and construction, will deliver the commencement keynote address to graduates of the University of North Texas at Dallas on Dec. 15.

UNT Dallas graduates will be treated to stories and lessons learned from this distinguished couple of over 32 years, who will each draw from their public service, dedication to community and rise to prominence. Both have held positions in national government, chaired impactful charitable initiatives and overseen significant business ventures. 

“They are truly a dynamic duo, and I am thrilled and honored that Michael and Donna Williams will deliver our commencement address,” said UNT Dallas President Bob Mong. “They are not only tremendous friends of our campus community, they have so much to share with our students. They embody the spirit and values of our university and show all that can be accomplished through lifelong learning.”

Mr. Williams serves as the inaugural Distinguished Leader-In-Residence at UNT Dallas. His has been a life of exemplary public service and significant contributions to Texas and the nation, including most recently serving as Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), when he oversaw the pre-kindergarten through high school education for more than five million students.

He was the first African American commissioner of the TEA, and from 1999-2011, he became the first – and remains the only – black American elected to the Executive branch of the Texas state government as a Texas Railroad Oil and Gas Commissioner. He chaired the Railroad Commission from 1999-2003 and again from 2007-09.

In 1990, Williams was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights. He also served as Special Assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh from 1989-90, and has served as a federal prosecutor. He received the Attorney General’s Special Achievement Award for the conviction of six Ku Klux Klan members on federal weapons charges. Williams is the past Honorary Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas. He is a native of Midland, Texas and earned a Bachelor’s, Master’s and a law degree from the University of Southern California. 

Mrs. Williams is a vice president and program manager for Parsons Transportation Group, Inc., a subsidiary of the Parsons Corporation, a global engineering and construction leader. She has over 30 years of program and project management, business development, and engineering design and construction experience in both the government and private sectors. 

She manages a multi-year contract with the City of Houston at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), a $1.6 billion capital improvement program. Mrs. Williams has received numerous Texas and national honors, including Parsons’ "Engineer of the Year" in 1993; Women’s Transportation Seminar for the Greater Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter’s “Woman of Inspiration” award in 2002; U.S. Black Engineer & Information Technology recognition as One of the 100 Most Important Blacks in Technology in 2006; and was featured in Eclipse Magazine’s Tribute to "2008 Women That Mean Business.”

Mrs. Williams was named a Prairie View A& M University Distinguished Alumni; and served on significant initiatives of both former Gov. Rick Perry and Lieut. Gov. David Dewhurst. In 2003, President George W. Bush nominated and the United States Senate confirmed her as a Director of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a position she held from 2003-2006. In that position, she operated with a high degree of accountability and efficiency to help our country respond to challenges, and coordinated large-scale programs such as AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps and FEMA Corps. 

Mrs. Williams is also involved in many civic activities and professional associations, including Arlington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Dallas African American Museum (board member), Justin F. Kimball High School Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (board chairman), the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women's Health National Board of Directors, Parsons Federal Credit Union (board member) and the National Association of Professional Women. An appointee of Gov. Perry to the Texas State University Board of Regents, she chaired the search committee leading to the selection of the current chancellor, served two terms as vice chairman of the board (2011 and 2012) and chairman of the board (2013 and 2014). 

The University of North Texas at Dallas commencement is held at Inspiring Body of Christ Church, 7701 S. Westmoreland Road in Dallas, Friday, Dec. 15 at 5 p.m. 

-UNTDallas.edu-

ABOUT UNT DALLAS

The University of North Texas at Dallas is our city's emerging urban university. UNT Dallas empowers students, transforms lives and strengthens communities. Perched on a hilltop, overlooking the Downtown Dallas skyline, UNT Dallas is the only public, accredited 4-year university in the City of Dallas. UNT Dallas includes the UNT Dallas College of Law in Downtown Dallas and is part of the UNT System.