Jeff (BA Rhetoric '78) and Patty (BA History '75, single subject teaching credential '76) Williams have a straightforward reason for making an extraordinary gift to the Berkeley School of Education this summer: “We wanted to do something that can make a difference in the world.”
The Patricia and Jeffrey Williams Teacher Education Graduate Fellowship will indeed make a difference by covering the entire cost of attendance at the BSE for an aspiring teacher every year—in perpetuity, beginning with the next cohort of students in summer 2023.
“I am struck by Patty and Jeff’s commitment to equity in public education,” said Dean Christopher Edley. “It is truly affirming to have donors who value what we value. Through this fellowship, the Williams family will always be a part of who we are at the BSE, and we are grateful.”
Jeff said that he and Patty are happy to support one promising teacher each year who might otherwise be unable to enroll in the BSE’s teacher preparation program.
“Patty is the teacher, but we both feel very strongly about the importance of providing the next generation with the same opportunities we had growing up through the foundation of a good education,” said Jeff.
While earning her teaching credential at Berkeley, Patty’s mentor and master teacher was Pat Jackson, someone whom she credits with encouraging her to trust her instincts and take a practical approach to the classroom. Jackson happened to be observing on a day when Patty was student-teaching in a junior high school and her master teacher had to leave due to an emergency. Jackson stepped in, telling the principal that Patty was more than qualified to handle the class for the rest of the day.
“She always told me that ‘We need more people like you’ in the teaching profession,’” said Patty of her mentor teacher. “I feel honored to have been placed with her.”
After receiving her credential, Patty used her training to work as a substitute teacher in several East Bay schools, while devoting the majority of her time and energy to raising their three (now adult) children—Julie, Justin, and John. Patty helped found a Montclair pre-school, Toddler Family, where she served on the board of directors. She also helped create a supplemental curriculum for accelerated 3rd grade students at Berkeley’s Emerson Elementary School in the late 1980’s.
Jeff and Patty met during their sophomore year at Cal. Patty is a double Bear, with an undergraduate degree in history in 1975 and a single subject teaching credential from the School of Education in 1976. Jeff earned his undergraduate degree in rhetoric in 1975.
Jeff is a third generation alum. Both of his parents, Reed Williams and Harriet Neufeld, attended Cal in the '50s. His maternal grandfather, Bill Neufeld, started the family tradition in the early '20’s, when he was a member of Cal’s track and field team, and he went on to take 5th place in the javelin for the US Olympic team at the 1924 Paris games.
Patty and Jeff’s connection to the BSE also extends to the next generation. Julie, Justin, and John all have fond memories of spending several weeks each summer at Tolman Hall as participants in the Academic Talent Development Program (ATDP).
The Williams family gift to the BSE is both an expression of gratitude for Berkeley and also an acknowledgement that there are barriers to accessing higher education.
Jeff said about his family’s gift: “With the decreasing level of state support over the years since we graduated, we simply feel it’s our responsibility to give back what we can in order to give today’s students the same level of excellence in their education at Cal that we received.”
We thank the Williams family for their willingness to share the news of their gift with our Berkeley School of Education community. Questions about how to establish a fellowship and support our graduate students can be directed to Alicia Boulware, Leadership Giving Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.