Hibbard Williams' enduring legacy
UC Davis School of Medicine's second dean donates body to science, scholarship fund established
In death as in life, former UC Davis School of Medicine Dean Hibbard E. Williams’ commitment to mentoring and advancing the career of the next generation of medical leaders lives on.
Williams, who passed away at home on July 26 at age 83, will be honored by friends and colleagues — past and present — at a special Celebration of Life in Davis on Oct. 15.
Sharon Williams, wife of the late dean emeritus, said her husband’s body was donated to science through the Body Donation Program at UC Davis, and the family has established the Hibbard and Sharon Williams Student Scholarship Fund at UC Davis to help ease the financial burden of one or more medical students. In addition, an endowed chair and an annual teaching award, the Hibbard Williams Award for Extraordinary Achievement, were previously established in Williams’ honor.
“We both felt very strongly that people need help — students, in particular,” Sharon Williams, his wife and “soul mate” of 33 years said. “It costs a lot to go to medical school. We decided it was a way to give back to the school, to make something available for other students.”
A renowned endocrinologist and internationally recognized authority on kidney stone disease, it was Williams’ desire that his students have the same fulfilling and joyful life he had. The product of a modest background, he was thankful for the opportunity to follow his own course, one that would eventually lead him to high-ranking leadership roles at UC Davis Medical Center and other major medical institutions throughout the country.
“Establishment of the scholarship gets back to what Hibbard stood for,” said Fred Meyers associate dean for precision medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine and recipient of the Williams award, which acknowledges exceptional faculty contributions beyond traditional teaching and research roles. “He stood for helping everyone achieve their goal.”
It was Williams’ desire to create “wonderful thinkers” of his students who could concentrate on their chosen fields without worrying about financial concerns, said Faith Fitzgerald, professor of internal medicine and a colleague for nearly fifty years.
“Being saddled with a tremendous debt was not part of his vision of a student’s well-being,” said Fitzgerald, who called Williams “her hero” for half a century. “Hibbard knew that the thing that is best about any medical school is not its accomplishments to date, but its accomplishments for the future, its medical students.”
Sharon Williams said she and her husband felt equally strong about leaving their bodies to medical science. To Meyers and Fitzgerald, Williams’ final, magnanimous gesture came as no surprise.
“He was a scientist who loved medical students,” Fitzgerald said. “He knew that either experientially or by some other gift, that the giving by the dead before they are dead is preservative, in a sense, of the future of the living.” Added Meyers, “I think donating your body is the ultimate way of saying I care about learning, I care about furthering the knowledge of tomorrow’s physicians.”
During his tenure as medical school dean from 1980 to 1992, Williams’ contributions to the growth and integration of the nascent UC Davis Health System were profound. As dean, Williams successfully balanced traditional primary care with the development of leading-edge subspecialty programs, and UC Davis Medical Center emerged as a major regional resource and referral center.
Revered not only as a physician, administrator and mentor, Williams’ empathy and concern for his patients and students, and his delight in science and discovery will be remembered most by those whose lives he touched. “He was the embodiment of the physician that everyone wanted to emulate,” Fitzgerald said.
Meyers agreed. “He was brilliant yet humble, encyclopedic yet integrative. He was the total package.”
The Celebration of Life for Hibbard Williams is Saturday Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Tupper Hall at UC Davis. A campus map is available online at http://campusmap.ucdavis.edu/.
Donations can be made to the Hibbard and Sharon Williams Student Scholarship Fund by clicking here.
For more information about Williams’ background and early life, read the press release.