John Williams is somewhat of a professorial paradox. The veteran Communication Studies’ professor has a passion for popular culture that baffles many of his students. He’s as comfortable in a classic cardigan sweater as he is at a Lady Gaga concert.
“My concert schedule, which generally exceeds theirs, causes them to reconsider their preconceptions about my persona,” he chuckles. But a wry sense of humor is just one of the several assets Williams bring to his classes
During his three decades at Sacramento State, he has taught scores of classes, served as deputy department chair and academic counselor. For the last six years the genial professor has helped resolve grade appeals and other academic-requirement disputes. The latter capacity has caused him to split his time between teaching and administration.
“I like the diversity of our students and the fact that many of them are working part-time jobs to finance their schooling,” he says. Williams also appreciates the fact that, like him, so many of them are the first in their family to earn a college degree.
His students routinely give him high ratings, which is a genuine compliment because they don’t see him as an easy grader. His ability to relate is reflected by the many students who seek his academic guidance. “One of my favorite moments,” he says “was when a woman called me for help and said that her daughter, a former student of mine, had recommended me.”
Moments such as this are what make “teaching, learning and service” more than a slogan. And why John Williams never looks back at what might have been, namely, his brief fantasy at being a Formula Ford driver after attending the Skip Barber Racing School in the summer of 1976. “I did, however, get to Indy to watch the fabled 500 from just this side of pit alley,” he chuckles.