Sue Williams

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Award Year

The Southern Rural Development Center is proud to honor Sue E. Williams as a 2010 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Educator Lifetime Achievement Award. Williams is a Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at Oklahoma State University.

Williams has undertaken a leadership role within Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the southern region, and at the Kettering Foundation, a premiere organization conducting policy work, where she serves as a National Faculty and as a Community Politics Team Co-Leader to the Foundation. Starting in 1977, she joined with colleagues in home economics, agricultural engineering and communications to craft a new Extension program in residential energy management. When the need for this programming faded over the following ten years, she shifted to the growing demand in the fields of environmental education and environment police, and as time continued, the health implications of personal energy management decisions as well as public environmental decisions.

One of Williams’ greatest skills is focusing her efforts in areas of emerging need. Staying aware of the changing priorities of her audience, she began a remarkable career in public deliberation and leadership development. Williams’ interests span helping communities tackle many issues including health, obesity, the use of water resources, land use, concentrated animal feeding operations, underage drinking, casinos, end of life, defining marriage, and domestic violence.

David Matthews, President of the Kettering Foundation, said “Her efforts have helped Cooperative Extension understand its community development role differently; this work is laudable.”

“I cannot overstate the importance of Dr. Williams’ efforts,” Sharon M. S. Gibson, Multicultural Extension Specialist said. “Not only for the citizens of Oklahoma but for all of us endeavoring to engage citizens at the grassroots level. Her work is even more important today than when she started; with growing distrust of government the need to engage citizens on the community level is critical if we hope to develop common ground for positive civic action. Her work is the foundation of building a truly democratic society.”

Some national awards Williams has received include the American Evaluation Association Excellence in Program Award, a Leader Award from the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences and the Chaulkey-Fenn Public Scholar Award. In addition, Williams and her colleagues have been award the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Outstanding Program Team Award.

“Dr. Williams has mastered teaching community members and leaders how to engage around often emotion-filled issues. I’ve seen her moderate difficult topics with diverse community members and skillfully guide them through the challenging business of civic engagement,” said Bonnie Braun, PhD, Endowed Chair and Director, Herschel S. Horowitz Center for Health Literacy.

For Williams’ passion, energy, and professional commitment to civic-centered engagement strategies in the Southern region and beyond, it is most fitting that Williams be honored as a Southern Rural Development Center 2010 recipient of the Bonnie Teater Community Development Educator Lifetime Achievement Award.

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