The SIUC Black Alumni Group (BAG) helps maintain, nurture, and advance initiatives while assisting SIU Carbondale. BAG seeks to keep alive professional, social, and educational relationships developed while at Southern, while providing, assistance, guidance, and support to alumni,
The organization solicits gifts to be used for and on behalf of SIU, its faculty, students, and staff; and assists SIU in the recruitment, retention, financial assistance, and career development of students of Black African descent.
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Black Alumni seeking SIU Sports Hall of Fame nomination. If inducted he would be 1st black gymnast inducted. Here is my story.
SIU ALUMNI ASSOCIATION – “Tell Us Your Story”
It was 10am on a Saturday morning in the spring of 1980 when I called SIU Men’s Gymnastics Coach, Bill Meade. I explained that I recently had been accepted into SIU Architecture program for the fall of 1980 and I wanted to attend the summer gymnastic camp with hopes of making the team some day. Coach promised to send the camp information, but it never arrived. I went on later that year to win the SIU Black Alumni Scholarship Award, finish my first semester at SIU with a 3.75 GPA, and was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma freshman honors fraternity.
In the late fall of 1980 with no prior gymnastics training and nothing more than ”street tumbling skills,” I walked into practice at the SIU Arena with a dream and sheer determination to succeed. You see I graduated from Simeon Vocational High School on the Southside of Chicago where no such gymnastic program existed, and I was the first person in my family to attend college. I asked if I could work out with the team, and Coach said, “Yes!. Five months later, I learned the fundamentals of the sport and soon competed at an in-house team meet and scored a disappointing 6.8 on floor exercise. The next year I improved so much in such a short period of time that Coach offered me a partial sports scholarship, and I earned a spot on the traveling team. I spent the next four years giving my all towards my academics and the sport that I love. By the time I had completed my senior year my accomplishments included:
– #1 NCAA ranking on floor exercise with a season average score of 9.75, out of a 9.8 degree of difficulty routine.
– SIU school record in on floor exercise with a score of 9.8
– 1st place and MVP honors at the Penn State vs. SIU gym meet
– 1st place at the Chicago-Windy City Invitations for the 2nd consecutive year
– 1st place at the Nebraska Big Eight Invitational, competing against several NCAA All American
– 3rd place at the Mid-West Open.
– 5th place at the NCAA Championship & receiving All American honors.
When I came off the NCAA All American stage at the National Championships, I greeted Coach Meade and asked/reminded him about our phone conversation in the spring of 1980 on that Saturday morning. With clarity, he recalled that he did and said, “You were a guy with no high school training, and I thought it would be a waste of time to send the brochure to you. You proved me wrong, and in fact you turned out be one of the best walk-on athletes that I have ever coached.” In an article written in the Daily Egyptian, Coach stated that, “Lawrence has made more progress than 95% of the entire walk-on gymnasts I have ever coached.”
My days at SIU are filled with awesome memories, life-long friendships, and lessons learned. My biggest lesson learned was to never give-up on a dream even when others do not believe in you. I went on to receive my master’s degree in Real Estate Development from Columbia University-NYC, win a HUD Fellowship, the 2002 President Jimmy Carter Partnership Award, and the 2006 Gerald Hines /Urban Land Institute Urban Design Award. Today, I work as a Real Estate Consultant, Developer and Investor in the City of Detroit and I teach tumbling one day per week.
One of my dreams is to make the SIU Sports Hall of Fame. As an undergraduate student in the early 1980’s, I walked through the Student Center to gymnastics practice at the Arena, and to class at the School of Technical Careers. Each day I stopped to look at the Hall of Fame wall and dreamed of someday of taking a spot amongst the other great athletes of SIU. I have faith that one day I will.
LAWRENCE WILLIAMSON AAS ’83, Architectural Technology, BS ’85, Advanced Technical Studies, MS-Real Estate Development 2006 contact info 478.256.4946 firstname.lastname@example.org