Rhodes Scholars and Rhodes staff were saddened to learn of the passing of the wonderful Lady Williams yesterday (14 March). She was wife of Warden Sir Edgar (Bill) Williams and contributed in countless ways to the flourishing of the Rhodes community. The flag at Rhodes House is currently being flown at half mast and there will be a memorial event at Rhodes House on Sunday 17 September 2017. Please email email@example.com if you would like to attend.
A full obituary written by her son, Nick Williams, will be posted here in due course and will also be featured in this year's Rhodes Scholar magazine, together with recollections from Rhodes Scholars. If you would like to write a recollection to appear in this piece, please email the editor.
Four generations of Wardens reflect on her remarkable life:
Sir Anthony Kenny: "Nancy and I knew Lady Williams for nearly fifty years - first at Balliol, where Bill was a fellow when I arrived, and then of course at Rhodes House and in retirement. Even in the last few years of her life her spirit was, as ever, indomitable. We will not see her like again."
Sir Colin Lucas: "Lady Williams was a brave and graceful woman. This is very much the end of an era."
Professor Don Markwell: "Lady Williams was friend to countless Rhodes Scholars. It was a delight to welcome her back to Rhodes House many times when I was Warden. Intelligent, elegant, engaged, and strong, she was always a stimulating companion. Who could forget her talking about entering Hitler's bunker in 1945 when British forces entered Berlin? Or her lively accounts of Rhodes Scholars from her and Bill's time at Rhodes House, not least their good friend Bill Clinton? So many of us will treasure warm memories of Gill."
Mr Charles Conn: "I had the wonderful fortune of getting to know Lady Williams in the early days of my tenure and she attended several events at Rhodes House. She will be much missed by all who knew her, and I am sure many Scholars will return to Rhodes House in September to celebrate her life and to look back on all that she achieved, as well as on her great kindnesses."
Lady Williams was featured in the Rhodes Scholar magazine in 2014. The piece is reprinted below as it powerfully captures her zest for life and enthusiasm.
An hour with… Lady Williams
Lady Williams was the wife of Sir Edgar (Bill) Williams who was Warden of Rhodes House between 1952 and 1980, having previously been Fellow & Tutor in History at Balliol College and served in the Army as Montgomery's Chief Intelligence Officer during World War II. Today, Lady Williams lives in North Oxford and at the age of 91 still fondly remembers their time at Rhodes House and the many Scholars that she got to know so well.
Visiting her recently for the purpose of this article, we spoke over a cup of tea, something which will have been familiar to many Rhodes Scholars who sought comfort or conversation from Lady Williams during their time here. She has also met Rhodes Scholars from more recent classes as she has attended a number of recent Going Down and Coming Up dinners in Milner Hall, as well as Rhodes events during the annual September Alumni Weekend.
Warden and Lady Williams started a tradition of Sunday morning gatherings which allowed Scholars from all countries and colleges to get to know each other, in a similar fashion to the 'Meet and Mingle' events of today. Lady Williams found her time at Rhodes House to be ‘totally absorbing’ and very enjoyable. This was despite the many challenges of coping with post-war food and petrol rationing, bringing up a young family and dealing with a global context which was still recovering after the Second World War. Rhodes Scholars visited the Williams family at their cottage in north Devon and recuperated at Rhodes House after any period of illness or injury.