Richard B. Williams, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, was given the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Colorado Board of Regents in recognition of his dedicated service to American Indian students and their communities.
Richard B. Williams (Oglala Lakota/Northern Cheyenne) is a passionate and committed advocate for the education of American Indians, excelling as a fundraiser, scholar and fierce champion of Native peoples in the United States. Since 1997, he has served as president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, a national non-profit scholarship fundraising organization for American Indian students attending tribal colleges and universities which provide culturally based education and are run by the tribes.
Williams was the first American Indian to graduate from the University of Nebraska Lincoln, receiving a B.A. (magna cum laude) in 1975. Concurrently, he finished an independent study program at the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in Boulder, Colorado, where he continued his work as a paralegal after graduation. In 1987, Williams completed a M.A. in educational administration at the University of Wyoming, Laramie.
At NARF, Williams worked on landmark cases concerning the civil rights of American Indians in prison. With the assistance of Wallace Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man, he helped establish the first sweat lodge at a correctional institution. He also developed a plan to build a 50-bed minimum-security prison on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, where he served as the first warden.
Williams has dedicated himself to the goal of American Indian education throughout his career. At CU-Boulder, he directed several initiatives, including the American Indian Upward Bound Program, Minority Affairs and the University Learning Center (now the Student Academic Service Center [SASC]). Williams also helped to establish the White Antelope Memorial Scholarship that provides financial assistance to American Indian students. He directed a summer initiative, Tribal Resource Institute in Business, Engineering & Science (TRIBES), a privately funded program that augmented university resources for students.
At the American Indian College Fund, Williams has raised more than $50 million for scholarship support for Native students since 1997, helping 17 faculty members complete their doctorates. He has helped raise more than $45 million in private funds for the accredited Tribal College and University (TCU) campuses to improve campus conditions and $17.5 million for projects to preserve Native intellectual capital. Currently, federal funds for TCU campus improvements total more than $250 million and the TCUs are regarded as an example of how cultural determination fuels educational success. In 2007 Williams received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island for his work in Native education.