Rusty Williams

Williams promotes lifelong learning, tutoring

Rusty Williams
Rusty Williams

By Dennis Durband, NPC Staff Writer

Rusty Williams mentored many fellow students in his time as a college student, and though he’s moved on to his career now he’s still investing in the academic success of college students. As one who strongly supports and promotes life-long learning, Williams is the recipient of NPC’s Fall 2017 Outstanding Alumni award. This high achiever also overcame a life-threatening car accident and inspires those around him.

A 2015 NPC graduate, Williams is working as an environmental protection technician at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in Yuma. On a part-time basis, he also tutors math, biology and science students at Arizona Western College.

At the age of 17, Williams was seriously injured in a car accident near his hometown of Heber. He spent six months in a burn center, three months of which were in an induced coma and a lengthy time in physical therapy, enduring more than 40 surgeries. Williams’ right arm was amputated above the elbow due to fourth-degree burns and, aside from half a thumb, all the fingers on his left hand were amputated. He says it took a while to adapt, but amazingly, this traumatic series of events was not enough to deter him from moving forward with his life and education.

Through Ashford University’s online program, Williams accrued 39 credit hours of business education. He gained membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Also during this time, he helped his step-son with homework and realized the fulfilment that comes with helping students who need course work assistance.

In 2014, Williams enrolled at NPC as a science student. He thrived in his classes and was a dependable work study student. He received a Supporting Educational Endeavors for Degrees in Science scholarship.

Sandy Manor, Rusty Williams, Hallie Lucas & Pat Lopez
Sandy Manor, Rusty Williams, Hallie Lucas & Pat Lopez

Williams said three NPC instructors made a significant impact on his education -- Patricia Lopez in biology, Thomas Hodgkins in chemistry and Gary Mack in mathematics. Lopez recalls that

“Despite considerable physical limitations, Rusty completed all of the science labs, mostly surpassing his peers in performance.” Hodgkins said, “Rusty was an excellent student in CHM 151 and an above average student in CHM 152. I found him to be a very hard worker who refused to let his disability get in the way of his excellent academic progress.”

“No matter what the task as a Federal Work Study student at NPC, Rusty always approached each assignment with a genuine happiness to help out,” said Hallie Lucas, administrative assistant for learning.

After completing his Associate of Science degree at NPC, Williams went on to earn an Associate degree in Environmental Science at Arizona Western College with a 3.86 grade-point average.

Transferring to Northern Arizona University, Williams earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science with Magna Cum Laude distinction in May 2017. He tutored more than 100 students and received an outstanding academic achievement award. He also created a reference for students in a chemistry class and became a supplemental instruction leader in chemistry.

In the summer of 2016, Williams interned with BOR. Within a few months, he gained a full-time job with that organization as an environmental protection technician. His duties include ensuring BOR's activities are in compliance with state and federal laws, overseeing emergency preparedness in case of hazardous material releases and providing project research assistance for senior employees.

Williams is planning to work with child burn survivors to encourage them with his positive attitude. “I'm just a person who never gives up,” he says. “It's part of my personality. I'm a very dedicated individual.”

The NPC Outstanding Alumni award came as a surprise to Williams, who said, “I'm very happy to receive this honor. It's for people promoting education, and I really enjoy helping students understand and get the help they need with their classes.”

Williams is far from through with his education. He hopes to pursue a master's or doctoral degree in an ecology-related area like environmental engineering or environmental chemistry.

Four members of the NPC faculty and staff nominated Williams for the Outstanding Alumni award. They are Lopez and Lucas; Sandy Manor, coordinator of Disability Resource & Access; and Colleen Readel, administrative assistant for student services. They wrote: “We believe that Rusty has a profound effect on everyone who has the privilege of meeting and getting to know him. He is a walking, breathing example to never give up and to pursue your dreams. Among his many amazing qualities are persistence, determination, integrity and kindness. He's a hard worker and a person who meets challenges head-on.”

NPC's District Governing Board honored Williams during its November 21, 2017 regular meeting in Holbrook. He will also receive a plaque, a certificate for three free credits at NPC and a one-year pass to all Performing Arts Center events.

To read more about previous NPC Outstanding Alumnus Award winners or to nominate an NPC graduate for this award, visit www.npc.edu/alumni-award-recipients.