Pepperdine Remembers “Big” Don Williams

The Pepperdine community was saddened to learn that Don Williams, long time director of “Thanksgiving Youthfest” and former associate director of church services at Pepperdine, passed away early today in Chickasha, Oklahoma. He was 75.

Don was a special counselor and associate director in Church Services from 1971-1992. He was an adjunct faculty member in the Religion Division from 1989-1992.

“Big Don” as he was affectionately known, traveled over 100,000 miles a year, for several years, speaking at youth rallies, in seminars, and at youth camps, bringing thousands of teens to Christ. His many years of distinguished service to the Churches of Christ was marked by unbridled enthusiasm, boundless energy, and a contagious spirit of love for Pepperdine and the Churches of Christ.

“Big Don was a big man with a big heart. His role in the development of strong relations between Pepperdine and the Churches of Christ was of vital importance in our history,” noted Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton.

Jerry Rushford, former Director of Church Relations at Pepperdine added this reflection on his long-time friend and colleague: “As long as I live, I will treasure the years I worked with ‘Big Don’ in Church Relations. He had a profound love for Christ and the Church and it spilled over into every area of his life. He was loved and admired by young and old alike. He loved his students, and his students adored him and camped out around his office in Thornton. His door was always open, and he was kindness personified. Don was by nature the great encourager, and he saw the best in everyone he met. I can still hear his contagious laughter echoing down the halls of Thornton’s third floor. He was truly one of the most beloved human beings I have ever known.”

Bill Henegar also worked with Williams over an extensive period of time and added this note:  “Don was a pioneer in the early days of the Malibu campus, recruiting students for Seaver College and playing the role of mentor, friend and counselor.  His office on the third floor of TAC was stuffed with floor-to-ceiling books, and was filled with soft drinks and candy to lure faculty, staff and students into his web of concern and love.  Tears were wiped away and problems were lifted to God.  Everyone was safe in Don’s care.  It’s difficult to estimate the great good he was able to do in his tenure at Pepperdine.  His love and his laughter will be missed.”

UPDATE: The memorial service is scheduled for Monday, November 19 at 10:30 a.m. at the Cyril High School Auditorium in Cyril, OK.  Tim Lewis and Joe Barnett will officiate.

5 thoughts on “Pepperdine Remembers “Big” Don Williams

  1. Big Don put a huge impact on my life I aired him I have been going to church with him for the last 5 years in Cyril, Oklahoma! I’m really gonna miss him! The funeral service will be Monday, November 19, 2012 at 10 am ease come show your respect for this great man!

    1. Big Don put a huge impact on my life I admired him I have been going to church with him for the last 5 years in Cyril, Oklahoma! I’m really gonna miss him! The funeral service will be Monday, November 19, 2012 at 10 am at the Cyril, Oklahoma high school auditorium please come show your respect for this great man!

  2. Big was always such a friend and mentor both in Lubbock and Los Angeles. But he also knew how to enjoy life to the fullest – when I first started as the Youth minister at the Broadway congregation in Lubbock at age 23, he and Jim Moss (another former Broadway youth minister) stopped by to “have a chat” late on a Tuesday afternoon. I was getting ready for my first large scale youth group Bible study at one of the larger homes of one of our families – most of the sr. high kids were going to be there to officially welcome me and I was nervous. Knowing this, Big said, “Hey, why don’t we go get a coke and visit a bit and then I can just drop you off at your Bible study?” I thought that sounded good, so off we went. We certainly had a good visit, but every time I said something about heading over to the study, he and Jim would shrug and say “Oh we have plenty of time”. When they finally agreed to take me, I was 30 minutes late! They both had a very good laugh about it all and of course, came in to explain what was had happened. Later, I realized there may have been more than a good joke in all that – there are some things just not worth worrying about.

    Later, when I moved to LA to start my time at Pepperdine, he made sure I knew how to successfully navigate LAX, find the best restaurants, who I should get to know at Pepperdine and about congregations across the southland. He was someone from home who always took interest in my development and experience, encouraging me every step in ways that only he could do: With wisdom and a lot of laughing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>