ORONO — Beryl Warner Williams Hall at the University of Maine will be dedicated in a ceremony on Friday, April 28 to honor the legacy of the Bangor native and UMaine’s first Black graduate to earn a degree in mathematics. Williams went on to have a distinguished academic career at Morgan State University and become an active civic leader in Baltimore.
The dedication ceremony begins at 2 p.m. in 130 Williams Hall, followed by a reception in the atrium. To attend, RSVP online at our.umaine.edu/williams. The event also will be livestreamed: umainefoundation.org/live. To request a reasonable accommodation, contact William Biberstein at 207-581-4091.
The ceremony will be attended by the descendants of Beryl Warner Williams, and the program will include UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy and notable Black mathematicians, poets, artists, musicians and descendants of Bangor’s Black community:
- Leon Woodson, professor of mathematics at Morgan State University and executive secretary emeritus of the National Association of Mathematics
- Rachael Keri Williams, member of the Williams Hall Visualization Committee, descendant historian, founder and executive director of SOAL: SavingOurAncestorsLegacy, and Beryl Warner Williams’ granddaughter
- Eve Elizabeth Williams, award-winning poet and Beryl Warner Williams’ granddaughter, “Unfiltered,” publications include AfroPunk, SonofBaldwin, KinfolkKollective, Peach Mag, Sun Magazine
- MYQ Farrow, singer-songwriter, street performer and reluctant poet, “Music is a joy, it is a revolutionary act, so joy is revolutionary,” founder and lead of FARROW — P-Funk, Jam, R&B/Soul and Old-School Folk, Albums: Agitate, Educate.
- Nancy Dymond, Bangor native, actor and educator, and first Maine-born African American to earn a bachelor’s degree in education from UMaine to teach in Maine
- Scott Warner Williams, blacksmith, publisher, poet and author, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University at Buffalo and and Beryl Warner Williams’ son, recipient of Ford Foundation, Fulbright and National Science Foundation awards, African Americans of the Diaspora author who has given over 85 invited lectures, colloquia and seminars at 58 institutions in eight countries
The post-ceremony reception in the atrium will provide an opportunity to view the two large-scale murals painted in March by artists Rachel Gloria Adams and Ryan Adams of Portland, Maine in tribute to Williams and as a celebration of Black heritage in Maine. Also in the atrium, a multimedia kiosk facilitates the lived experience of being Black in Maine through historical articles, newspaper clippings and family photos, letters and documents dating to the mid 1800s. The project leads are UMaine new media major Kacie Bond and lecturer Michael Scott, director of ASAP Media Lab.
Beryl Elisabeth Warner (1913–99) was born and raised in Bangor. In 1935, she became the first Black graduate to earn a degree in mathematics at UMaine, followed by a master’s degree in mathematics in 1940. During her years at UMaine, she was active in clubs, sports and music, including University Orchestra, and was a member of the mathematics and All Maine Women honor societies. Her thesis: A Reorganization in the Continuity of Subject Matter in Mathematics.
After receiving her master’s degree, she was barred from teaching in her home state because of her race. Williams moved to New Orleans, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and out west, building networks and teaching in Black schools and colleges across the country. She met Roger Kenton Williams, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at Claflin College. They married in 1942 and had one son, Scott. Roger Williams, the first Black psychology Ph.D. from Penn State, established Morgan State University’s Psychology Department. Scott Williams is professor emeritus of mathematics at the University at Buffalo.
Although she began her career at Morgan State with only a part-time job, Beryl Warner Willliams went on to lead the development of the evening, summer and Extension programs. She founded the Center for Continuing Education and became Morgan State’s first female academic dean. While at Morgan State, she also led the desegregation of Baltimore Public Schools, and served on the Baltimore Public Schools Board of Commissioners for 10 years (1974–84).
As a musician and artist, Beryl Warner Williams played cello and piano as a volunteer and to pay for college; later she played with the Baltimore Orchestra. Her textile art was exhibited at The Little Black Museum, the Enoch Pratt Library and other places.
Beryl Warner Williams was a champion of Black history, Black art, Africa and her students. This was reflected in her work with The Little Black Museum, African Americans in Wax Museum, the Inner-Harbor, Delta Sigma Theta, the NAACP and the National Association of Negro Women. She helped establish Baltimore and Gbaranga, Liberia as Sister Cities, and championed oral history projects, mutual aid networks and free lifetime learning programs for senior citizens in Baltimore.
She received an honorary doctorate from UMaine in 1972, and in 1995 received the Alumni Association’s Alumni Career Award. Williams died in 1999 at the age of 85. Her obituary in the Baltimore Sun is online.
In 2021, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees voted to change the name of C.C. Little Hall to Beryl Warner Williams Hall.