Father's memory prompts endowment W. Williams' scholarship first by a Terps athlete

February 11, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Walt Williams could not have attended college without a scholarship.

But he was fortunate. Williams' father was not.

That's why Williams, a 1992 Maryland graduate now with the NBA's Sacramento Kings, has established the Walter A. Williams Sr. scholarship fund at Maryland in memory of his father, who passed away in November 1992 of cancer. Williams, 26, is believed to be the youngest person and the only student-athlete to endow a scholarship at Maryland.

Twin sisters Sherlita and Sherita Hawkins of Riverdale became the first recipients in a ceremony yesterday, being awarded a pair of full four-year scholarships.

Williams and his father had a close relationship that centered on sports. His father cheered behind his son's bench at every game, which occasionally made him late to his night job.

"He never had the opportunity to finish his education," said Williams, a starting forward averaging 14.8 points in his fourth season with the Kings. "I felt it was up to me to have a scholarship in his name to help people like himself who didn't have a chance to go to college."

Williams especially remembers how everyone seemed to like his father. And he wanted to keep that recollection alive.

"They were more like brothers or friends than father and son," said Williams' mother, Theresa, who is on the five-member scholarship selection committee. "They did about everything and talked about everything just like friends do."

Although she knew the tight bond between her husband and son, Theresa never expected that her son would go to this extreme. Williams even waited to tell his mother, informing her of the scholarship at an award presentation for him at a Greenbelt hotel last year.

"I was shocked," Theresa said. "I couldn't believe it. I couldn't help but cry. He understands he could not go to school if not for a scholarship."

Williams set up the fund with a $125,000 donation. Income will be generated by the principal, which will go toward future scholarships.

Among the criteria for the award are that applicants must be African-American, maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.5 and have financial need.

Williams, from Temple Hills, said other student-athletes should think more about giving back to the community and become role models.

"We're always in the limelight and should present a good image," Williams said. "It's only natural that kids watch the NBA and the NFL on TV and look up to them."

And Williams wants to give as many people as possible the same chance to go to Maryland, where he played for four years after opting not to enter the NBA draft at the end of his junior season.

"I could have easily been out of there, but I stayed," said Williams, who attends Terps football and basketball games. "I want to present that same opportunity of four years here that I had. I'm very fortunate. Not many people live out a dream they've had as a little kid."

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