Williams, Rhonda M.
About Rhonda M. Williams
A European beech is dedicated to Rhonda M. Williams, the director of the UMD Afro-American Studies Program from 1986 to 2000. Dr. Williams completed her undergraduate education in 1978 at Radcliffe College, the female co-institution of the (at the time) all-male Harvard College, and earned a PhD in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983. Dr. Williams was widely published and respected for her work, with research article titles such as “How Does it Feel to be Free?: Reflections on Black-White Economic Inequality in the Era of Color-Blind Law” and “Competition, Race, Agency, and Community.” On top of her pivotal role as director, professor and academic, Dr. Williams was a consultant in her field and informed much of the curriculum of the Afro-American Studies Program.1 She also lectured at various institutions throughout the country, such as the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota,2 and spent nine years working on the Multicultural Teacher Education Training Institute for teachers at Prince George's County public schools. To commemorate her achievements and support students of the social sciences and public policy, the Rhonda M. Williams Undergraduate Scholarship and Graduate Fellowship fund were created. Dr. Williams passed away of cancer on November 7, 2000 at her home in Hyattsville, MD.1
About the European Beech
The memorial tree dedicated to Rhonda Williams is located on Morrill Quad in front of LeFrak Hall. It is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica), a large deciduous tree known for its smooth, gray bark, short trunk and low branches.3 It is distinguished from the similar American beech (Fagus grandifolia) through its shorter stature, darker bark and shorter leaves. This tree is native to central and southern Europe and was brought to America by European colonists in the mid-1700s. Its species designation, sylvatica, is Latin for “growing in woods” or “forest-loving,” a perfect description of a large, shade-providing tree. The European beech usually grows to 50-60 feet tall with a dense, rounded-spreading crown of foliage and a trunk diameter of 2-3 feet. This specific tree is 27.0 feet tall with a trunk diameter of 9.0 inches and crown radius of 15.4 feet. The European beech has oval-shaped to elliptical, wavy, dark green leaves with parallel veins, and they turn a golden bronze in autumn. Yellow-green flowers bloom in April-May, with male flowers in globular clusters and female flowers in short spikes. The female flowers form triangular beechnuts that ripen in the fall and are technically edible, although eating them is not recommended on campus.4
Written by Joanna Barton