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Grant Williams '16 Makes an Impact

Many in the PD community have enjoyed following the career of Grant Williams ’16, who attended the University of Tennessee and was selected in the first round of the NBA draft in 2019 as a player for the Boston Celtics. Williams recently decided to create the Grant D. Williams ’16 Endowment to help students attend PD. A component of the aid award, which is to be given annually to one incoming student beginning with the current school year, is the opportunity for the recipients to be personally mentored by Williams. He spoke recently about his motivations and hopes for the gift.
Comments are edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you decide to create this endowment?

The biggest reason I decided to create the endowment was to give kids who look like me the opportunity to go to Providence Day, which is a really prestigious school and something that I was afforded an opportunity to do when I was younger (starting my freshman year), and it allowed me to become the man that I am today. It allowed me to foster many relationships and educationally put me on a sound path to success.

So that’s the thought behind it, as well as trying to give the community a sense of togetherness and allow a bit more diversity.

Q: What are some of your goals for this endowment?

Over the future, as it continues to grow, hopefully, it will add more and more kids to be able to have a close-knit group for not only mentorship and to give guidance to, but also to… continue to pay it forward as time goes on.

This is to help kids not only get to college but also put them in the best position possible to succeed. And then with Providence Day, there is a lot of opportunity and a lot of great relationships to be made and lifelong opportunities to look back at, and great memories.

I know that in my experience in high school, I still have friends to this day from school and we still maintain a great relationship. So that’s going to be a huge part as well as being able to call somewhere home that you wouldn’t necessarily have had the opportunity to. As well as to get the provided education and take that to the next step so that you’re prepared not only for university, but for afterwards in life.

Q: Why is it important to you to personally offer to be a mentor as a part of this award?

Because in my opinion, the best way to make an impact is to have a little bit of guidance. Having someone to listen to your problems (who isn’t) directly tied or invested, as well as to be able to listen to your failures, because I went to Providence Day and I understand the dynamic in school and I can look back to things that I have succeeded with and also the things that I did not succeed with.

I always say, [it’s important] to be engaged from the jump and to live, to learn, to always challenge yourself and also see different fields, not only just through sport, but academically, musically, artistically, any way possible.

And I feel like that’s why as a mentor and having been given that opportunity, I can hopefully guide them along the process and give them a little wisdom, as well as a few red flags. If things happen such that, ‘You should or should not partake in this.’

Q: What are some of your memories of your own PD mentors?

Some of my favorite memories from back at Providence Day were not only tied to my basketball coach, Brian Field ’94, but others that were involved. My English teacher, Mr. (Matt) Spence; my science teacher, Mr. (Brian) Ludwig; my math teacher, Ms. (Neely Porter ’92) Gutierrez; throughout the time they offered me great advice. Even Ms. Gutierrez telling me to go to Duke, even though I didn’t have Duke as an offer (laughs). She was so much of a positive impact in my career.

And that’s something where I look back to all the advice they gave me, whether it’s about studies, whether it’s about a certain equation, or whether it’s about what they learned from the path that they went on. And that’s where I always say having a mentor, not only through sport, but off the court, is invaluable.

I remember my friend Devon Dotson (’18) came in his junior year. (Dotson went on to become a Kansas Jayhawk and now plays for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls). And he was just as shell shocked as I was coming into a new community; establishing new relationships is always hard.

Coming from a public school, private school is so different. First day on campus, I walked in and I had the basketball shorts, T-shirt and slides on. And they looked at me and said, “No sir, that’s not how we do things.” It was funny, though, I remember my buddy at the time just started laughing and he said, “Hey, you learn, you live in your learning.”

I remember going to lunch and I used to be (really hungry) and get two meals. And the lunch lady would let me be negative in my (FLIK) balance. And that’s why I incorporated lunch into the endowment as well, because those are huge things that I looked back towards and were a big benefit towards me.

Hopefully this endowment allows you to be more at ease and comfortable within the school and allows you to create those relationships earlier and not feel out of place.

Q: It’s remarkable for an alumnus from a recent class to give a gift of this scope and impact. What message do you have for alumni who might be hesitant to be involved at a young age?

Words of advice would be just to pay it forward to the kids. As much as... it’s nice to donate and to help the campus grow itself, I feel like it’s a little bit more impactful to truly be involved in students’ lives and making sure that they feel not only comfortable, but prepared enough, not only just academically, but through social inclusion as well as self-confidence, self-worth. Because that’s something that I think I struggled with a little in the past while I was at Providence Day.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m thankful for my experiences at Providence Day. I’m just super excited for the future of this endowment. To see how this will grow and hopefully over time will be a more consistent thing and that other donors will participate. And we’ll have a community that as we say, can diversify as well as be a lot more inclusive.

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