Williams becomes Harvard University graduate

Published 2:03 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Managing Editor

2019 Chilton County High School graduate Cade Williams achieved a feat many young aspiring scholars dream about on May 25 graduating from Harvard University. Williams graduated summa cum laude with an artium baccalaures, or a bachelor of arts, in anthropology and folklore and mythology, and also a minor in Russian studies.

“We are all so incredibly proud of all that Cade has accomplished and are so grateful for the ongoing support of his family, friends, faculty and the entire community,” Cade’s mother Kimberly Williams said. “It was a true blessing to see him selected to attend such an exceptional college as Harvard and then to witness him being honored by his faculty for his dedication to learning was an experience we will forever cherish.”

William’s journey at one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world did not come without its bumps. He spent over a year away from the Harvard campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not affect his drive to remain steadfast in his studies.

“It was a kind of a long process, especially with COVID happening in the middle,” Williams said. “It felt good and I was proud, but I was humbled at the same time and was happy my family was able to come up.”

Williams was joined by his family at his graduation ceremony on May 25. Along with his family, Williams’ english teacher Rebecca Barron also attended the ceremony. Barron taught Williams for three of his four years at CCHS including in AP English and AP Literature.

During a class at CCHS, Barron asked Williams to read “Crime and Punishment,” a Russian novel, to see how it would fit into the class. Williams read the book and came back with observations and Barron began using the book during her teachings. It also spurred Williams to minor in Russian studies while at Harvard.

Barron and her husband were planning a trip to the northeast in the future. When Barron spoke to Williams’ mother about his graduation she rearranged her plans so the trip fell to where she could attend.

“After teaching for 28 years it was the first time I had a student of mine graduate from an Ivy League school, and I was so proud of Cade and appreciative of his family for letting me be a part of that. It is one of the highlights of my career,” Barron said. “He was an exemplary student, and he was a dream student to have. He has a natural gift for academics, but beyond that he is the most hard-working person I have ever met. He went above and beyond in anything that I asked of him.”

Williams said Barron helped him with some of the college essays he had to write during his senior year.

“I really appreciated her making the time to come up because it was a big milestone in my life,” Williams said. “It reminded me of my roots, and I try to do a good job at remembering where I come from and everyone who has helped me out along the way. Having her there and my family there shows that it did not happen by accident and there have always been people behind me who have given me guidance.”

While at Harvard, Williams worked at WHRB-FM student radio and hosted some shows and wrote for the Harvard Independent newspaper. He also taught English as a second language to Vietnamese adults in Boston.

Williams said some of best memories at Harvard were hosting shows at the student radio station and meeting a lot of friends through that. One of Williams’ friends he met at Harvard is a nationally recognized poet.

“I met a ton of great people doing a lot of interesting stuff,” Williams said. “All the friends I made and all the people I was able to come into contact with (were great), who I most likely would not have met otherwise (besides coming to Harvard).”

Williams became a member of Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Alpha Iota of Massachusetts, America’s most prestigious honor society. The Phi Beta Kappa honor society was founded in 1776 at The College William & Mary, and Harvard’s chapter was chartered in 1781. Harvard’s chapter is the oldest continuously operating chapter in America.

Williams was also a recipient of the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for his thesis project — “Nothing Beside Remains: A Case Study of Confederate Monument Removal in New Orleans.” A copy of William’s thesis will be placed in permanent storage in the Harvard University archives. Another copy will be a hard cover bound and displayed in Lamont Library on the Harvard campus for two academic years starting in the fall term of 2023. After two years, Williams will receive a bound copy of his thesis project.

Williams was a John Harvard Scholar every semester he was there, which is students in the top 5% of their respective classes based on GPA from the previous academic year.

“I think it is nice to receive some recognition for the work I put into my academic work,” Williams said. “At the same time, I think all my classmates up there were really brilliant. I put in a lot of work into my academics while I was up there and I did not want to slack off when I got the opportunity to come up here and do something different and exciting.”

There were about seven other Alabama natives who graduated in Williams’ class at Harvard on May 25, but he was from the most rural area with the others hailing from Birmingham, Huntsville and other metropolitan areas.

Williams said that anyone who has a dream to attend an Ivy League school probably already has the capability to do so, but even for him it was a shot in the dark on if he would get in as well.

“The worst thing you can do is apply and get rejected, but you are already not at the school so you might as well apply and see what happens, and that is what I did,” Williams said. “You never really know with those types of things … It is not a judgment of your value but more just how the system. If someone feels like they want to try, they should try.”

Williams said he believes and is proud he debunked some of the stereotypes people he met at Harvard may have had about Alabama.