An honorary white coat

Thomas J. Lawley and James B. Williams

Dean Thomas J. Lawley and Jimmy Williams

Every fall, our first-year students receive white coats in a ceremony marking their official entry into medicine.

The school held a similar event early this year for Emory Trustee Emeritus Jimmy Williams, who donned his own white coat during the dedication of the James B. Williams Medical Education Building. It is a fitting tribute. The retired president and CEO of SunTrust Banks devoted 35 years of service to Emory’s Board of Trustees, the university, and the Woodruff Health Sciences Center Board, which governs the medical school.

After graduating from Emory College in 1955, Mr. Williams joined Trust Company of Georgia and rose to become president. In 1979, legendary Coca-Cola leader Robert Woodruff asked him to chair Emory’s capital campaign, which had just received $105 million from the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Foundation, then the largest gift ever to an educational institution. Thus, Mr. Williams served Emory during a remarkable period of growth. He counseled Emory on its expansion in health care. He encouraged growth in biomedical research with construction of the O. Wayne Rollins Research Center, the Emory Vaccine Center, and the Neurosciences Center. In 1996, he became founding chair of the Woodruff Fund Inc., which enabled construction of the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building and the Emory Winship Cancer Institute Building. More recently, Mr. Williams and the Woodruff Foundation helped support construction of the Emory-Children’s Center building to house pediatrics. During his tenure, Emory became one of the nation’s top 20 research-oriented medical schools.

The white coat presentation to Williams brings to mind another cherished part of the student ceremony when all receive a copy of On Doctoring, a collection of essays co-edited by our own John Stone. Sadly, Stone lost a short battle with cancer last November.  (For more about him, see A Beautiful Life.) He brought joy and beauty to our lives in many ways—as a physician, teacher, poet, writer, and friend. Stone had a special gift for words and often punctuated his conversations with “thank goodness” and “glory be.” Both are apt expressions to describe two remarkable people. Thank goodness for Jimmy Williams and John Stone and their lasting contributions to the School of Medicine. Thank goodness and glory be!


Dean Thomas J. Lawley
Emory University School of Medicine

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Emory Medicine - Spring 2009