Edward Williams was one whose continuous quest for knowledge led him to diverse fields of study throughout his life. Best known as the donor of Williams Hall, Williams also presided over the meeting that selected brown and white as Lehigh’s colors.
Williams earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale in 1872. He worked as a surveyor for the Pennsylvania Railroad before entering Lehigh in the fall of 1873. Williams earned two Lehigh degrees, chemistry in 1875, and mining engineering in 1876, and worked as a mining engineer before returning to Lehigh in 1881 as professor of mining engineering and geology. As a Lehigh professor, Williams translated geology texts from French and German, developed courses in biology and refereed athletic contests. He founded Tau Beta Phi in 1885 to give top students in engineering the same recognition as the Phi Beta Kappa did for top students in the humanities.
A hearing problem forced Williams to retire from Lehigh in 1902. He returned to his native Vermont, continuing his studies in geology, foreign languages, history, and genealogy. As a board member of the town library, he read every book before it was placed on the shelf. An avid Lehigh booster, Williams served as president of the Alumni Association and funded Williams Hall, which housed the departments of mechanical engineering, mining and geology. He also provided funding for the Williams Prizes, given for outstanding work in English, journalism, and theater. Lehigh bestowed an honorary doctorate on Williams in 1913.