By Jasna Rodulfa
Jack B. Williams, along with fellow journalists Robert Giles, R. John Mitchell, Robert Schrepf, and Robert Turner, received the Yankee Quill award on November 16. The Yankee Quill is widely thought of as the highest individual honor bestowed to a journalist in the New England region. What distinguishes it from other honors is that it recognizes a journalist’s lifetime achievement, rather than any single achievement.
When one reviews Williams’s lifetime achievement as a journalist, it becomes clear why the Academy of New England Journalists decided to recognize him with this honor.
Williams’s career in television journalism spans from the 1960s, and since then he has been recognized with numerous awards related to quality news reporting and devotion to his community. He is best known as a news anchor for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV News, where he has co-anchored with Tony Pepper, Liz Walker, and now Lisa Hughes. In his profile in the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame at Massasoit Community College, he is praised as a man of “considerable wit with an engaging air presence.”
Each Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., he hosts a segment called “Wednesday’s Child.” Created by Williams himself, it features a special-needs child from the area who is seeking a home. In Yankee Magazine, Williams is quoted as saying, “I had two sisters old enough to be my mother. I was the first boy. I was adored. My feet never touched the ground until I was 16. I had no idea of child abuse. My idea of abuse was no dessert.” In contrast to his childhood, he knew that there was a problem in foster care — that many children with special needs were continuing to be disregarded by potential adoptive parents. With six children of his own, Williams became inspired to help those with special needs whom did not have a family.
In 1981 he began working closely with the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange in order to profile special-needs children on the news. Since then, “Wednesday’s Child” has featured over 1,100 children, many of whom have been able to find homes as a result. Additionally, in 2000 he created the Jack Williams Endowment for Wednesday’s Child, which has provided millions of dollars in grants for organizations concerning children and family services. For this work, Williams received the 1997 Adoption Excellence Award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the 2008 Angel in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
Other awards he has received include eight honorary doctorate degrees, a Presidential Citation from Ronald Reagan in 1986, the 2001 Governor’s Award from the New England Emmy organization, and the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association.
Williams is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Oregon, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in journalism. He is also the Secretary-Treasurer of the Phi Beta Kappa Fellows. Membership in the Phi Beta Kappa Fellows is restricted to 300 Phi Beta Kappa members who have best exhibited their commitment to the ideals of the Society. In his acceptance speech for the 2010 Brudnoy Award from Emerson College’s Phi Beta Tau Journalistic honorary society, Williams talks specifically about his mission as a Fellow of Phi Beta Kappa: “to expose the truth about education—that we need to learn to learn, which is the whole idea of a liberal arts education.”
Jasna Rodulfa is a new Phi Beta Kappa member from Bucknell University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and East Asian studies. Bucknell is home to the Mu of Pennsylvania chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.