September 19, 2014
In Loving Memory of Roger E. Williams
Roger E. Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mount Hermon Christian Camps and Conference Center, went to his heavenly home far too soon for those who loved him, on Sunday, September 14, 2014 at 3:50 p.m. Williams succumbed to the cancer that he called “his insidious dance partner” after more than two years of arduous struggle during which he continued to teach, preach and provide visionary leadership for the ministry that he loved. His death came just a few days after his 21st anniversary in this role at Mount Hermon. His 20th year was celebrated with close friends with a Rapturous Roast, recalling the unforgettable impact he had on thousands of people. He was 67 years young.
Williams died surrounded by family and friends in the home that he loved at Mount Hermon. He is survived by his bride of 43 years, Rachel Ann Anderson Williams (whom he met while both were serving on summer camp staff during college); two daughters, Sara Williams Bentley (Mrs. Jeremy) of Colorado, and Joy Williams Yetton (Mrs. Nate) of Tennessee; two grandsons, Dylan Bentley and Miles Yetton; his mother, Ruth Williams of Atlanta, GA; and a sister, Ginger Payne (Mrs. Chris) of Colorado. He was preceded in death by his father, The Reverend Dr. Gene Williams.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from Michigan State University with a degree in Communications, Williams studied Theology at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Returning to the United States, he studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, (Deerfield, IL), while employed by the seminary in key roles in public relations and advancement. After seminary Williams served as Legislative Assistant to a congressman in Washington, D.C. He was influenced, there, by the ministry of the Chaplain of the Senate, Richard Halverson, and they formed friendships with a small group who continue to be involved in one another’s lives to this day. Following this he assumed a marketing management position with Computer Science Corporation where he eventually directed the company’s business division marketing efforts in five Midwestern states.
Williams took an abrupt turn from the fast track in 1981 to accept a call to ministry and began his career directing camps and conference centers. He has served at the executive leader at Camp Barakel (Fairview, MI), America’s Keswick (Whiting, NJ), and Gull Lake, (Hickory Corners, MI), before coming to Mount Hermon in 1993. His legislative and business backgrounds enabled him to bring professionalism, an entrepreneurial spirit and unique perspective to this calling which has impacted not only the ministries he has led, but has also affected thousands of camp and conference centers nationwide. He has served in regional and national leadership in the Christian Camp and Conference Association since his first days in camping, and has been a prolific speaker and teacher on many topics at hundreds of conferences. As an ordained minister of the gospel, Williams followed in his father’s footsteps as a pastor to many through his para-church leadership.
At Mount Hermon Williams’ administration has spanned the “dot-com” bust and the “great recession,” with Mount Hermon continuing to thrive and have tremendous ministry impact through it all. During Mount Hermon’s Centennial Campaign he was instrumental in receiving both Whisper Canyon and Kidder Creek into their family of camps, expanding the ministry footprint outside of the Santa Cruz Mountains. His visionary leadership empowered his staff to pioneer outreach into non-traditional groups using ministry tools such as Outdoor Science School, the Redwood Canopy Tour and the soon-to-be-built Velocity Bike Park. His enthusiasm and encouragement served as an inspiration to many people.
Williams also demonstrated a great love for his community, serving with the Mountain Parks Foundation, the Rotary Club of San Lorenzo Valley, the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council, and various other committees. In 2013 the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation honoring Williams for his contribution to the community.
Known for his “superfluous verbiage,” Williams enjoyed word play, puns, story-telling and banter, but never at someone else’s expense. The master of the corny joke, his series of quips describing life are unforgettable to all who knew him. When he was excited about something he would exclaim, “That will put pep in your step, glee in your knee, zest in your chest, and spunk in your trunk,” or “That’ll get your gizzard going!” He embraced life with vigor and was “all in,” all the time. He was a fanatical Giants fan, a meticulous craftsman with wood, a gourmet cook, a voracious reader of westerns, an advocate for Jeeps and Harleys, a North American big game sportsman and fisherman, a marathon finisher, and diligent student of the Bible. A prolific teacher and writer, his files include hundreds of sermons, seminars and articles that have deeply impacted many thousands of people all over the world. He loved to teach about God by expositing the many names that refer to Him in Scripture, and he was passionate about proclaiming the extravagant love and grace God has for each and every person. He celebrated and enjoyed people and was a great cheerleader in encouraging others to be who God created them to be. Above all, Williams loved to introduce people to a personal relationship with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A committed husband and father, Williams glowed when talking about the beauty and character of his daughters nearly as much as their accomplishments, and became giddy when talking about his deep love for his wife and companion in ministry, Rachel.
A private gathering was held shortly after Williams’ home-going for family and intimate friends. A memorial service will be held at Sunday, October 26, 2014 at 2:30 pm. Details will be posted on the Mount Hermon website at mounthermon.org or on Rachel’s blog at rogandrach.net. A memorial fund has been established with gifts directed to helping Mount Hermon achieve the envisioned future that Roger has articulated for those who follow.