One word sums up the value of the FFA experience for Ken Williams - “Outstanding.”
Williams says, “I think it’s (FFA) the greatest youth development organization in the U.S."
He credits the FFA program for boosting FFA members' self-confidence and leadership skills.
Williams speaks with personal experience with FFA through high school, two terms as a state FFA officer, and a commitment of time and monetary support to FFA and agriculture education as an adult.
Over the last 20-plus years, Williams has been a leader in the Arizona Agricultural Education-FFA Foundation as a founder, treasurer for two years, president for four years, and continuing active board member.
In addition, he and his wife Judy have personally funded scholarships that have benefited dozens of agriculture students.
For this commitment, Ken and Judy Williams have been selected as the recipients of the 2018 Blue and Gold Award to be presented at the 2nd annual Blue and Gold Gala Jan. 27 at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz.
“Ken really shows us what it means to be a supporter of FFA,” says Heather Rayner, Arizona Ag Education-FFA Foundation vice president, farmer, and gala chair.
“He’s not only an exceptional donor; he’s one of those wonderful people who support our youth by serving on the board for so many years.”
And it’s only fitting, Rayner says, that Williams’ wife of 57 years should be honored for her role.
Ken was born in Missouri and moved to Phoenix in 1953 where he participated in FFA at Phoenix Union High School, including two years as chapter president. He later served as the State FFA Secretary and President from 1958-59.
“It was an outstanding experience,” he said. “FFA helped in my personal development and it confirmed what I wanted to do” - work in agriculture in some form. FFA had a dramatic impact.”
In 1963, he was among the first graduates of a new agribusiness program at Arizona State College and worked for 18 years at Valley National Bank, including in its agriculture credit department.
In 1980, Williams purchased a horticulture business in Mesa which grew to 900,000 square feet of greenhouses and shade houses in Mesa and Queen Creek producing poinsettias.
Today, the Williams’ contribute regularly to the foundation, says Cheryl Goar, executive director of the Arizona Nursery Association (ANA). These students now have careers in the nursery business, plus as agriculture teachers, landscape architects, and other professions.
In addition, the Williams’ established an endowment within the ANA Foundation that now funds four scholarships annually at $1,000 each.
“We’re very fortunate to have Ken as a member of the association,” Goar said. “He is always there when we need him. He is passionate in his support of the industry, and Judy has been by his side. They’re a great couple. We’re thrilled they’re getting this recognition.”
The Williams also fund a scholarship program through the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University. They support the Salvation Army and the Billy Graham Association, plus other causes.