About Helen Bass Williams

Founder of the Academic Success Center, and Purdue's first African American faculty member

Who was Helen Bass Williams?

Helen Bass Williams was the first African American faculty member at Purdue University.

As the co-founder of both the Learning Center (now Academic Success Center) and Purdue's Black Caucus of Faculty and Staff, Helen's legacy and advocacy work for the Boilermaker community are still felt more than 50 years later.

This page is dedicated to sharing the legacy of Helen Bass Williams as it pertains to the Academic Success Center. For more information on Helen's life, please visit the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.

photo of helen bass williams looking at the camera, sepia colored

Timeline of helen bass williams' life and work

The following timeline highlights several events in Helen's life which were key in leading up to her work at Purdue University and the founding of the Academic Success Center.

1916

Helen is born on March 16 in Dewmaine, IL to Lillian (Spears) and Homer Kelley

1952

Becomes faculty member at Benedict College, historically Black college in South Carolina

1964

Moves to Mississippi to continue advocacy work, begins teaching at Tougaloo College

1967

Becomes director of Mississippi Action for Progress

1968

Begins work at Purdue University as Assistant Professor of Modern Langauges, becomes first African American faculty member

1970

Co-writes original proposal for the Purdue Learning Center (now ASC) with Associate Dean Earl Notestine

1978

Retires from Purdue University

1985

Named the Southern Illinois "Woman of the Year"

1991

Helen passes away on December 13 in Colp, IL at the age of 75

2022

Academic Success Center is renamed in honor of Helen Bass Williams

Awards and Accolades

In recognition for many years of service and advocacy, Helen Bass Williams received myriad awards during her lifetime, and even posthumously.

For more information on Helen's life and work, we encourage everyone to visit the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections.

National Red Cross Award

1961

OEO Rural Service Award

1966

Purdue Old Master

1967

The Lane Bryant Citation

1968

Fellow, National Medication Association of Mississippi

1969

Leather Medal, Purdue SDX

1973

Outstanding Teaching Award, Alpha Phi Alpha

1974

Helen B. Schleman Gold Medallion

1975

Southern Illinois "Woman of the Year"

1985

Purdue University, 610 Purdue Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-4600

© 2018 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Office of Academic Success Center

Trouble with this page? Disability-related accessibility issue? Please contact the Academic Success Center at academicsuccess@purdue.edu