David Williams, known by many as The Godfather, the former athletic director of Vanderbilt University, has died at the age of 71, just over a week into his retirement. His death was confirmed in a statement from Vanderbilt. David Williams’ cause of death has not been made public. The Tennessean reports that Williams collapsed on February 8 at the Pancake Pantry, a restaurant close to the Vanderbilt campus.
He is survived by his wife, Gail, four children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. In addition to his role as athletics director, Williams had also served as the school’s vice-chancellor.
Williams had just retired from his role at the school on January 31, he announced his intention to leave in September 2018. According to the Tennessean, Williams retirement party was due to be held at the school on the day that he died. On February 25, Williams was due to receive the “Breaking Down Barriers” award from the Islamic Center of Nashville as part of their
A statement from the Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos read, “David Williams stood tall on this campus, in this city and in college athletics nationally as an incomparable leader, role model and dear friend to me and so many others. We are devastated by this loss. His impact on our community is immeasurable and will be felt for generations to come. We offer our deepest condolences to Gail, his children and the entire Williams family on this immense loss.”
While current athletics director Malcolm Turner said that Williams had spent his career “blazing trails” and “championing the student-athlete.” During his tenure at the school, Vanderbilt won four national championships, two in bowling, one in baseball and one in women’s tennis. The Commodores won 19 league titles and the football team made it to six bowl games. Turner added that Williams was most proud of “his role as a husband and father.”