While attending Brooklyn College for his undergraduate studies, Dr. Robert J. Williams Jr. took a phonetics course, which introduced him to the topic of speech language pathology. Dr. Williams, a Black English dialect speaker, experienced difficulty hearing the vowels and consonants of the General American dialect. Utilizing the speech lab at Brooklyn College, he mastered the General American dialect and sought to help others who struggled with the same dilemma. He received a Bachelor of Arts in speech and English in 1972, followed by a Master of Science in communication disorders from Emerson College in 1974. Three years later, he obtained his Doctor of Philosophy in speech/language pathology, audiology, linguistics and psychology from Florida State University, and in 1985, received a Master of Public Health in health administration from Columbia University.
Holding several certifications in his career, Dr. Williams is certified in advanced studies in educational administration and supervision and as a director of special education by Georgia State University, and he holds a certificate of advanced studies in school district administration from Long Island University. Holding a school administration and supervision certificate in the State of New York, he is also licensed as a speech language pathologist in the State of New York. He obtained national accreditation as a certified grant specialist and certified grant administrator in 2007.
Since 2002, Dr. Williams has excelled as a speech language pathologist and teacher of the speech improvement program at P.S. 396 in the New York City Board of Education District 75. Alongside this role, he has also served as an adjunct assistant professor of speech, communication and theater at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2014. Prior to these roles, Dr. Williams was a senior speech language pathology consultant for Symphony Rehabilitation Service, Inc., a tenured speech language pathologist for Atlanta Public Schools, an associate director and coordinator at the Harlem Hospital Speech and Hearing Center at Columbia University, and an assistant professor in speech language pathology at Howard University. He commenced his career in 1977 as an assistant professor in speech language pathology at Old Dominion University.
Civically involved as well, Dr. Williams serves as president of the 575 Hancock Street Housing Development Fund, Inc., in which he oversees the maintenance and renovations of the apartment building. He was also a volunteer for the Community Emergency Response Team and a parent advocate for students with communication and learning disabilities through the American Speech and Hearing Association.
In recognition of his outstanding feats, Dr. Williams received a 2017 Outstanding Leadership Award for coordinating the achievement and service ceremonies related to students with special needs from the New York City Department of Education and the 1996 Pioneer Award in system technology from the Program for Exceptional Children at the John F. Kennedy School of Atlanta Public Schools. In 1990, he was named to the National Distinguished Service Registry in Speech-Language Pathology by the Library of Congress, which he cites as a career highlight.