Former medical chief made emeritus

John “Skip” Williams, formerly one of the University’s most powerful administrators, was granted professor emeritus status by the Board of Trustees last Friday.

The Board’s approval of Williams as emeritus professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine was the first public mention that he left the University Dec. 31, after he unexpectedly went on a yearlong sabbatical last January.

Emeritus status, largely honorific, is granted to distinguished retiring faculty.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said Williams, the former provost and vice president for health affairs, told Provost Steven Lerman in November that he would retire.

“Dr. Williams spent more than 20 years at the University. He was dedicated to serving patients, students, and the George Washington community,” Lerman said. “His work has been recognized internationally, and his reach felt outside the physical boundary of our campus to the District of Columbia and indeed the world.”

Williams did not return a request for comment.

Williams began teaching at GW in 1984 as an assistant professor before moving into a rotation of administrative roles. He served as dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences from 1999 to 2003 and as vice president for health affairs from 1997 to 2010.

From 2003 to 2004, he acted as the provost for health affairs, making him the second-most powerful administrator at GW. A close colleague of former University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Williams was tasked with managing day-to-day operations while Trachtenberg was away from Foggy Bottom.

Faculty voiced out against his promotion to provost, fearing it would grant Williams a fast track to the presidency when Trachtenberg retired. After Knapp assumed GW’s top spot, Williams’ influence was ratcheted back.

In 2009, Knapp asked Williams to resign from the board of directors for the corporation that manages the GW Hospital due to a potential conflict of interest. Williams’ position at the company included a six-figure salary and stock options. His two roles at the time could have allowed Williams to ensure the hospital’s profitability at the expense of investing in upgrades and training for medical students and faculty.

Williams announced in December 2010 that he would take a yearlong sabbatical during the University’s review of the GW Medical Center. The Board of Trustees tasked an advisory committee with carrying out the review to streamline the schools’ academics and management.

Williams stepped down to ensure the review would remain objective, as it outlined the future roles of Medical Center administrators. The Post reported at the time that the University’s top brass no longer wanted him running the Medical Center.

Jeffrey Akman, the interim vice provost for health affairs and dean of the medical school, recommended to Lerman that Williams earn emeritus status.

“Through Dr. Williams’s leadership and dedication, the Medical Center’s financial position significantly improved and the faculty, residents and students are in a better and more productive position,” Akman said in a letter to Lerman.

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