In Memory of Tom Roberts and Geoffrey Lee Williams
Published June 2021
In these times of continued disruption and uncertainty throughout the world, the animating principles on which the whole of study abroad rests are more important than ever. Expanding knowledge, broadening perspectives, encouraging interconnectedness, and developing relationships across borders are not only touchstones on our past journeys, but they are also the guideposts on the pathways that lie ahead. As we now look with renewed hope to the eventual full resumption of study abroad and international mobility, it is worth remembering these enduring ideals and the individuals who embraced and embodied them so fully. Tom Roberts and Geoffrey Lee Williams, both of whom passed away in 2019-2020, were two such examples of this spirit. On the occasion of the recent anniversary of Tom’s death and with the knowledge that Geoffrey’s passing was obscured by the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, INSTEP-WFU is proud to celebrate the memory and legacy of these two pioneers in study abroad.
Early on in both of their careers, Tom and Geoffrey showed passion and commitment to international educational exchange and mobility. In the 1960s and 1970s Geoffrey visited the United States and other countries to lecture at the invitation of local universities, including Syracuse University and Eastern Illinois University. In 1979, Geoffrey relocated to Perth, Western Australia to become the head of Social Sciences at what is now known as Curtin University. During these formative years of the field of International Education, Tom was an active architect of the field itself. Living in England and Vienna early in his career solidified his passion for international education. All would agree that Tom was a founder of the field as we know it today, and he was involved with building a number of the larger study abroad programs currently in operation.
In 1979, Tom Roberts was one of three founding members of INSTEP, back then known as the Institute of Economic and Political Studies. Located in London, the original INSTEP program was developed to offer high-quality study abroad experiences to U.S. undergraduates - Tom’s professional and personal passion. Geoffrey Lee Williams was a faculty member at the early London program teaching Defence Economics. Building on the London program’s success, a Cambridge site was added in 1986 with Geoffrey Lee Williams as its first Director.
When it came to study abroad program development and execution, Tom and Geoffrey held similar beliefs. Above all, academic quality was paramount. Their programs provided an academic rigor found in few study abroad programs. Each program was developed with a specific student population in mind, and admission criteria encouraged students to find the right ‘fit’ rather than offering programs to the general student population. In addition to academic rigor, their belief in high levels of student support and mentorship was always evident and attested to by the students who knew them best.
In 2016, the INSTEP programs were officially adopted by Wake Forest University (becoming INSTEP-WFU) and continue to operate based on the principles that Tom envisioned at its founding in 1979 and that Geoffrey brought to life in the classroom for over 30 years. Today, INSTEP-WFU is honored to promote and perpetuate Tom and Geoffrey’s legacies in study abroad by establishing a Founders Fund that will use donated funds to support students on INSTEP programs. Each semester, scholarships will be awarded to students who display notable academic achievement, preparation for an INSTEP program, and demonstrated financial need. Students from all INSTEP-affiliated institutions will be eligible to apply.
In addition, with gifts already committed to the Founders Fund, INSTEP-WFU has named the student lounge at Warkworth House in Cambridge the “Tom Roberts and Geoffrey Lee Williams Student Lounge".
Initial contributitions to the Founders Fund include:
* The family of Tom Roberts
* Geoffrey Lee Williams' widow, Janice Williams
* The Paver Family Foundation
* A small group of Tom’s longstanding colleagues
INSTEP-WFU welcomes further contributions to aid students to study abroad and to continue the legacy of Tom and Geoffrey.
Contributions may be made at Wake Forest Giving. Select "Give Today" at top left of the screen, and then choose "I would like to specify a different fund/department" in the drop-down menu. In the little box underneath, indicate, "INSTEP-WFU". There is also a box to check that the gift is in memory of someone. Please fill in "Tom Roberts and/or Geoffrey Lee Williams" in this area.
Checks made payable to "Wake Forest University" can be mailed to: PO Box 7227 Winston Salem, NC 27109. Include on the check memo line: "INSTEP-WFU, Tom Roberts and/or Geoffrey Lee Williams"
Donations of cryptocurrency may be made via our Crowdfunding site. We ask the donor to also Email Us to notify us that the gift is for the INSTEP program and that it is being made in memory of Tom Roberts/Geoffrey Lee Williams.
If you would like to make a donation by wire transfer, please email Steve Seaworth for wire instructions.