The Williams Legacy in VancouverUniversity of Victoria
Alumni Reception About Exhibit Artists / Works About Michael C. Williams

About Michael C. Williams

Citation read on the occasion of the granting of the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws to Michael Collard Williams by the Senate of the University of Victoria November 24, 1990.

Citation written and delivered by Dr. Samuel E. Scully, Vice-President Academic and Provost

I have the honour to present Michael Collard Williams, an outstanding Victorian businessman and heritage developer.

Michael Collard Williams is a man of many talents. He is at once a businessman, a developer and a heritage conservationist. He is both a publican and a public man; a visionary and a Victorian. Although Mr. Williams was born in the County of Shropshire, England, his roots are deep in our city, in our province and in our country. He immigrated first to the sheep ranches of the Okanagan in 1950 and then to Victoria eight years later, at which time his concern for animals and for animal welfare lead him to establish boarding kennels in Langford and Central Saanich.

  Michael Williams, shepherd: After arriving in Canada in 1957, Williams lived near Kelowna, tending sheep.

Since 1977 a striking redirection of career has involved him in the preservation and the improvement of Victoria’s downtown business and residential environment. Maynard Court in the 700 block of Johnson Street was Mr. Williams’ first initiative in urban renewal. In that instance, and in subsequent instances he has set out not only to preserve and to protect significant historical structures but also to enhance them with taste, to imbue them with colour, and above all to revitalize them.

After that early success, Michael Williams has focused his attention on old town Victoria, lower Johnson Street and the Victoria Box and Paper Building and the surrounds. Through a combination of creative financing, negotiated cooperation from all levels of government and sensitive public and private input, Mr. Williams’ fondest visions were realized. This once dilapidated and ravaged old town locate is now again alive with flowers and people and colour. From a practical viewpoint, too, it is a business success. The upscale 1890’s Grant Central Hotel and Victoria Box and Paper Complex in 1988 earned Mr. Williams a prestigious award from the New York-based downtown Research and Development Center in a North American competition.

Of late, Michael Williams can be seen in the guise of the Publican and owner of Swan’s Hotel at Pandora and Store Streets in Victoria. But the comfort of the popular and tasteful interior surroundings are a far cry from the dust of grain storage, the odour of fertilizer and the rumble of box cars that existed there only a short while ago. The new Buckerfield Building is a classic monument to the consummate creativity and entrepreneurial skills of Mr. Williams and, as with all of his projects, will afford Victorians, British Columbians and Canadians a tangible legacy for the future, built on the solid foundation of the past.

Mr. Chancellor, I now ask, on behalf of the Senate of the University that you confer upon Michael Collard Williams, the Title and Degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws.

Dr. Michael Williams died on November 9, 2000, and in his will left his downtown property holdings, house and art collections to the University of Victoria.