In November, United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) lost one of its longest-serving and most passionate volunteers when Alice McSpadden Williams passed away at the age of 79. The giving spirit which came to define her life can perhaps be attributed to her birthday: she was born on Christmas Day of 1939.
Throughout her entire life, she was known for her generosity – especially in regard to her groundbreaking work with UWCA. Her involvement with United Way actually began long before the organization bore that name, having worked with the Community Chest’s Women Campaign as a teenager. That experience sparked a lifelong love for helping others and volunteering, and also forged a decades-long relationship. Through the years, she served UWCA as corporate secretary, as well as a member of the Executive, Finance, Planned Giving and Building Renovation Committees. In 1992, she became the first female Board Chair, following in the footsteps of her late father Jack McSpadden in that role.
“Alice was part of the very fabric of UWCA,” said Drew Langloh, President and CEO. “In addition to her passion, she became sort of the collective memory for the organization. She was around for so many years and had such amazing recall! She could always remember why decisions were made, even years later, and she used that to help us make smart, well-formed decisions.”
According to 2019 Board Chair Mallie Ireland, Alice’s personality made her the perfect fit for UWCA. “She was such a doer,” said Ireland. “If she saw a need, she would make it happen, and not just in her philanthropy. She was so encouraging, too! When I would be apprehensive about moving into a new position, Alice always had the right thing to say – she would speak courage into me.”
Alice’s legacy and spirit will live on in the halls of United Way of Central Alabama – halls that likely wouldn’t be here without her influence.
“I don’t know who’s going to take care of this place the way Alice did!” said Ireland. “During building renovations, she’d be here with a hard hat on, right alongside everyone.”
To honor her commitment to United Way, she and her husband Tom received the 2001 Tocqueville Society Annual Award. And, after the most significant renovations in the UWCA building’s history were completed, the largest meeting room on the fifth floor was named in her honor. While she was proud of that recognition, Ireland noted that it was far from her mind when she was hard at work throughout the planning and building process.
“She had passion, and she implemented that passion to make things different and better, but she was so humble about it,” said Ireland. “She never really wanted accolades for her work.”
To Langloh, Alice’s absence is especially poignant. “I met her the first day I started working here 30 years ago, and she’s been an integral part of my life ever since,” he said. “She was a good friend. I don’t think a week went by where I didn’t see her or talk to her. I’m really going to miss her.”
So will we all.