Judge Annalisa Stubbs Williams, ’77, Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient 2020

“Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. Even if others don’t encourage you, encourage yourself. If you want to live a positive life, you can’t have a negative mindset. I have learned that you can always achieve more than you believe is possible.”

Growing up Judge Annalisa Stubbs Williams, ’77, a Youngstown native, always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, despite being told it was an unlikely aspiration.

“I was intrigued by watching Perry Mason,” Judge Williams said. “I always was an even tempered person who believed in justice and fair play but when I told classmates that I wanted to be a lawyer they laughed. They thought I was setting my sights way too high.”

During her childhood, Judge Williams faced some challenges from a speech impediment causing her to have a difficult time in school. She was told that she may never graduate from high school.

“My mother was instrumental in getting me enrolled in speech therapy,” Judge Williams said. “She knew that with hard work and persistence I could do anything my heart desired.”

Judge Williams describes herself as an average student until her senior year of high school. It was her 12th grade teacher, Edna Pettigrew and her mother who encouraged her to attend college.

Her journey to her law career started when she was accepted into the Upward Bound program at Kent State. The first summer in the program she received a 4.0.

“Life has never been the same for me after being involved that summer with Upward Bound,” Judge Williams said. “It was wonderful. All the people I had the opportunity to meet, those relationships are still strong today. They are friends, mentors, life coaches and guides.”

Being a part of the Upward Bound program is one of her fondest KSU memories but she also enjoyed being a resident assistant for Koonce and Leebrick Halls, taking classes and hanging out at the Center of Pan-African Culture (CPAC), singing with a band named Phoenix, being involved with Campus Crusades for Christ, meeting some of her best friends, Brenda Paramore Stevens, ’79, Linda Bishop Cumberlander, ’78  and Gloria Harris Willis, ’79, and she can’t forget the times she tray sledded down Blanket Hill.

She will also treasure the relationships she developed at Kent State. Charles Greene, who was Assistant Dean for Student Life at the time, not only served as her mentor throughout college but continues to serve as a trusted advisor.  He also helped her find her first job as an Investigator with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Charles later became Vice President of Human Resources and is now an attorney at Davison & Greene.

“He challenged me to find my own voice,” Judge Williams said. “I told him I was interested in going to law school. He didn’t laugh. He encouraged me to apply to law school, wrote a letter of recommendation for me and spoke to Dean Albert Rakas on my behalf. I will never forget the feeling of being notified that I got in!”

It was in law school that Judge Williams met the love of her life, Michael D. Williams. “Mike is my biggest cheerleader. He encouraged me to run for judge. He has a love for people and the community and keeps me motivated to serve others.”

Williams is so grateful for those who have helped her along the way. It has only been natural for her to give back to others. This is her 17th year as Akron Municipal Court Judge and she has made an impact in so many lives.

In her role as the administrative judge of the Akron Municipal Mental Health Court, she shows compassion and provides encouragement for people with mental health issues.

In 2015, she created the Peace of Mind program, that helps female defendants dealing with trauma issues. As part of the program, she facilitates conversations regarding issues involving depression, insecurity, shame, grief and anxiety each week and offers resources to help them find jobs and housing. In 2018, Peace of Mind earned the Innovative Court Programs and Practices Award given by the Ohio State Bar Association through its Judicial Administration and Legal Reform Committee.

She has served on numerous judicial task forces, professional organizations and community and civic boards. Judge Williams has also received numerous humanitarian and community service awards for her service to the legal profession. She has been active with the Akron Bar Association, serving as a past elected trustee, part of the Akron Canton Barristers Association, past chair of the criminal law committee and a member of the Diversity Committee. She also serves on the Ohio Supreme Court’s Specialized Dockets Committee and is a trustee for the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.

Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband Michael, her two adult children Alexandria and James Williams and her puppy Izzy. Alexandria is a Senior Communications major at Kent State. James is a graduate of Morehouse College and is currently pursuing his MBA at Georgia State. Judge Williams enjoys going to estate sales, entertaining, line dancing and traveling. She also enjoys volunteering at Sarah’s House, a food pantry in Akron.

Judge Williams has truly made a difference in many lives and this is just one of the reasons why she is so deserving of the Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I am so humbled and thrilled to receive this award,” Judge Williams said. “ I have such fond memories of my time at Kent. The relationships I formed at Kent helped shape and transform me into the person I am today.”

Judge Williams is thankful for all the people who played a role in her success at Kent.

“I want to thank my parents who I wish were here to see me receive this award. I would also like to thank Charles Greene and the Upward Bound staff and administrators: Dr. Robert Taylor, Dr. Adelaide Santana, Mr. Renaldo Lawson, Dr. Geraldine Nelson and Mrs. Beverly E. Smith who is now National President and CEO of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., my Glorious Sorority. I would also like to thank all the professors, instructors and classmates who imparted all their knowledge and wisdom to me.”

“I also want to thank the nominating committee,” she said. “I will treasure this award for the rest of my life. I am so proud to be a graduate of Kent State. Flashes Forever.”