James A. Williams ’77

2012 Distinguished Citizen Award

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James A. Williams ’77 has found his calling—twice. As a sophomore, he was recruited by Steve Yoakam ’75 for his senior directing project. This helped launch a brilliant acting career that has taken Williams across the United States and beyond. “JayyDubb,” as his friends know him, spent five years with the Guthrie Theater and is a founding member of St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre. One of America’s preeminent African American theaters, it was recently profiled on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams. It was at Penumbra that JayyDubb first met August Wilson. In 2007, he appeared on Broadway in Wilson’s Radio Golf, originating a role created for him by the renowned playwright. Radio Golf was nominated for three Tony Awards, and JayyDubb went on to appear in a celebrated cycle of Wilson plays at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

In a second calling, JayyDubb brings the power of theater to disadvantaged youth from South Minneapolis to Nairobi. As director of teen programming at Pillsbury House Theatre, his work includes a program with young men 12 to 17 who are incarcerated in Hennepin County. “JayyDubb’s commitment to helping teenagers find their artistic voice is profound and deeply personal,” says Faye Price ’77, co-artistic producing director at Pillsbury.

“I was a father at 17, living in the projects in St. Louis, a high school dropout,” says JayyDubb, “so I know that anyone can make a change. What Macalester did for me, I try to do for young people. Macalester gave me space to imagine myself in a different way and permission to dream a big dream.”