FOLSOI members and Harper and Barbee Library patrons were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Max Williams who, along with his wife Sarah, established and maintained the enormously popular “Life Long Learners” program.

After an illustrious career as a beloved history professor at Western Carolina University, Max could have settled into a relaxing and well-earned retirement in his oceanfront Oak Island home. Instead, he embarked on an adventure that would enrich his life and the lives of hundreds of his neighbors, sharing his passion for history and literature through the Max & Sarah Williams Life Long Learners program. The most recent program series was “The Life and Work of Mark Twain.”

None of us are too old to learn. Indeed, with the benefit of decades of life experience behind us, we bring to the learning process new perspectives. Max was adept at engaging program participants and encouraging them to dig deep and share their reactions and insights, creating intellectual synergy and personal camaraderie.

It is little wonder that the Life Long Learners program had so many “repeat customers” willing to delve into whatever the next series of sessions had to offer. When the pandemic shut down in-person participation, the audience for Life Long Learners programs remained undeterred, quickly adapting to Zoom sessions with the same enthusiasm and active participation.

“Library patrons were incredibly fortunate to have a gifted Life Long Learner program facilitator like Max Williams,” said FOLSOI Past President Diana Fotinatos. “He led fascinating group discussions that not only engaged patrons but helped to establish Barbee Library as the intellectual center of the community.”

As we embark on the next Life Long Learners program, “The African American Experience” beginning on Thursday, February 4, we thank Max for delving into each subject with courage and optimism, inspiring us to think and feel, and welcoming diverse viewpoints. His life is a testament to the power of one altruistic and committed person giving everything he had to extend the joy of learning.

As we strive to carry on this legacy, we hope that you will continue attending and supporting the remarkable programs that Max and Sarah launched.