Abby Spidle (left), 2019 recipient of the Arland D. Williams, Jr. Scholarship and Gayla McDaniel (right), member of the scholarship selection committee
Abby Spidle was awarded the $3,000 Arland D. Williams, Jr. Scholarship at the 35th annual scholarship presentation luncheon on Friday, August 9. Abby is a 2017 graduate of Mattoon High School and is currently a senior at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. She is majoring in accounting.
The selection committee shared that they were impressed with Abby’s outstanding personal essay on the life of Arland D. Williams, Jr., and read her essay at the luncheon. In her essay, Abby states:
“Arland D. Williams is a local hero that lived a selfless life that gave us all something to learn from his bravery. Attending Arland D. Williams Elementary school, I was taught many times about the courage and altruism he showed, but it was not till I got a little older that I was able to comprehend the magnitude of his decision to save five people in a horrific plane crash. It is said that he had always had fear of water and swimming, so I can only imagine the terror he faced when Air Florida Flight 90 began to crash in Washington D.C. that cold January day. He sacrificed his own good, to save the lives of five complete strangers, even though he had a lot to lose himself, with two children and a fiance. After the crash, a lifeline had been cast to him, but he continually passed the rope to someone else in need. Although so many lessons can be learned from his life choices, I think the one that resounds to me the most was his decision to overcome his fear (drowning) for the betterment of everyone else’s lives. Sometimes something can seem out of my comfort zone or frightening, but the life of Arland D. Williams reminds me that if my decision to step out of my own solace, will benefit the ones I love or someone in need, then it is worth my own discomfort. Any time I’ve set myself aside to let others get a win, I’ve never regretted it. In Arland D. Williams’ case, he made an ultimate sacrifice and gave the gift of life to five strangers. From this, I realize that the least I can do is go out of my way to give to others freely and selflessly as he did, even if it costs some inconvenience.”
The Arland D. Williams, Jr. Scholarship honors the memory of the late Arland D. Williams, Jr. who graduated from Mattoon High School. Mr. Williams became a well-known example of extraordinary heroism when his actions saved five people after a 1982 airplane crash in Washington D.C. His selfless actions cost him his life but his heroism lives on. The scholarship fund was established in May 1983 by Mrs. Virginia Williams, mother of Arland D. Williams, Jr. Since 1985, 35 scholarships have been awarded, totaling more than $79,000.
Friends and classmates of Arland D. Williams, Jr. serve on the scholarship committee and present the award each year. Gayla McDaniel, Tim Gover, Phyliss Rotek, Paul Saegesser, Jason Hortenstine, and Barb Love served on the 2019 scholarship review committee.