When Larry Williams arrived at USD, he had already established a career in the entertainment industry. At 17, he was a successful, Emmy-nominated actor with more than 45 television credits. Williams was determined to accomplish his goal of earning a degree, even though it was tempting to pursue acting full time. He relished his college experience, majored in communication studies and played on the Torero baseball team. Then, in 1995 he left USD without taking a degree—a decision that would pester him for the next seven years. Williams, agent and owner of Williams Talent Agency, never forgot his educational goals. In 2002, he returned to San Diego to complete his BA in Communication Studies with the will and determination of a true Torero student-athlete.
As the son of a world-class saxophonist, you have had a life-long connection to the entertainment industry. What made you decide to build and manage your own talent agency?
I was raised by two entrepreneurial-spirited parents and other mentors, so I developed the desire to have my own business early on. Additionally, my father's background and experience gave me an inside look at the entertainment business at an early age. What I saw was a great need for truly creative talent executives with integrity. I saw a lot of careers die without truly reaching their potential, due to a lack of choices and lack of creativity on the part of industry executives. Not everyone fits the "cookie cutter" mold. It doesn't mean they aren't talented though. I like to think that I fight for the underdog!
"USD to me is special because it had the boldness and intuitiveness to give others and me a chance—a chance to live our dreams."
By the age of 17, you had developed a successful acting career, and earned an Emmy nomination. Given your early success as a performer, it must have been tempting to dive into your career. Why was a liberal arts education important to you?
A liberal arts degree from USD meant the world to me. It was an early goal I set, and I wanted to make sure I saw it through, no matter what obstacles life threw my way. Also, by the time I was ready to enter college, I had been incredibly blessed with opportunities in the entertainment industry. I had seen a lot of my childhood pass me by. I wanted to enjoy my college years, play baseball, go to the beach and just live.
"What I saw was a great need for truly creative talent executives with integrity. I saw a lot of careers die without truly reaching their potential, due to a lack of choices and lack of creativity on the part of industry executives."
What did you take away from your experience as a student athlete?
As I always say to my oldest daughter, athletics helps to make you a better person. Take some of the characteristics you build by being an athlete or playing team sports: team work, hard work, dedication and sacrifice. As an athlete, you're always facing tough challenges, working as a unit and developing the will and courage to compete fairly. You experience the sweetness of victory, the agony of defeat and the courage to try. Take those characteristics, fine-tune them and they will help you prepare for numerous challenges in life. I can still remember when I was 9 years old, my first baseball coach stopped me as I was answering a question and said, "Son, you always look another man in the eye when you speak to him." I've never forgotten that lesson and many others.
You left USD, but eventually returned to finish your degree. Was there anything that sparked this decision, and can you tell us why it was important to you to come back?
Yes, I came back to complete my BA in Communication Studies (emphasis in Speech) in 2002. I always had the goal to complete my degree, but I needed to do it for myself mostly to get the monkey off my back—to know I completed what I started. In some ways, I did it so that all of the people in my life would have something to hang their hats on. I also wanted it for my parents. They have always supported me and deserved to see their son finish college.
What makes USD special, in your opinion?
USD to me is special because it had the boldness and intuitiveness to give others and me a chance—a chance to live our dreams. Coach John Cunningham saw me play and gave me a shot at a world-class education and extraordinary start in life. When things got rough for me at USD, my coaches, athletic directors Ky Snyder and Tom Iannacone, (or "Rally Cone" as we affectionately referred to him, because we always had big innings when he came to our games) my roommate Josh Stepner and teammates were always there for me. I am forever indebted to them all.
- Anne Malinoski '11