The President’s Medal for Excellence is awarded to individuals who demonstrate outstanding academic, artistic, or professional accomplishments or exceptional service to the university. Their achievements can be in any field. The recipients help to elevate the reputation of the university and these individuals help benefit their community in numerous ways.
Camilla Williams received the President's Medal for Excellence in 2009. After over 30 years as a professional soprano, Williams came to Indiana University in 1977. She was the first African American voice professor at the university and was known worldwide as the first African American soprano to perform in mainstream theaters and opera companies.
In 1946, she broke the color barrier at the New York City Opera, singing the title role in Puccini's Madame Butterfly. In 1954, she became the first African American to sing a major role with the Vienna State Opera, performing her signature part of Cio-Cio-San. She performed throughout the United States and Europe with some of the world's leading opera companies until her retirement from opera singing in 1971.
After 20 years of teaching, Williams retired from Indiana University in 1997. She was a superb teacher and a beloved mentor. She died in 2012.