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A Williams Life

A Williams Life:
Frank (Rick) Richards

Host: Gordon Earle ('75)

Producer: Jon Earle ('09)

Web production: Kathy Bogan ('75)

With additional support from Joe Bonn and Martha Coakley (co-presidents of the Class of '75), and Mark Robertson ('02) and Ryan Ford ('09) from the Williams Alumni Office.

In this episode of A Williams Life, host Gordon Earle talks with Dr. Frank (Rick) Richards, one of the world’s leading experts on parasitic infections. Rick has traveled to many parts of the world over his long and distinguished career. They include the poorest, most remote and impoverished locations in his successful efforts to eradicate diseases that have ravaged the health of millions of people. Among his many accomplishments is working with a team to eliminate river blindness in Guatemala.


In addition to his work to improve public health in developing countries (for which he won the College’s Bicentennial Medal in 1998), Rick discusses his experience as a Black student at Williams, his activism on campus, and the challenges he experienced during his four years at the College. We also discuss his long tenure at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and his close working relationship with former President Jimmy Carter. 

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Legendary blues guitarist B. B. King performed at Williams in 1974, and Rick had the unique opportunity to jam with him, playing, among other songs, “The Thrill is Gone.” Rick recreates the moment here, playing the song for all of us.

The Thrill is GoneFrank Richards
00:00 / 02:37

Photo gallery:
Rick tells some stories from his life at Williams and beyond


F. Richards. ‘From Africa to the Americas: The Fight to End River Blindness.’ Brown U School of Public Health’s Black History Month keynote lecture on the historical roots of river blindness in America and the Carter Center’s elimination efforts. Providence, RI, February 21, 2023. From Africa to the Americas: Dr. Frank Richards Jr. on the Fight to End River Blindness | Continuum (


W Clark, M Darin, F Richards.  'Black Williams: A Study of Black Students at a White College.'  Winter Study Project, 1974, 109 pages (at the Williams’ Stetson Library, but pdf available upon request from F. Richards:

NOTE: The quotation read during the interview is found on page 76 (Section ‘End of the Study’)


F. Richards.  “The Miracle of a Single Sentence.” In HA Rotbart.  Miracles we have seen: America’s leading physicians share stories they can’t forget.  Health Communications, Inc. 2016: 181-6

F. Richards. 'Threads of purple.'  Black students Williams class 1975 reflections.  February 23, 2021.

Interview with Frank Richards on the Legacy of President Carter. ‘Expert speaks on Jimmy Carter's mission to treat neglected tropical diseases.’ Associated Press, February 2023.

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