Leaving a Lasting Legacy
It was just a few months after their father’s death in June 2019 when the family of Willie Williamson visited Clover Park Technical College. His children wanted to honor their father’s legacy, and thought this might be the place to do it. Within minutes of stepping into the upholstery shop, they knew they were right where they needed to be.
“The first thing we noticed was that it smelled just like Dad’s shop,” his daughter recalled. “Everything was so familiar. It felt like we were home.”
CPTC Foundation Development Director Janet Holm felt it, too. “Seeing the students in action, using the tools and techniques they’d become so familiar with growing up in their dad’s auto upholstery shop, they knew this was how they wanted to honor him.”
Willie’s family recently gave a gift of $55,000 to create the Earl C. “Willie” Williamson Memorial Scholarship Endowment, available to students enrolled full time in the CPTC upholstery program who intend to work in automotive upholstery or related vehicle customizing fields. The program is nearly the only one of its kind in the United States, drawing students from across the country. While some schools provide upholstery basics as part of their automotive trade programs, or classes for hobbyists, Clover Park is the only school to offer the full-meal deal – auto, furniture, marine and aviation upholstery. On the automotive side, that includes cutting, sewing and fitting, and covers everything from convertible tops to custom door panels.
Before his retirement in 1999, Willie owned and operated Durham Sunroofs & Upholstery in Seattle. An engaged and respected business leader and entrepreneur, Willie was passionate about his trade and dedicated to mentoring and training young people interested in learning the business. It was that passion and dedication that led him to CPTC’s upholstery program. He frequently accepted invitations to speak with students, and in the early 1990s joined the program’s advisory board, comprised of business leaders who offered insight on how to better prepare students to work in the real world. He also employed several CPTC students in his shop over the years, back when it wasn’t such a challenge to make the drive from Tacoma to Seattle.
During his time on the advisory board, Willie met Jerry Glasgow, head of the CPTC upholstery program. “It was really great having him involved,” Jerry said. “Durham was the upper echelon of auto upholstery shops. They were doing the cool stuff in the industry, like producing fiberglass shells covered with cloth to simulate convertible tops. His input was extremely valuable for the staff and students.”
But the road wasn’t always easy for Willie. He lost his father at a young age and barely made his way out of high school, struggling in a conventional learning environment. In his early 20s he went to work for Durham Upholstery in Seattle. Mr. Durham saw potential in young Willie and took him under his wing, teaching him the trade and the inner workings of the business. Within three years, Willie bought the shop and eventually transformed it into a thriving operation, never forgetting it all began with someone who took the time to teach him.
The generous support of Willie’s family will help provide that same kind of hands-on training for generations to come, and ensure a brighter future for CPTC students working toward a career in the field their father loved.
For more information about establishing a scholarship or endowment, visit friendsofcloverpark.org or contact the Clover Park Technical College Foundation at 253-589-6082.