CAMDEN — State Police Trooper Frankie Williams was just a few credits shy of completing his master’s degree in criminal justice when his life was cut short.
On Wednesday, Williams’ wife, Kimberly, accepted the degree for him posthumously and could enjoy the bittersweet moment as her husband would have done, she said.
“I kind of imagined him being here and what that would have been like,” Williams, 30, of Egg Harbor Township, said at the Rutgers University-Camden graduate school commencement. “I know that Frankie would be extremely excited and would feel so honored that this is being done on his behalf.”
Frankie Williams, 31, died Dec. 5 in a head-on crash while responding to a call about an erratic driver on Route 55 in Millville, Cumberland County. He graduated in the 156th New Jersey State Police academy class in January 2016, finally completing his dream to become a trooper.
But Frankie was also always big on education, said his wife, whom he married in September. Before becoming a state trooper, he graduated from Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing in 2009 and from Rutgers University in Camden in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He was finishing his master’s degree at the time of the crash.
Before conferring degrees to the graduates and calling them individually up on stage Wednesday, Kriste Lindenmeyer, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences & the Graduate School at Rutgers–Camden, called Williams up to the stage.
“Some of today’s graduates and our faculty knew Frankie Williams,” Lindenmeyer said. “They know he was an engaging and talented student, as well as a leader among his peers.”
Lindenmeyer invited Williams to walk up to the stage and accept his degree, while the arena roared in applause while she walked back to show the diploma to her father and some cousins.
It was a great way to honor him and keep his memory alive, she said. This was his next step in making his family proud.
“He was always looking to be challenged and always setting goals and meeting those goals,” she said.
Williams just returned this week from National Police Week in Washington, D.C., where her husband was honored in a vigil. She said accepting his master’s degree Wednesday was just another great way to pay tribute to him as a person.
Kimberly said she remembers watching him graduate with his bachelor’s degree in 2012 at that same arena, but this time, she was on stage at the BB&T Pavilion for him.
“I’m trying to enjoy the moment as he would if he were accepting his degree,” he said.