Silvanus Olatunde Williams Canada Nigeria Scotland United States

Biography of Silvanus Olatunde Williams

GUAC athletics section 1949-50
GUAC athletics section 1949-50

Silvanus (or Sylvanus) Olatunde Williams (1922-2006) was born in Abeokuta, south-west Nigeria, son of Joseph, a watch repairman. He was educated at Methodist Boys’ High School, Lagos, and Higher College, Yaba, before matriculating at the University of Glasgow to study Civil Engineering in 1947. He took classes at both the University and the Royal Technical College (today the University of Strathclyde) and graduated with a BSc (Hons) in 1951. His studies were funded by a colonial development and welfare scholarship. Williams continued his studies in Civil Engineering at Purdue University, Indiana, USA, graduating with an MSc in 1955.

During his time at the University of Glasgow Williams was an active member of the athletics section of the GUAC. He excelled at long jump and was awarded Full Blues in 1949. That year he won the first of three consecutive Scottish long-jump titles. In 1950 he was also British Universities’ champion, won his event when representing the UK against France and won a silver medal in triple jump at the Scottish Championships. In 1951 and 1952 he was UK long-jump champion.

Representing Nigeria, Williams competed in the long jump at two major global games: at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, he did not make the final; however success came at the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, where he won bronze, joining fellow countryman and silver medallist, Karim Olowu, on the podium.

Williams returned to Nigeria to pursue his career, serving as a Civil Engineer in the country’s Public Works Department. In the 1960s he became Director of Federal Public Works and then Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Works. He also served as the secretary and later as chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers.

By the early 1970s public administration beckoned. During that decade Williams served as Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Communications, as Federal Commissioner for Communications and Federal Commissioner for Labour, Youth and Sports.

Williams also took an active role in sports’ governing bodies in Nigeria, serving as the first chairman of the Amateur Athletics Association of Nigeria (AAAN), president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria 1969-79 and a member of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) from 1954 to 1974.

Williams’ contributions to sport and national development were recognised with the awards of the Officer and later Member of the Order of the Niger (O.O.N and M.O.N.).

At the time of his death, Williams was a pastor living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, had married and was a father and grandfather.


Other Online Resources

Archival Materials

  • 'GUAC notes', Glasgow University Magazine, 1949-50, no. 1, p. 44 and no. 2, p. 65, DC198/1/56 and DC198/1/57
  • Matriculation album, Men 'W', 1947-48, R8/5/68/16
  • University of Glasgow General Council Register of Members 1965, DC183/11/90


Silvanus Olatunde Williams
Born 1922.
Died 2006.
GU Degree: BSc , 1951; Civil Engineering,
University Link: Graduate
Occupation categories: civil engineer
English snippet:

Silvanus Olatunde Williams studied civil engineering at the University of Glasgow and was a champion long jumper, representing his home country of Nigeria at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games in the 1950s.

Record last updated: 28th May 2014

Country Associations

Canada Canada, Manitoba, Winnipeg

Nigeria Nigeria, Abeokuta

Scotland Scotland, Lanarkshire, Glasgow

United States United States, Indiana, West Lafayette

University Connections

University Roles

  • Graduate