New YWCA Dayton CEO has overcome barriers to achieve goals

Terra Fox Williams, previously a health promotion director, was named YWCA’s new CEO, president.

Terra Fox Williams said she been the voice for the voiceless in her career.

After a five-month search for its new leader, YWCA Dayton, one of the region’s oldest women’s organizations, named Fox Williams its next president and CEO.

“For the last seven years, my background has prepared me for my transition to the YWCA,” Fox Williams told the Dayton Daily News this week.

Fox Williams’ 26-year career includes her most recent position as director for the Office of Health Promotion at Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County. Fox Williams will take on her new role leading YWCA Dayton starting June 7, taking over for the interim CEO Patricia McDonald.

McDonald was appointed in January by the YWCA Dayton’s board of directors after the previous YWCA Dayton CEO, Shannon Isom, resigned to accept a position as president and CEO of Community Shelter Board in Columbus. Isom had been the CEO of YWCA Dayton since December 2013.

As health promotion director, Fox Williams has been fighting against health disparities and inequities to improve access to care and information for the public. She established a five-year strategic plan for the Office of Health Promotion, secured more than $4.5 million in state and federal funds to address infant mortality, and implemented the Maternal and Child Health Division.

“Being able to be work with the YWCA, it’s a joy, it’s a mission. I’m really looking forward to being an advocate for all women and all voices,” Fox Williams said.

Collaboration is one goal Fox Williams wants to build on as she aims to continue building relationships, meeting with current partnerships, and bringing new partners to the table. She also hopes to foster relationships with legislators on the local, state, and national levels. She wants to work with partners in addressing disparities together to make Montgomery and Preble counties stronger and move those areas forward with their mission at the YWCA, which includes eliminating racism and empowering women.

“The visionary leadership that I would bring to the YWCA is something that I have worked on for the last decade in my career,” Fox Williams said. “The YWCA is the only domestic violence shelter, the only rape crisis center, in Montgomery County and in Preble County, so developing and cultivating those partnerships is something I’m really looking forward to.”

In terms of her management and leadership style, she hopes to pursue relentlessly taking the YWCA to the next level.

Fox Williams has been in the Dayton region for a little over 20 years, but she is originally from a rural community in Louisiana. She holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Southern University and A&M College and a master of science in public health from Wright State University.

Fox Williams, who had her first child at the age of 15, shared how she overcame the adversity she experienced when she became a young mother, later getting a college scholarship through basketball and then having to give up basketball in order to pursue her career.

“Getting pregnant with a baby at 15, you have teachers who tell you that you’re just going to be another statistic,” Fox Williams said. “For me, that was my goal to prove everybody wrong, to let them know that even though I had a child at a young age, as a woman, I could still achieve those goals.”

The drive that helped her succeed through her own life is one she says she plans to incorporate with her work at the YWCA. She wants “to continue to empower women to let them know that no matter what the obstacles and barriers are, you can achieve your goals,” she said.

Additionally, in the rural community she grew up, she did not have indoor plumbing as a child and her family used a wood-burning stove to heat their home.

“Having those earlier, as I call them, opportunities as a young child, allowed me to relate to individuals that have experienced hardship in their life, but also being able to encourage them to overcome those hardships by focusing on and making sure that there are mentors. There should also be individuals who are there to encourage them along the way, but also making sure that they know that I can empathize and sympathize and understand the journey that they are on because I’ve also been on the same journey,” Fox Williams said.

At Southern University, she also had to sacrifice her spot playing basketball in order to pursue her first career, which was in mechanical engineering. Labs for mechanical engineering were held at the same time as basketball practice while she was at university.

“So I had to chose between going to labs or going to basketball, and I chose my career,” Fox Williams said. “For me, it was about ensuring the legacy that I was continuously building.”

It was a difficult decisions for Fox Williams, but it was one that would eventually bring her to the Dayton region after she was recruited by Delphi when she was 24 years old to be a project manager. She worked at Delphi GM for 10 years before she decided to make the transition to health care.

When Fox Williams made the move to health care, it was after a close friend of hers ended up in a coma after not taking care of her health. Fox Williams wanted to make the move to help stress the importance of taking care of your health, share information, and make sure everybody had access to care.

Beyond her most recent role, Fox Williams has experience in public health and organizational leadership including past roles with Miami Valley Child Development Center, Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton, Wilberforce University, Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, and Warren County Combined Health District.

YWCA Dayton has been supporting women in need to be safe and independent since 1870. In addition to being the only domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in Montgomery and Preble Counties (including a 24/7 crisis hotline), YWCA Dayton also has four transitional housing programs for women and families, youth leadership and prevention education programming, and racial and social justice advocacy efforts.

About the Author