Getting his due after decades

Engineering alumnus belatedly honoured with a hometown mural for his pro football exploits

By Brian Caldwell Faculty of Engineering

More than three decades after leaving to make his mark on the world, an alumnus of Waterloo Engineering has been formally honoured by his Ontario hometown for his athletic achievements.

A mural of Taly Williams (BASc ’94, civil engineering), who played for the Waterloo Warriors before suiting up in the Canadian Football League (CFL), was unveiled recently on the wall of the local arena along with other successful athletes from Haliburton.

An effort to recognize Williams and his sister, Lesley Tashlin, who represented Canada as a sprinter and a hurdler at the 1996 Olympics, was spearheaded by a class of Grade 7 and 8 students at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School who discovered they had been overlooked and set out to right a wrong.

Williams, now a co-founder and managing partner at AQORA Capital, an investment firm in Los Angeles focused on water infrastructure, technology and services, recalled in a speech at the mural unveiling being a member of one of the few Black families in town.

"I don’t know if Haliburton was proud of me," he said. "It didn’t feel like it. I felt unaccepted in many places. I felt stared at a lot. I felt that people were nervous when I came into a store. I felt watched."

Williams has been an enthusiastic supporter of the grassroots campaign since it began last year, saying he’s thrilled to serve as an example of what young people in disadvantaged and minority groups can achieve.

Joined by friends and family, he thanked a long list of people in Haliburton, including local families who did accept and encourage him, but said he has learned from local minorities that "there is still a lot of work to do here in town."

Williams urged people everywhere to make an effort to include and acknowledge others, especially those who seem different.

"The point being is that if you see someone in the minority here in town, even a little head nod or a ’hello’ can go a long way to making someone feel welcome," he said. "And maybe someone is doing the same for your family member in another city."

Williams - the first local player to make it to the CFL as a defensive back with the Toronto Argonauts and Hamilton Tiger Cats - and Tashlin both excelled in sports at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, where some of their records still stand.

In addition to being honoured with murals at A.J. LaRue Arena, both were also inducted into the new Haliburton Hall of Fame.