Williams is the chairman of Read to Rise, a youth literacy nongovernmental organisation that he co-founded.
He is also one of the first people to earn Masters degrees from five of the top universities in the world.
But how did a young man from Mitchells Plain, living in Apartheid South Africa come to achieve so much?
Williams says he always dreamt about receiving education from leading international universities - and focused on this dreams throughout his life.
I had a dream, and I tried to hold on to my dream as closely as I could.— Athol Williams, writer and award-winning poet
He says he understood early on that education would be a powerful driver in his life.
I loved read and loved learning. My parents instilled in us the drive to learn.— Athol Williams, writer and award-winning poet
In the midst of the apartheid era and student uprisings, Williams taught himself a lot the subjects and went to school during the day while also attending night school, and extra classes on weekends and holidays.
My parents didn't buy me anything else other than extra books. It became my mission to make sure I got through high school.— Athol Williams, writer and award-winning poet
He then went on to face other challenges at Wits University and later as one of the first black engineer in the country.
Life isn't about the boulder, it's about the dream on the other end.— Athol Williams, writer and award-winning poet
Williams has studied at Harvard, MIT, London Business School, the London School of Economics and is currently at Oxford.
He recently published his inspirational memoir _Pushing Boulders _and tells Pippa Hudson about his journey.
Take a listen to the inspiring story:
This article first appeared on 702 : How Athol Williams defied the odds to help inspire others to thrive