President, Immaculata University 1982-1992
Written by Sister Marie Roseanne Bonfini, IHM
8th President of Immaculata University
Arriving at Immaculata in 1960 to serve on the faculty as teacher and newspaper moderator, Sister Marian William became chair of the English Department from 1971-1974, subsequently serving as dean of college development for four years. From 1978-1982, Sister was academic dean. In 1982, she assumed the presidency of Immaculata College, serving two, five-year terms. During her tenure, she initiated two successful capital campaigns, established five master’s and two doctoral programs, and heightened Immaculata’s visibility as an institution of excellence with a special commitment to women and underserved populations. During her tenure as president, the college reached the highest enrollment in its history, and received the largest single gift ever in fundraising for the crown of her presidential career, the magnificent Gabriele Library.
Sister’s leadership style and presidential stance were distinctively her own: in her dealings with other administrators, she delegated responsibility and allowed others to function. Her graciousness and affability made some of the “tough” decisions acceptable as she administered these with temperate justice. Her gracious manner and approachability eliminated the “desk-barrier syndrome” and made stop-in students feel that she was waiting just for them. Sister Marian William’s modesty in her own regard led her to downplay the undisputed fact that she was a superb teacher. Her wit and humor and her engaging personality, coupled with her fantastic ability to charm an English class, made her one of Immaculata’s most beloved and sought-after teachers. She had the ability to engage and to convince because that interest was genuine and spontaneous. That is not to say that she was not above disarming one with her subtle, yet frank, honesty; she told it as it was.
At the farewell ceremony, as she left the presidency, Sister was awarded the distinction of President Emerita of Immaculata College, the first honor of its kind bestowed by the Board of Trustees. The college recognized her dedication by honoring her with the 1999 Immaculata Medal. To recognize such a person as Sister Marian William is, in truth, one of the reasons for which the Immaculata Medal exists.
From the parish of St. Mary, Coaldale, to the City of Mary, Immaculata, Sister Marian William, a true IHM daughter of Our Lady, lived the words she wrote in 2017, and made them a reality for all of us who knew her and loved her. She will be missed, indeed.
“As IHMs, we speak of creative hope, not just hope. Our hope is active and enthusiastic. Our gifts include ideas for problem-solving and vision for what could be. Our immersion in Eucharist clearly draws us to recognize each person’s value in and contribution to the one Body of Christ. This adds a spirit of inclusion to our creative hope, challenging all those we encounter to set aside personal preferences for the greater good. Realities like this remind us of the paradox of creative hope: being secure in the unseen, unknown plan of God.”
-Sister Marian William Hoben, IHM
(Written in 2017)
Sister Marian William was the first Sister I got to know in my freshman year at Immaculata. I was assigned to work for Sister Marian as a part of my work study. I will never forget how welcomed she made me feel when we were first introduced. She asked me my name and my major. When I told her I was a math major, she immediately reacted by saying that she had no idea why I was assigned to her, an English professor, and that she would have nothing for me to do. It was the best work study I ever had! We actually became good friends even though I did eventually graduate with a major in math.
-President Barbara Lettiere ’72
When my mother died suddenly in January of our sophomore year, I was forced to switch suddenly from being a commuter to being a boarder. There was technically “no room at the inn,” Sister Marian William told my father, “We’ll find a place for Carolyn if we have to put planks over the rotunda.” Well they did—with Valerie Kellogg! Sister Marian was extremely kind to us at that very difficult time.
-Carolyn Hoskins Archer ’66
I loved being in her Chaucer class and I will never forget her sitting in the back of the classroom and giggling at us as we tried to summarize the bawdy tales as cleanly as possible. She always congratulated us on our imaginative use of euphemisms. RIP.
-Ellyn Benner ’00
A true teacher, a teacher to remember. She enlivened the Romantic Lit course I was enrolled in during the mid-’70s with her keen observations and quick wit. Such a sharp memory—Sister’s recognizing a former student decades later after teaching countless others is a testament to her humanity. Her bright eyes and warm smile, her sense of humor… Sister Marian William was a pleasure to know, both in and out of class, she will be missed. Thank you, Sister, Rest In Peace.
-Barbara Mulgrew ’75
Sister Marian William loved Immaculata. She was a loyal friend and enthusiastic supporter, a wise mentor and inspired teacher, a dedicated leader and above all, a faithful IHM. She treasured her opportunities to return to campus to see the many alums who remembered her fondly; she was often the first to come and the last to leave the event. Her creativity, compassion and caring for every one of us will be greatly missed.
-Sister Patricia Fadden, IHM, 9th President of Immaculata University