Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Local News

Villa Maria College President Sister Marcella Marie Garus announces retirement

Sister Marcella Marie Garus Sister Marcella Marie Garus After 50 years of ongoing service to Villa Maria College and its thousands of students, faculty and alumni, Sister Marcella Marie Garus has announced her upcoming retirement, effective June 2018, the college announced Wednesday morning.

A Buffalo native, Sister Marcella served for 40 years as Villa Maria College president, making her one of the longest-tenured presidents of a higher education institution both in Western New York and across North America.

Her tenure at Villa Maria College began in 1968 through the role of business administrator, a position she held until her appointment as president in 1978. In this leadership role, her dedication to faith, education, student and faculty experience, community impact and continued institutional viability was a hallmark of her service, a spokesperson said.

“Sister Marcella’s enormous contributions to Villa Maria College will be forever felt by so many within this community, and we’re incredibly thankful for all of her years of passionate, effective work,” said Catherine Grantier Cooley, chairwoman of the college’s board of trustees. “Sister Marcella is a generational visionary, and the improvements she has continually made have not only kept the college going, but also primed us for future growth. As the search for our next president begins, we’re confident that the coming years will be bright.”

According to the college, some of Sister Marcella’s most notable accomplishments include the transformation of Villa Maria from an associate degree-granting college to a bachelor’s degree granting institution, adding six associate degrees and 14 bachelor’s degrees; the leadership of college fundraising efforts, resulting in millions of dollars raised to benefit students; and the launching of the college’s Visionary Plan, which yielded a 30 percent growth in enrollment and a 10 percent increase in retention.

As a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice, Sister Marcella devoted herself to educational service and the task of making Villa Maria a truly faith-based, student-centric institution with premier programs in art, music and health science, the spokesperson said.

In addition to instilling advanced organizational processes that modernized the college’s administration, Sister Marcella helped create various new academic programs in fields such as occupational therapy, digital filmmaking and digital media, and communication that welcomed a diverse array of students interested in these disciplines.

“As an alumnus of Villa Maria Academy and Villa Maria College, and now as alumni association president, I can attest that Sister Marcella has always made me feel welcome at Villa Maria College,” said Sabrina Pisano. “She has made Villa Maria a place where people not only go to learn, but also to grow as professionals in a welcoming community.”

Though Sister Marcella took great strides in improving Villa Maria College’s academic programs and administrative and organizational processes, equally prominent were her efforts to advance the creation and renovation of new spaces and structures, in order to further enhance the campus environment, the college said.

These initiatives include the St. Joseph Memorial Walkway, the Art Shop, Felician Hall, St. Francis Residence and the Paul William Beltz Family Art Gallery. Significant upgrades and improvements were also made to the campus library and athletic facilities during Sister Marcella’s tenure.

A recipient of various accolades and honors, Sister Marcella was awarded the Bishop’s Medal for Catholic Education, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, the New York State Senate Women of Distinction commendation, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities Higher Education Leadership Award, and the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year designation.

“Sister Marcella has been a graceful, quiet, humble leader in higher education for the past 50 years and as high quality an individual as I have ever had the good fortune to know,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.

Villa Maria intends to commence a formal leadership search in the coming months, with more details on that effort made available in the near future.

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