Purposeful principal


Once her retirement is official June 30, Mary K. Williams is going to do nothing.
Zip. Nada.
Absolutely. Nothing.
"I can’t imagine being able to choose what you’re going to do next," she mused, thinking about
the free time stretching out in front of her.
For the past 12 years as principal at Bowling Green’s St. Aloysius School, Williams’ spent most of her
time in the building, with an hour or two off for gym visits and dinner with her husband.
But at the end of the month she’s hanging up her principal’s cap – it’s probably green, in tribute to her
Irish heritage – and kicking up her heels.
The party started earlier this spring: Bowling Green Mayor John B. Quinn proclaimed May 12 as Mary K.
Williams Day, a student fun day at the park turned into a picnic in her honor, and an impromptu staff
lunch Wednesday was spent imbibing Mexican food and beverages.
The good spirits continued at the school as Williams recounted the years since she graduated in 1963 with
her bachelor’s in education from the former Mary Manse College in Toledo.
Her first post as principal/minister was at St. Louis Catholic School in Custar, from 1986-94. She then
went to Holy Trinity in Assumption, and joined the St. Aloysius team in 1997.
She also had five years of experience as a teacher at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns and Holy Angels in
Sandusky, had stayed at home with three children she shared with husband Tom, and tutored occasionally.

"It’s very important for me to grow spiritually," she mused about her jobs. As principal at St.
Al’s, she said one of her responsibilities also was to be very conscientious about not only students’,
but staff members’, spiritual growth.
"The ministry that I’ve had in Catholic education … is really primary in my life and helps me be
the person that I am."
She said she will miss the frequent challenges of academics and the daily blessings of spiritual growth.
That, plus the friendships, collaborations and daily interaction of so many exceptional people at the
school "really motivated me and enriched me all these years."
But don’t be fooled – that might be all she misses about a schedule that has had her at the school for 10
hours, at the gym in the afternoon, going home to Portage for an evening meal, and returning to the
school for more work or meetings.
Last year she realized she was completing her ministry; she mulled for a year the idea of retiring, then
turned in her resignation in September. "I just knew it was time to move into a new ministry,"
she said.
Williams is looking for greater freedom and flexibility to do what she wants, when she wants.
She’s a bit nervous about a life without structure, but she wants to surround herself with people who
help her stay fit, both spiritually and physically.
Friends have invited her to join their book club, or their social outings to area museums – opportunities
not open to her before.
She laughed when she said it’s time to stop and smell the flowers – and maybe even have time to plant a
In fact, there was a lot of laughter at the school on Wednesday. Teachers and staff members gathered in
the office to share jokes and tell stories about Williams.
"Never a dull moment," said Mary Russell, who taught years ago with Williams at St. Pat’s.
"I think she has more energy than all of us combined," added Shelly Leestma, who has been
school secretary for the past nine years.
School nurse Mary Lou Szabo called Williams "queen of the thank you notes."
"Whenever I think of Mary K., I think of her compassion," added kindergarten teacher Suzie Cox.

They also joked that the sound of her heels clicking in the hallway would alert them that the principal
was in their part of the building.
"My staff has made me look good," Williams stated. "We have a great team and I will go to
bat for them."
She added that her husband, Tom, is the best husband a principal could have. "He always supported
me, even if he didn’t agree with me."
She laughed again and shared that Tom also has packed her lunch every day for all these years.
He indicated he’s optimistic to how his wife of 28 years will accept retirement. Friends jokingly have
told the couple they’re praying more for him than for her in the days to come.
"It will be a different routine, but it will work out fine," he said.
"I hope we don’t drive each other crazy," the principal quipped.
Williams may be retiring, but at the age of 67 that doesn’t mean she’s slowing down.
"I want to find a purpose. I have to have a purpose," she said.
She loves summer – the peeling skin on her nose indicates a recent sunburn – and spending time at the
family’s cottage on Little Crystal Lake near Adrian, Mich. She’s not worried about finding things to do
the next few months, but has decided to commit to nothing until perhaps this fall.
The school and parish have collected money to send Williams on a trip to Ireland, home of her and her
husband’s ancestors.
But in the meantime, don’t even suggest she become an official member of any club or organization. She
simply doesn’t want that responsibility. She joked she simply wants to go to church, and not know what’s
going on.
And do nothing.

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