President Sister Marcella Marie Garus, CSSF
While studying at the University of Detroit in 1968, Sister Marcella Marie Garus, CSSF received a request from her provincial minister to serve as the business administrator at Villa Maria College. Ten years later, in August of 1978, the Board of Trustees appointed her the third president of the College.
During her 40 year tenure as president, Sister Marcella committed herself to bettering the lives of individuals through education and has remained steadfastly dedicated in her pursuit to help students from all backgrounds achieve a college education. A strong, strategic planner she has led the College to meet several significant milestones, including its transition from a two-year school to a baccalaureate granting institution, re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and expanding study abroad opportunities. In addition, President Garus played a pivotal role in updating the College’s infrastructure and providing students with off-campus housing options.
As one of the longest-serving presidents in the area, and in all of higher education in America today, Sister Marcella has proven herself to be an incredibly hard working leader who has personally devoted herself to Villa Maria College and its mission for 5 decades.
After 50 years of faithful service to Catholic higher education in Western New York, the College community reflects back on the accomplishments and leadership of Sister Marcella.
Improving Our Offering
During Sister Marcella’s tenure as president, the College transformed from an Associates to Bachelor’s degree granting institution, adding 6 associates degrees and 14 Bachelor’s degrees.
Living the Mission
Under Sister Marcella Villa Maria College opened the first community food pantry to be housed on a college campus. The Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry recently celebrated 30 years of service to Villa Maria College and the surrounding community of Buffalo’s East Side. Originally serving around 26 households every month, the food pantry’s reach has grown to serve nearly 350 households. From 2016-2017, the food pantry has supplied meals to 10,641 individuals, which includes over sixty Villa Maria students.
An Award Winning Presidency
Sister Marcella was the recipient of numerous awards including: the Bishop’s Medal for Catholic Education in 2006, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, and New York State Senate Women of Distinction award in 2009, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities Higher Education Leadership Award, the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce Appreciation Award, and the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award and voted Best Places to Work by Buffalo Business First in 2015 and 2017.
Sister Marcella was instrumental in the construction of the Art Shop and the St. Joseph Memorial Walkway. During her presidency, the Saint John Paul II statue was erected and the College acquired its Athletic Center, Felician Hall, and St. Francis Residence. In addition, the Paul William Beltz Family Art Gallery was redone, a magnificent stained glass window was installed in the library, the front entrance and foyer of the Main Building received face lifts, the recital hall underwent a major renovation, and the athletic facilities were updated to include state-of-the-art equipment and a new weight room.
A Leader Through the Decades
Sister Marcella led the College as it celebrated 25 and 50 years as an institution. Throughout these years, she remained committed to mission integration and the promotion of the Felician Franciscan values, led all of the fundraising efforts of the College, raising millions of dollars to benefit students, and modernized the College’s administration.
A Vision for the Future
In 2014, President Garus launched the visionary plan that laid the foundation for Villa Maria College to become the premier student-centered institution in Western New York. As a result, the College relaunched intercollegiate athletics, enhanced student support, started the Achieve Program for Students with Learning Differences, and started new academic programs in Occupational Therapy Assistant, Digital Filmmaking, and Digital Media and Communication. Since 2014, the College has experienced a 30% growth in enrollment and nearly 10% increase in retention.
Villa Maria is in a strong position to transition to its next leader that will lead the College to a bright future in its next phase. Please check back soon for more information on the search for our fourth president.
Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Services
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / office: 716.961.1838 / cell: 716.472.7817