By Lindsay Dickson
[Editor’s note: The following information is from Brother William Mann’s talk with current SMU students and from an interview conducted by Deb Nahrgang, director of communication.]
Brother William Mann visited the Saint Mary’s University Twin Cities and Winona campuses on Jan. 8 to speak with and meet students, staff, and faculty. He will begin his term as the 13th president starting June 1, 2008.
The Board of Trustees named Brother William the next SMU president on Dec. 13, 2007. Brother William, a New York native, was most recently the Vicar General of the De La Salle Christian Brothers. In this role, he was the second-highest officer of the international Catholic teaching order which comprises 5,300 Christian Brothers, working in association with 73,000 lay educators to operate 930 schools and universities serving 900,000 students in 82 countries.
Before Brother William was involved in administrative positions, he had hopes of becoming a Christian Brother and following his passion for teaching. “It was during my high school years that I really got attracted to the idea of being a Brother –– being like them, in community, and working with young people, teaching.” While there were years spent out of the classroom, he knew that education was his calling.
Brother William is excited to be working with students again because “a university is ultimately about its students. SMU doesn’t exist without its students, both the undergraduates and the graduates.”
In his trip to SMU this month, Brother William wished he could have had more interaction with students. “The most painful part was going from building to building and bumping into young people and just passing them by, not knowing them and not being able to engage with them in discussion. I like saying hellos. I like chatting. I like knowing people.”
Brother William commented that he fears sitting alone in the presidential suite doing administrative duties and not being able to interact with students. He said that he hopes to attend activities such as theatre, dance, and sporting events as a way to get to know the SMU community.
Brother William is not new to the SMU community; he served on the Board of Trustees from 1996 to 2001. He was drawn back to SMU because he enjoyed his experience as a board member. “I was impressed with Saint Mary’s mission and vision, the recent self study, and the agenda that the university has set about how to enhance the Catholic and Lasallian identity. And it does it in such a way that faculty and staff have great satisfaction in what they’re doing.”
Brother William plans to continue spreading awareness of the Lasallian identity at SMU. “For me, the best in Lasallian formation is when you begin to help people through what is already their own experience…Lasallian, for me, is helping people to see their life, their values, their profession, their family, as an integrated whole,” said Brother William. Teaching in this way gives “meaning and encouragement, fire and passion. It is hoping some of the passion can be unlocked.”
As for Brother William’s presidential agenda, he plans to work with the SMU community to “continue enhancing Saint Mary’s contributions as a force for good, for people, for the church and for interactions within the Lasallian world.” He also hopes that “good things continue to happen in ways that we can’t predict. And that these good things are for the good of our nation, our world, our Church.”
Brother William said he plans to come to SMU this June in trust and in hope. “I have a care, concern, dedication, and hope for the future.”