Charisse Williams Honored with Prestigious Award
Through joyful service to her students and colleagues, Charisse Williams exemplifies the strong, selfless spirit of Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton and is a powerful role model for women and men alike.
“Jesus loves Charisse, but not as much as I do,” Pam Vaughan, administrative assistant for undergraduate programs, has been known to say about “one of the best bosses in the world,” Charisse Williams, MA, assistant dean of undergraduate business programs.
Kidding aside, Vaughan’s sentiment reveals the depth of affection and loyalty Williams elicits in the Heider College of Business community, and why she was recently recognized with the 42nd annual Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily Creighton Award.
Named for Mary Lucretia Creighton, wife of Edward Creighton, and Sarah Emily Creighton, wife of John Creighton, the award recognizes faculty, staff and University community members who embody the Creighton women’s leadership legacy. The University’s Committee on the Status of Women established the annual award. Recipients are honored for their ability to create an environment supportive of achievement for women; to encourage women faculty, administrators, staff and/or students in the development of their talents; and to serve as role models of accomplishment for other women.
Student Retention Secret Weapon
According to one nominator, Williams, now in her 18th year at the Heider College of Business, “is known for her exceptional advising and caring heart” and is “one who turns her empathy into compassion and strives to alleviate distress in others.” Another wrote that Williams’ “belief in and execution of the Creighton mission has undoubtably led to higher numbers of admissions and graduations, given how relatable, knowledgeable and confident she is, combined with her willingness to navigate difficult conversations and situations.”
Past recipient of the award, Debbie Wells, PhD, chair of the Department of Accounting and Business Intelligence and Analytics, adds, “There aren’t many people about whom could be said a negative word was never uttered. For Charisse, though, that is the absolute truth.”
“Charisse has played such an important role in the lives of so many students,” Wells continues. “She provides wise counsel, encouragement and support to students who, in particular, need a little boost to get to the finish line.”
Consider Margo Lampe, BSBA’21, compliance analyst at PayPal in Chandler, Arizona. Lampe attributes the success she is enjoying at PayPal to her Creighton education, and she attributes her Creighton education to Williams.
Lampe sustained a serious sport-related neck injury just two weeks into her freshman year that threatened her college career. Though Lampe put up a good front during a routine advising session with Williams, Williams immediately detected something was wrong and gently pressed her advisee.
“I burst into tears, explaining to her how much pain I truly was in after the accident. She heard me out, called my parents and marched me straight to student health services. I was so distraught I could hardly speak for myself, so Dean Williams spoke for me,” Lampe says.
And in addition to establishing initial health care, Williams helped Lampe navigate the necessary academic accommodations she would require. “From that day on, I knew that I had someone in my corner at Creighton, and that’s how I would describe Dean Williams to anyone – she’s always in a student’s corner. She’s honest, caring, intelligent and trustworthy, and this shines through in her role and day-to-day interactions with students. It’s one of the reasons she is not only a crowd favorite amongst the Heider student body, but someone whom everyone respects.”
Lampe says that on her worst days of pain she considered dropping out of Creighton to return home to address her medical issues, but the care she received from Williams, the time Williams took to truly understand Lampe and her needs, proved to Lampe that “Creighton wasn’t going to let me fall through the cracks,” she says.
“As I was crying in Dean Williams’ office that day, I remember she handed me a tissue and said, ‘You know that whole “Creighton Cares” thing we talk about around here? Yeah, well, it’s the real deal.’”
Connor Thomaston concurs. An adult learner in a predominantly traditional student body demographic, Thomaston says he was made to feel welcome and part of the tight-knit Creighton community immediately in his first Zoom call with Williams.
“Charisse truly cares for ‘her people.’ I don’t know how to quantify what Charisse has done for me,” Thomaston says. “To me, she is not just the assistant dean or an HCB advisor. She is the epitome of what it means to be a mentor, a friend and someone to have on your side when times get tough, the embodiment of the core Jesuit values of our University. Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to find themselves a ‘Charisse Williams,’ because their life will be blessed from it, like mine has been.”
Class Act and Model of Humility
A reception honoring Williams and fellow recipient, Holly Ann Harris, PhD, professor and associate dean for the natural sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, was held Feb. 10 in the Mike and Josie Harper Center. In her acceptance speech, Williams likened the fanfare associated with the honor to being a Publishers Clearing House Sweepstake winner– oodles of flowers and recognition. In perfect Charisse Williams fashion, she laughed that she was still waiting for the check.
“I recognize the weight of receiving this award,” Williams went on to say. “These women are everything I aspire to be.”
Williams hopes that Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily would like the service she so freely gives to her students. But there is one thing of which Williams is certain: that Mary Lucretia’s desire to create an institution of higher learning worthy of her husband’s memory, and Sarah Emily and John Creighton’s help in seeing Creighton through its early years, has come to fruition.
Mary Lucretia and Sarah Emily are smiling upon us today,” Williams said.