Behan, Williams among 'dynamic dozen'

Two Mercyhurst graduates who are now part of the school’s leadership are among a dozen “Women Making History” who will be honored this week by the Mercy Center for Women.

Dr. Barbara Behan ’64, vice president for academic affairs, and Shirley Williams ’86, project administrator for the Center for Public Safety, will be saluted during a ceremony Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center.

Mercy Center for Women was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in January 1994 to provide long-term transitional housing and support services to homeless women with or without children. It combined the services of two agencies, Hope House, an emergency shelter for women and children, and Grass Roots Opportunities for Women, an advocacy center.

It’s now in its 15th year of honoring phenomenal women in the community. It continues the tradition with the hope that these women will inspire many others to follow their dreams and help others in need.

Each of the honorees was selected because of her dedicated service in her neighborhood, workplace or community; honesty, integrity and strong moral values; commitment to women’s issues; the courage of her convictions; and a commitment to personal growth and development.

Behan is an accomplished educator with a stellar performance as a teacher and leader at Mercyhurst. She is also an individual who is grounded in a deep, personal faith with a quiet devotion to children, young people, women and her family. She is a reading supervisor for Hooked on Books, active at the Neighborhood Art House, and chairs the Jean Forsyth Golf Tournament for Junior Girls, among other activities.

She holds a B.A. in mathematics, an M.Engr. in engineering science, an M.B.A., and a Ph.D. She has worked for Edinboro University, General Electric and International Paper. Her life has been the cultivation of habits that have led to community service and academic excellence.

“I am honored to be included with this fine group as a woman who tries to make a difference, just as the Sisters of Mercy and the staff of the Mercy Center for Women do each day,” Behan said.

She added that she believes each of us has the responsibility to utilize the gifts with which we have been blessed in order to nurture and help to develop this same belief in those we serve.

Following a stellar academic career as a student at Mercyhurst College, graduating magna cum laude in her undergraduate studies in criminal justice-corrections and sociology, and summa cum laude with a master’s in administration of justice, Shirley is currently the project administrator for the Mercyhurst College Center for Public Safety. 

Her most notable volunteer work is as board president of SafeNet, raising funds to enlarge the shelter to serve more families. She also volunteers for other community wellness programs, including DWI Awareness and Terrorism Awareness and Prevention.

Williams has received many awards including the James V. Kinnane Graduate Award in 1989 and the Liberty Bell Award in 2002 and she was named Person of the Year by the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, also in 2002. Her husband and daughter are both lawyers, and her son is an intelligence studies student at Mercyhurst.

“I'm extremely honored to be listed among such an impressive slate of women making history,” said Williams. “Moreover, I'm proud to embrace the Mercyhurst College mission by promoting the values of human dignity, mercy and justice.”
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