SKIP navigation
news & events.
news.

Relevant unomaha.edu links:

Mary Williamson worked at UNO for 35 years (1969 -2004) as a professor, executive assistant, dean, and consultant

feature

Mary Williamson: An Extraordinary Woman

by Jeremy Lipschultz, Ph.D.

Everywhere Mary Williamson journeyed – on the ground and in the air – she pioneered paths for young women and encouraged them to follow. Her death Dec. 3 at age 88 silenced an important Omaha voice.

Born in Kansas City, Williamson was a trailblazer in military service by learning to fly airplanes in Sweetwater, Texas and training to be a pilot with the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) in 1944. She delighted in telling about this, showing her photograph and encouraging the eventual dedication in 2010 of a monument in Lincoln, Neb. to honor these brave women. Diane Bartels wrote that she presented Mary Williamson with the Congressional Gold Medal, which is the highest civilian award given by Congress.

Williamson received a M.A. in Journalism from Columbia University and joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) faculty in 1969, as the campus was adjusting to its new place in the NU system. Williamson mentored and launched hundreds of careers.

KETV News Director (ND) Rose Ann Shannon, one of the first women NDs, said Williamson was a pioneer in broadcasting and advertising. “She encouraged young women to follow in her footsteps,” Shannon said. “She told me I could do anything I set out to do and I believed her… I don't think I would be a news director today if Mary had not touched my life.”

When Shannon was named ND in 1993, one of the first congratulations came in the form of a telephone call from Williamson. “I could feel her beaming. I could hear the pride in her voice,” she says. “I was so happy to make her proud.”

Likewise, former KETV News Anchor Carol Shrader remembers Williamson teaching most of the few non-news courses at UNO speaking frequently about the "possibilities" of radio and television.

“She was an incredible advocate of diversity in the media, long before the FCC push to get stations to expand their narrow gender and race hirings,” she says. “But more than that, she was always available to and honest with her students."

WASP
Mary Williamson helped establish a monument for Nebraska's WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) members in Lincoln, Neb.

Along the way, Williamson wrote her dissertation at Missouri, “An Inquiry into Excellence in Commercial Broadcasting,” in 1973. When I arrived at UNO in 1989, she turned over to me her Commercial Broadcasting course, as well as one titled Broadcast Regulation. She mentored me, provided key course materials, and even gave me a copy of her dissertation to read. It was so ahead of its time that it continues to be a valuable resource for anyone wishing for higher media standards.

Williamson continued to identify promising students – particularly women – and urged them to pursue a doctoral degree. One was Jan Slater who was working in advertising in Omaha in the early 1990s.

“Mary was the reason I started teaching and actually gave me my first adjunct assignment at UNO,” she says.

Slater taught at UNO, received her doctorate at Syracuse and now is dean of the College of Media at the University of Illinois. Three years ago, Slater served as president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which promotes much needed diversity.

Mary Williamson’s colleagues elected her president of the UNO Faculty Senate. She was executive assistant to Chancellor Del Weber. Williamson also served as dean of the College of Fine Arts. She offered the vision that Communication should join the college, but Williamson was again decades ahead of her contemporaries.

She delighted in 2005 when UNO created a College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media as new home for the School of Communication. Williamson was even more excited when UNO hired Dean Gail F. Baker, an accomplished African American woman who also happened to have the Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism.

WASP
Mary Williamson became a member of WASP in 1944

Retirement from the Communication department seemed to liberate Williamson to further important work off campus. She consulted small businesses through work with the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC). Williamson also volunteered at Ambassador Rehabilitation Center, SCORE, Volunteers Assisting Seniors, and Hearts United for Animals. She had extraordinary skills as an ombudsperson and counselor. She loved people and animals.

Mary never forgot people. She frequently called to make me aware of information useful in my role as director of the School of Communication. Earlier this year, I called her to talk about Cox changes to Omaha’s cable system. Mary had been a member of an Omaha group that lost the local franchise to Cox in 1980. She provided details to me, but then she quickly offered the telephone number of an out-of-town friend and industry expert.

Williamson enjoyed making friends in her neighborhood, and she often opened her home to guests, including former students and others she mentored. As one of them recently observed in a tribute to Williamson: “She was no-nonsense, compassionate, and above all, one of the most intelligent people I've ever known.” 


Assertive women, such as Mary Williamson, advocated many of the social gains we take for granted. I’ll think of her when I see a telephone because Williamson was frequently the energetic voice on the other end of the line. Fortunately, as Rose Ann Shannon observes about Mary, “her legacy continues through the hundreds of people she trained."

-----------

Jeremy Lipschultz is director of the School of Communication at UNO. In addition to his role as director, Lipschultz is a blogger, social media afficinado and media law expert. You can read his weekly School of Communication blog at http://tuesdaymorningupdate.blogspot.com.


archive

October 2012 > A Closer Look at IS&T's NUCIA

October 2012 > UNO Engages Students, Community for 2012 Elections

October 2012 > National Cyber Security Month Highlights UNO Programs, Research

May 2012 > Dan McDermott Named Employee of the Year at UNO

December 2011 > Conference Tags

September 2011 > Roskens Hall: An Educator's Dream

July 2011 > Arts and Sciences Hall: UNO's Cornerstone

June 2011 > The ABCs of the Alumni House: From Adolf Storz and Mary Shirley to William H. Thompson

June 2011 > The Strauss Performing Arts Center: Making Music for Decades

May 2011 > The Durham Science Center: Theory Put Into Practice

May 2011 > The Gene Eppley Administration Building: Philanthropy at Work

April 2011 > Milo Bail Student Center: From Snack Shack to Student Center

April 2011 > UNOCCC: Twenty-Five Years of Caring

March 2011 > UNO's Libraries: A History

March 2011 > The Henningson Memorial Campanile

February 2011 > Mammel Hall

February 2011 > The Sapp Fieldhouse

January 2011 > Heydays of the Hayden House

December 2010 > UNO Faculty/Staff Earn WELCOM Light of Wellness Team Award

October 2010 > New children's financial literacy book supported by UNO alumni

August 2010 > Anna S. Forman Commencement Remarks

May 2010 > John Treinen Commencement Remarks

March 2010 > My Ties and Cliff Hillegass

January 2010 > Megan Schuster Commencement Remarks

December 2009 > Man Killed by Pheasant

November 2009 > New Molecular Modeling Lab Key to Chemistry Research Work

September 2009 > Midlands Voices: Goals of liberal arts college remain vastly important

September 2009 > Technology and Term Papers – A Photo Essay

May 2009 > USSTRATCOM Commander Hears UNO Intern Ideas on Cyber Security, Global Stability

March 2009 > Early Usage of the Kerrey Bridge: Some Empirical Findings and Thoughts on the Future

March 2009 > The End of an Era - UNO's Public Intellectuals and the Omaha World-Herald, 1997-2006

January 2009 > Going Green on Campus: Kathy Hartle Evokes Her Recycling Charge at Work

October 2008 > Zero to 65 in 80 Semesters

October 2008 > Embracing tests UNO should be praised for bucking establishment, scoring well

September 2008 > H.RES.1372: Celebrating the 100th

September 2008 > UNO Researcher Spotlighted

March 2008 > Culture on Campus

February 2008 > In Her Own Words: Technology is crucial to spurring growth

December 2007 > Pacific Street Memories

November 2007 > WISE Women

October 2007 > Vincent Empowers Teachers, Students With Technology

September 2007 > A Model of Success: UNO-Western Hills Partnership Thrives at Six Years

August 2007 > Orientation Leader Represents UNO with Exuberance

August 2007 > In His Own Words: On Summer School

July 2007 > Changing Faces

June 2007 > MVHC @ 50

May 2007 > In His Own Words: My Fulbright Year in Leipzig

February 2007 > At Your Service

December 2006 > A Job Well Done

September 2006 > Australian Finches Aid UNO Professor's Research

July 2006 > Finding His Way

May 2006 > Calming the Anxious

April 2006 > The Kid's Doing All Right

March 2006 > Shot of a Lifetime

March 2006 > Going for Four

February 2006 > Standing Tall with Sierra

January 2006 > In-Your-Face Geology

January 2006 > Religion Meets Film

January 2006 > Finding a Home Port

December 2005 > Man of the Cloth

November 2005 > Volunteer Field Work

November 2005 > Charting the Unknown

October 2005 > Developing Business Overseas

October 2005 > After The Storm

September 2005 > Building Better Officers

September 2005 > Saving the Planet

August 2005 > Making the Abstract Tangible

August 2005 > Helping Neighborhoods Help Themselves

July 2005 > Improving Health through Technology

July 2005 > Reading the Signs

June 2005 > Small Steps to a Better Life

April 2005 > Women's Walk Brings the Benefits to UNO Student-Athletes

April 2005 > Honest Art

March 2005 > Sharing The Wealth

March 2005 > Engineering His Own Masterpiece

February 2005 > Native Daughter, Native Dreams

February 2005 > Puck Stops Here

January 2005 > Stressing the Familiar

January 2005 > Connecting the Community

January 2005 > Ticket to Cooperstown

December 2004 > Spirit of the Season

December 2004 > Nicholas Stergiou: Research in Motion

fall 2004 > Alzheimer's: Caring for the Caregiver's

fall 2004 > Part of the Heart & Soul of Our Community: A message from Chancellor Belck

fall 2004 > David Hawk: All In

fall 2004 > Anadelia Lamas: Planting Roots

fall 2004 > Dean Olson: Assessing the Threat

fall 2004 > Student's Wireless Application Earns Him $25,000 Price from Microsoft

fall 2004 > Tom Warren: From the Chiefs to the Chief

fall 2004 > UNO Theatre Graduates Start Companies in Their Community

fall 2004 > Host Families Provide Welcoming Environment for Afghan Guests

fall 2004 > CADRE Project Celebrates 10 Years of Preparing Effective Educators

fall 2004 > Business Owner Raises Awareness, Funding for Real Estate Program

fall 2004 > Media Executive Chooses Omaha as Place to Build a Career and a Life

fall 2004 > UNO Partners with Metro, Takes STEP to Grow Science-Related Degrees

fall 2004 > Art Meets Technology in PKI's Student Multimedia Lab