Montevallo community celebrates life of Mary Lou Williams

Published 5:03 pm Friday, March 4, 2016

Mary Lou Williams was a large part of the Montevallo community for a number of decades until her death on March 2. (File)

Mary Lou Williams was a large part of the Montevallo community for a number of decades until her death on March 2. (File)

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO–A prominent figure for the city of Montevallo and the University of Montevallo died on March 2, after a lengthy battle with breast cancer, and her dedication and passion for Montevallo left a lasting impression on the community and those fortunate enough to know her.

Mary Lou Williams received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Montevallo in 1969 as well as a master’s degree in 1972.

In addition to receiving academic degrees from UM, Williams continued to serve Montevallo in a variety of roles that included being the director of development and alumni relations for more than 23 years as well as the executive director for the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce.

Steve Gilbert replaced Williams as the new chamber executive director in 2013 and had plenty of positive things to say about her time in the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce.

“I worked with Mary Lou prior to accepting the executive director position and worked with her on a number of projects,” said Gilbert. “She was such a pleasure to be around and to work with and always had a positive attitude. She took the chamber to a different level during her term and introduced new ideas and new programs. She left the chamber with a strong and viable foundation and I was fortunate to work with her on that respect.”

University of Montevallo President Dr. John Stewart commended Williams on her dedication to the university.

“She really gave a great measure of her life and career to her alma mater and moved us forward in the development as a university,” Steward said during a March 4 phone interview. “During this past year, the university received one of its most significant gifts in the 120-year history and she was largely responsible for nurturing the relationship that made that gift possible. She will genuinely be missed and remembered on campus and among our 27,000 alums, especially during times like college night homecoming traditions and times so precious to us.”

Current Montevallo Mayor Hollie Cost shared an office with Williams for a number of years, and said Williams made a huge impact on Montevallo during her years.

““The best thing I can say about her is that she’s always been so positive in moving the community forward,” said Cost. “She always encouraged people to tell the Montevallo story and she really helped to promote Montevallo. She had a positive outlook on life and I think it was contagious. She was a dignified lady and full of grace. We’re going to miss her tremendously and there will be a big hole in the community with her gone.”

The University of Montevallo established the Mary Lou Williams Alumnus Loyalty Award which recognizes an alumnus who has demonstrated loyalty and dedication in his or her strength of exceptional service to the university through contributions of his or her time, talents or resources. The award is presented during Founders’ Day activities every October.

The memorial service for Williams will be Monday, March 7, at 2 p.m. at University Baptist Church in Montevallo. Visitation will start at 12:30 p.m. and continue after the service as needed.

The Williams’ family encourages those wishing to make contributions to do so through the Mary Lou Elder Williams Endowed Scholarship in Arts and Sciences in lieu of flowers.