The Passing of College Bursar Mary Kate Shea '81

To the Williams community,

It is with deep sadness that I write to inform you that Mary Kate Shea ’81, our college bursar, passed away unexpectedly overnight.

Mary Kate was deeply beloved by the innumerable students and families she helped over her five years in that role. She took special pride in helping those in difficult situations. Her supervisor, Controller Sue Hogan, said, “she would respond to students and parents no matter the time of day, 24/7. This is such a sad loss.”

A deeply compassionate person, Mary Kate balanced her hard work for Williams with love for her family, especially by caring for her mother, Pat, and father, John ’50, late in their lives. The Sheas are a true Eph family: Mary Kate’s young brother, Tim, is also an alumnus, Class of ’90. Mary Kate often devoted her vacations to family trips to Cape Cod with her three brothers and sister and her beloved nieces and nephews.

In John’s late years, Mary Kate could often be found sitting alongside him at Williams men’s and women’s basketball games. Her love of sports extended far beyond Williams or basketball. Before coming to the college she worked for NBC on the 1996 Olympic Games; for the NBA and the Massachusetts Sports & Entertainment Commission, including as a manager of the 2006 NCAA Women’s Final Four; and as a marketing manager for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She was an avid Red Sox fan, too. Her career also included events planning positions at Dartmouth, Connecticut College, and the Children’s Miracle Network.

It was that skill in events planning that originally brought Mary Kate to us in 2009, as director of the college’s Conferences Office. She later brought the same focus and commitment to her work as bursar. Her frequent collaborator, Director of Financial Aid Paul Boyer, says, “Mary Kate’s desire to help Williams students and their families was always at the forefront of her daily life, both in the office and often from home, after hours. Her devotion to the position and her special way of working individually with students and parents will be a tremendous loss for the college.”

Nor did her devotion stop at campus’s edge. Mary Kate’s colleague on the Village Ambulance Service board, Associate Vice President for Finance Matt Sheehy, describes her as “a tireless advocate, deeply concerned about providing emergency medical services to our community.”

Sue Hogan and the close-knit Controller’s team are feeling this loss especially deeply. Sue writes, “Mary Kate Shea was a shining example of dedication and high standards. She delighted in successful outcomes, whether it be the resolution of a difficult situation, sharing in the good news of her colleagues, or relishing the achievements of her niece and nephews. Her home and screensaver were full of family photos. The care that she gave to her parents and to our students was remarkable. It was especially fun to get Mary Kate talking about her jobs in the NBA and with the Olympic Committee. She will be sorely missed.”

Mary Kate Shea’s passing is a painful loss to the Williams community, the Williamstown community, and the Shea family.

If a memorial observance is announced, we will share that information as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in appreciating the life of Mary Kate Shea, and in keeping her family, friends, and co-workers in our thoughts.


Adam Falk