Change is inevitable. Growth is not. Growing requires dedication and fortitude. Lourdes’ founder Mother Adelaide Sandusky was a pioneer and pivotal leader. So too were former Lourdes presidents, the late Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski, OSF, Ph.D., and Mary Ann Gawelek, Ed.D., who retired in fall 2022.

A few of their colleagues share their thoughts on these transformational leaders below. To donate in honor of president emerita Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski or in recognition of retired president Mary Ann Gawelek, contact Mary Sabin at or

Photo of Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski

Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski, OSF, Ph.D.

President, 1983-2000

“For more than 20 years, we had a lovely relationship. We were involved together and bonded both when I was on faculty as a history professor and when I served on the board. I found her to be very supportive. Sister Ann Francis always had confidence in the people who were creating academic programs and curriculum. We were all very centered on the mission of trying to build the school and I found her good to work with. I also felt very lucky to be here and to work with the Sisters. Sister Ann Francis represented the bridge between the Sisters and the lay staff and faculty.

I remember her determination to grow the university. She joined the rotary, Sister Cities, was involved in the Sylvania community and so much more. Sister Ann Francis worked very hard to say ‘we’re the real thing out here. We want you to know we don’t just bring in Sisters to educate.’ I remember working in concert together when we met with donors. She was tremendous at building relationships, gaining support and sharing Lourdes’ mission and its value to the greater community. Sister Ann Francis had a tremendous impact on Lourdes’ success and growth.”

– Martha Mewhort, former board chair


“Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski was a highly gifted, prescient, yet humble servant leader in the beautiful, timeless Franciscan tradition. She was “of the people and for the people.” She turned no one away. She saw and nurtured genius in every person. Academically, her inspired, persevering leadership elevated Lourdes to a college and then later advanced it to a university. Her guiding hand stretched far beyond the campus.

Highly respected, Sister Ann Francis was at once with the larger Toledo community and the international community beyond. Her dedication to the Toledo Poznań Alliance was enduring. The twinkle in her eyes usually preceded a perceptive insight that no one else had grasped.

Sister Ann Francis Klimkowski enriched the lives of every person she encountered. Her legacy will be the precious imprimatur of the Franciscan charism across our region; the educational endowment of Lourdes University and its beautiful campus; and for those blessed to know her, her unforgettable strong character that ennobled every person she encountered.”

– Marcy Kaptur, US congresswoman


“Sister Ann Fran was an immensely talented professional whom I greatly admired. More importantly, I treasured our friendship. The fondest memories are the times we spent together after retirement. She was an excellent colleague and friend. One of her best attributes was that of a nurturer. Whether she was representing Lourdes or spending time with good friends, you knew she cared for and about you.

Professionally what stands out is her significance in laying the foundation for Lourdes to become a four-year college. In board meetings, she was a good listener yet decisive and she was wise in recruiting members that represented a diverse cross section. Sister Ann Francis’ outreach and visibility were immensely important for Lourdes and its growth.”

– Dolly Flasck, former board member and trustee emerita


“It was a joy and a privilege to serve on the Lourdes Board of Trustees with Sister Ann Francis.  She was a visionary who transformed the academic curriculum for Lourdes students and faculty. She also had a great capacity for building meaningful partnerships with organizations across the community.”

– Mary Hills, former board member


Photo of Lourdes University President Mary Ann Gawelek

Mary Ann Gawelek, Ed.D.

President, 2016-2022

“Mary Ann and I first worked together when I served on the athletic advisory board. We were determining what new sports would best enhance and grow the athletics program. When I shared information about women’s wrestling and its emergence as a recognized and valued sport, she grabbed onto it and was very receptive. Mary Ann is very knowledgeable and has great vision. She understood the type of projects Diane and I would be interested in philanthropically. Spending time with her to make the exercise physiology lab a reality was a rewarding and tremendous experience. The new academic and athletic programs created under her leadership have resulted in the long-term value of Lourdes.”

– John Harris, former board member


“I enjoyed working with Mary Ann. Her intellect, insight and ability to think outside the box is very impressive. Having met her and gotten to know her through our book club, I really was impressed and enjoyed her and will miss her.”

– Diane Harris, friend


“It has been a privilege to work with Mary Ann Gawelek for the past seven years as a member of the Board of Trustees and as Chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee.  Mary Ann took bold, confident steps to take Lourdes to the next level.  She was committed to regional economic development as evidenced by her leadership with the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce.”

“Her vision made it possible for Lourdes to launch innovative programs like Competency Based Education, doctoral accreditation for the Lourdes Nurse Anesthesia program, Like Me: Diversifying the education workforce program and many other initiatives.  Mary Ann made institutional advancement a top priority and her commitment is reflected in the success of our fundraising.  In addition to big picture thinking, she saw each and every student as a precious member of our community that needed to be loved and supported. Her transformational leadership will be missed.”

– Rita Mansour, board member


“First and foremost, Mary Ann put and still puts Lourdes University’s mission as the priority above everything else. She was relentless in her approach in striving to improve all aspects of the university both academically and socially. This meant making hard, potentially unpopular decisions at times. She is the strongest supporter for Lourdes through her personality and leadership. She helped Lourdes substantially improve its institutional advancement plus has helped build a strong diverse and dedicated board of directors. Also, she was not afraid to ask for assistance in order to ensure that she was thinking through all possibilities.”

– Mike Koralewski, former board chair


“Mary Ann has been the right president for Lourdes during the past seven years and we the board, with Mary Ann’s leadership, have taken a number of important steps to assure Lourdes University’s success going forward, during some projected very challenging times for all of higher education.

Mary Ann was the inspiration behind Lourdes’ creation of and implementation of more virtual learning options, during a transformational time in the evolution of higher education.  Competency Based Education (CBE) is now a standard part of the Lourdes nursing curriculum where adult and nontraditional learners can engage in educational training programs that were not previously options for working adult learners. Lourdes has now implemented CBE in Lourdes’ College of Business and Leadership programs.

As an extension of new approaches to education, Mary Ann has also aggressively pursued collaboration with the RIZE shared education organization that was created and fostered by Dr. Jeffrey Docking, president of Adrian College. Lourdes can now offer curriculum in fields of study that are not available at Lourdes but which will be available to Lourdes students virtually from other private universities and colleges.

Of equal importance and impact is the fact that Mary Ann has created timely and comprehensive communication options for the Lourdes board members and she has also worked hard to identify and attract diverse and experienced board members who are also community leaders.

To be perfectly honest, I am not at all pleased that Mary Ann is retiring because I think her strong and progressive leadership is exactly what Lourdes will need as we head into even more challenging times for higher education.

Having lived myself in the higher education academic world as a nontraditional dean of education at the University of Toledo, I am keenly aware of how the world of education bands together to protect itself when progressive and aggressive thought leaders challenge conventional thinking.

However, in my judgement that is exactly what higher education and k12 education need as we face a global world that will offer more competition and more collaborative opportunities.

Betsy and I wish Mary Ann a healthy and wonderful retirement but we also will miss her progressive leadership at Lourdes and we only hope that Lourdes will find and be willing to hire an equally progressive leader going forward.”

– Dr. Tom Brady, board member, and wife Betsy Brady


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