Greenebaum Remembers Anna Maria Williams

Published: April 30, 2015
Anna Maria Williams was a major force in the establishment and growth of UW-Parkside, especially its pre-professional and science programs, and a major contributor to the growth and later accomplishments of a great many of our students. She was first and foremost a microbiologist, though at UW-Parkside she became almost equally a developer and advocate of premedical students. The many other staff and students who experienced her—and I use the verb advisedly—will highlight other aspects of her personality and the ways she influenced them and the university; I'll just mention a few of these that I saw most closely and—mostly--appreciated.

Just before I got word of her death, I was reminded of Anna Maria when I was in a grocery store and saw an employee measuring the temperature of all of the items on the salad bar, recalling how Anna Maria drove the food service staff crazy with her continuing "oversight" of their sanitation practices. That led me to also recall how she would recruit people from the administrative suite (including me) to take swabs in the Chancellor's toilet for her annual class exercise that cultured and displayed microbes in the university environment. I always was impressed at the (unexpectedly, to me) few colonies from the toilet water sample taken immediately after a flush, compared to the (expectedly) large number from before. The microbiology lab was her sacrosanct domain and she kept it antiseptic. It was not to be disturbed without permission, but the custodians had to replace an emptied trash can in not-quite the same spot to show that they'd visited the room. 

Her success in carefully grooming of the premedical students, starting with their first days as freshmen, was recognized statewide and nationally, as well as locally. She recognized that many of the students had to build strengths not only in their scientific preparation, but also in areas outside the required pre-med courses, including personal strengths. The results were that, though some had mixed feelings about how closely she paid attention to everything a student was doing, her students were at least as prepared and successful as any and her recommendation carried great weight with med school admissions committees. Earlier than many, she recognized the need and importance of helping minority secondary school students understand the possibility, build the ambition, and undertake the pre-college preparation needed for success in medical professions; and the long-running DOC program was the result. 

Anna Maria was dedicated and persistent in pursuing all her interests. My wife knew that if I met her between the office and the parking lot on the way home, dinner was delayed at least a half-hour. She would talk about Parkside conditions, various individuals, comparisons of treatments of her arthritis with those of my wife, and so forth. I'd occasionally get in a few words. Interestingly, among all of the interests and concerns that came up in these corridor conversations when I was an administrator, I do not recall any direct pleading for something she or her program was asking for.

Professor Emeritus Ben Greenebaum

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