Sister Thomas passed away this morning at age 80, and she left an incredible mark on a University, the state and beyond.
As the President of the University of Mary for 31 years, she was the longest-serving female college president in the history of the United States.
And she leaves a legacy of leadership, faith and service.
“It’s the people that matter,” said Sr. Thomas Welder.
That was always Sister Thomas Welder’s main goal, to make sure everyone felt like they were someone. It’s a lesson she taught the current University of Mary President and Monsignor James Shea, which he will never forget.
Shea said, “It’s not about programs and plans, it is about people and the bonds of human affection take place heart to heart and person to person.”
Sister Thomas influenced millions of people during her life, including so many students. She helped the University of Mary grow and find the success it has today.
Prioress of Annunciation Monastery Sr. Nicole Kunze said, “It was certainly something I always looked to as a student in the 1990’s kind of when she was in her prime and just of how much she was so well respected in our state and in our nation. She showed that women do have the ability especially a religious woman to be in those places of leadership.”
No matter how much good she did for the community, she stayed humble through it all.
Here’s an excerpt from an interview she gave KX News in March of last year.
Lauren Kalberer: “What if I told you, you are one of the most influential of our time. What would you say?”
“It gives me pause. First, what do we mean by influence and what kind of a difference can we make because as I see leadership I think about it much more in terms of influence then I do of power or control,” said Sister Thomas.
Welder lived with chronic kidney complications that led to a transplant in 2001. In 2005, she learned she had to get a second transplant — and had to regularly undergo dialysis until a successful transplant could be done in 2011. But even while battling disease, she never changed.
“Sister Thomas shared a moment with nearly every sister in our community during her last day with us and that was so her. Taking time to be with others and expressing her love for them,” said Sr. Nicole Kunze.
Shea added, “She was a woman of the prairies of North Dakota and we will miss her very, very much.”
“Hearing gods call to a life of ministry, through the Benedictine way of life, through the monastic way of life, that would’ve been my most defining moment,” said Sister Thomas.
A public visitation is planned from 1 until 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 28.