Hidden History of North Dakota

Women’s History Month – Sister Thomas Welder


Throughout the month of March, we are celebrating Women’s History.
And we are featuring some of the most influential women of our time.
The woman you’re about to meet knows your name and you certainly know hers.

Even after her so-called retirement Sister Thomas Welder lights up a room, and a keyboard.
Her job as President of the University of Mary began in 1978.

“I remember at the moment thinking, of all my inadequacies and God is calling me to this too soon,” said Sister Thomas.

To this day, she is the longest serving female college president in the history of this country.

“It was sustained by the life and prayer of the sisters,” said Sister Thomas.

She saw Mary College through to the University process.
She’s been at every groundbreaking.
She’s a big part of the growth and success the University sees today.

Reporter: “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.

For sister Thomas it has only and always about others, living a life of service, and teaching future generations the same.
It’s her calling.

“Sister Thomas more than leading by words leads by her example and the way she treats people,” said Monsignor James Shea, current president of the University of Mary.

“Once you’ve met her, you’re thinking, how can be like that woman,” said Joan Weltz, a transfer counselor for the University of Mary.

Joan Weltz has worked with Sister Thomas 45 years, and there’s one thing that never ceases to amaze her — Sister Thomas never forgets a name.

“She even remember parents names and sometimes even siblings,” said Weltz.

Even Sister Thomas admits, remembering names has grown harder as the student population has grown.

“And I do forget, and I will openly confess,” said Sister Thomas.

But to her, it’s never been about names.

“It’s the people who matter,” said Sister Thomas

And through the years, it wasn’t playing organ with Lawrence Welk, or standing next to the first lady that’s defined her career, not even close.

“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.

It’s almost impossible, to sum up, Sister Thomas’s life in terms of her influence and impact on people not only at the University of Mary, but across the state and the country. 


Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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