Lisa Marie Johnson Williams (B.A.’98, Secondary Education English; M.A.’04, Educational Leadership)
How were you involved on campus?
Proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, Delta Upsilon Chapter
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Current Location: Southfield, MI
Job Title and Company/Organization: Principal, Ferndale High School
Favorite campus memory: My favorite campus memory was always homecoming weekend. Getting together with current students and alumni to celebrate the University and our football team was a wonderful tradition that I have enjoyed over the years. Participating in the 5K walk, tailgating and attending the annual NPHC Marchdown was something I looked forward to every year.
When I was 19 years old, I left Detroit and came to Kalamazoo with a five-month-old son and everything we owned in a plastic garbage bag. We stayed with two of my friends from high school, Chalena Yancey and Nicole Echols, that were attending WMU at the time. I got a job at a grocery store as a bagger and decided to enroll in classes at KVCC. After a year at the valley, I applied and was accepted to WMU. Over the summer I took a job as a tutor counselor with the Upward Bound Program where I worked very closely with Dr. Toni Woolfolk-Barnes. I was able to mentor first-generation college students from high schools in the Western Michigan area. I had an opportunity to meet some awesome students and developed many life-long relationships with them. Working in this program inspired me to select a major in Secondary Education with an emphasis in English. I enjoyed building positive relationships with that age group and from there I started my journey as an educator.
I eventually got my own apartment and continued to take classes at WMU. I raised my son with the help of my wonderful village of students, staff, sorority sisters and friends that I met along the way. I am so grateful for the outpouring of support I received as a single mother and full-time student. During this time, I had a job in the Division of Minority Affairs office. The staff there worked with me so that I could manage my classes, motherly responsibilities and study time. Toni Woolfork Barnes was an amazing boss, mentor and role model. She, along with Sue Lasenby-Murray, was instrumental with encouraging me to keep going at times when I felt discouraged and challenged by different circumstances. Shashanta James and Sheila Gothard provided much need support and assistance as I navigated through the financial aid process. I do not know where I would be without the love and support from these wonderful women of Western!
After six years, I graduated from WMU and moved back to Detroit. My first teaching position was at Martin Luther King Jr. Sr High School with the Detroit Public School District. From day one I made sure my students knew all about WMU and the many opportunities that awaited them. Over the years, several of my students attended WMU. One student, Demetrius McCall, recently posted on Facebook that I inspired him to attend WMU and major in Secondary Education. He eventually became a principal and was recently promoted as an Assistant Superintendent with a school district in Texas. I am extremely proud to have graduated from WMU and made the connections that I have with the students and staff. I am also excited that my legacy, Jordon Anthony Williams, is a senior at WMU majoring in Sports Management. When I moved to Kalamazoo 29 years ago, my goal was just to earn a degree and get a job. I did just that and met many wonderful people and life-long friends along the way. WMU is a very special place where dreams become reality.