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Retired Reitz Memorial Principal Marie Williams Surprised On Last Day.

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Kyle Brandle, right, shares stories of what it's like to have a mom who is also a principal. The Message photos by Megan Erbacher.

Dr. Marie Williams modestly sat on the auditorium stage after Mass on Dec. 20, 2018, as Reitz Memorial High School President John K. Browning thanked her for her service as principal and congratulated her on retirement.

Williams had no clue her son, Kyle Brandle, was backstage.

When Browning said he needed to grab her gift from behind the curtain she was a bit confused, until Kyle appeared.

She tightly hugged her son and held onto him for a few minutes.

When she released him, Browning handed her some tissues and Brandle, who lives in Orlando, Fla., began to praise his mom for her work.

“Oh my goodness, I couldn’t imagine,” she laughed and said. “I caught the glimpse when he was coming out and thought, ‘That can’t be Kyle.’”

Two-and-a-half years ago, when Williams announced she was returning to Evansville to be a principal again after working in Lafayette for about nine years, Brandle thought, “‘Wow, she’s finally coming home.’”
“It’s not easy growing up when your mom is principal,” Brandle teased her. “People would say, ‘I bet you never got in trouble, did you?’ No, you’re right I didn’t, because there was no hiding your report card. There is no getting out of a teacher’s note that is being sent home to parents – it just went straight into her mailbox. I hid a worksheet under the couch cushions in second grade; she found it the next year when I was in third grade and I had to finish it then.”

Williams’ career spanned almost 44 years in Catholic education, including nearly 17 years in various roles within the Catholic Diocese of Evansville.

Both of her children, Kyle and Michelle Brandle, graduated from Memorial.

“My kids both love Memorial so much,” she said. “And I was so grateful for the education they had here. It’s been so wonderful to come back because so many of their teachers are still here.”

Browning noted Williams is the only person who has served as principal of both Memorial and Mater Dei high schools.

“I told her this morning that every day is a snow day for her from here on out,” he said.

Lisa Popham, Memorial assistant principal for curriculum and instruction, gave Williams a parting gift and choked out a “thank you,” through tear-filled eyes.

Williams announced her plan to retire in December 2017. She helped during the transition for the new principal, Sally Sternberg, who officially took over in the New Year.

“It really has been my privilege to finish my career here at Memorial,” Williams said. “Never, ever did I dream that would happen.”

Williams asked Memorial teachers and staff to join her on stage to thank them for their hard work.

“These are the people who hold this school together,” she said. “Everybody plays their part.”

Larry Mattingly, Memorial history teacher, took the microphone and got students excited to sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Williams received a standing ovation as the song ended.