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Longtime Villa Maria president to retire

After 40 years as president of Villa Maria College, Sister Marcella Marie Garus will step down in June.

The college announced her retirement Wednesday and said a formal search for its next president will begin in the coming months.

Garus, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice, served for 10 years as business administrator at the college on Pine Ridge Road, before taking over as its third president in 1978 making her one of the longest-serving presidents in Western New York.

During her tenure, the small, private Catholic college embarked on a plan to transform the traditional two-year school along the Buffalo-Cheektowaga border. Since 2005, Villa has added 14 bachelor's degrees and carved a niche for itself in programs such as animation, fashion design and merchandising, music and interior design. Enrollment has grown from about 450 to 580.

"Sister Marcella's enormous contributions to Villa Maria College will be forever felt by so many within this community, and we're incredibly thankful for all of her years of passionate, effective work," Catherine Grantier Cooley, chair of the college's board of trustees, said in a prepared statement.

"Villa Maria College was very fortunate to have such a dedicated leader at its helm for four decades," Robert Gioia, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation said in a prepared statement. "Sister Marcella's vision to create a nurturing, student-focused, creative learning environment will make a positive impact on many Western New York lives for years to come. We believe the college will continue to prosper because of the strong foundation that Sister Marcella has laid."

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