Honoring the legacy of William C. Sennett

Samantha Weber, Editor in chief

William “Bill” C. Sennett passed away on Jan. 23, 2023, at the age of 92 while being surrounded by his family here in Erie, PA.

Attorney Sennett lived an impressive life and donated a lot of his time and money to Mercyhurst. His legacy will continue to live on with the school.

Attorney Sennett grew up in Erie and graduated from Cathedral Prep in 1948. He then graduated cum laude from Holy Cross College in 1952 and then from Georgetown Law School in 1955.

Post law school, Sennett clerked with the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit for the Honorable John A. Danaher.

After his clerkship, he returned home to Erie and practiced law with his father, B. Walker Sennett for over 50 years. His law career was focused on areas in government, municipal law and industrial and corporate finance. From 1967 to 1970, Attorney Sennett served as the youngest Attorney General in Pennsylvania under Governor Raymond P. Shafer’s administration.

He then became President of McLaughlin Gornall & Sennett from 1985 to 1994.

He was actively involved in the Erie community as he served on numerous boards throughout his life.

He served as a Trustee of Mercyhurst University for four decades and 13 years as chairman.

Due to his commitment to the school, he was granted Trustee Emeritus status in 2014 and had a room in the Hammermill Library named in his honor, the Sennett Board Room.

Sennett started the Sennett Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies in 2009 to“highlight the breadth and depth of the Catholic intellectual tradition, as well as the five critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy: caring for the poor, especially women and children; caring for immigrants; caring for the earth; promoting nonviolence; and combating racism.”

The institute became a premier voice for the mission of Mercyhurst and its Catholic tradition.

In the press release announcing his passing, President Kathleen Getz, Ph.D. said, “From the Sennett Institute for Mercy and Catholic Studies to the Sennett Board Room to many less tangible manifestations, we are reminded of his intense love of and commitment to this institution.”

Sennett’s benefaction of both his time and money to Mercyhurst will be long-lasting and he will continue to be honored for his dedication to his community.

Sennett’s first wife passed away in 2005, and they are survived by six children and eight grand-children. Sennett remarried four years ago to Marlene Braham who survives along with her three children and four grandchildren. One of his children and one of his grandchildren also followed in the family business of becoming attorneys. His youngest grandchild, Jamie Sennett is currently a freshman at Mercyhurst University.