The Mercyhurst community recently felt the loss of Karen Christensen Williams, Ph.D., who passed away April 27 from complications due to cancer. Williams, a professor of Spanish, taught Spanish, linguistics, and culture in the department of World Languages and Culture for 23 years.
Williams earned her B.M. in Music Performance from Iowa State University, her M.A. in Spanish Linguistics and Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Georgia.
Williams presented on education and linguistics around the country and published Human Communication Across Cultures: A Cross-Cultural Introduction to Pragmatics in Sociolinguistics in 2016.
Throughout her time at Mercyhurst, Williams served her department as assessment and secondary education specialist. She served the university as chair of Rank and Tenure and Academic Celebration committees.
Williams was also an executive committee member of the Pennsylvania Modern Languages Association.
Williams had a passion for music and the arts that she shared with her husband, Jeffrey Williams. She enjoyed creative cooking and loved keeping in touch with her family and friends. She also had a deep love for animals and animal rights.
Teaching a wide variety of courses in many different levels, Williams impacted the lives of an array of students.
“She was really caring and definitely wanted you to succeed in her class,” Sam Del Regno, senior Integrated Marketing Communications major, said. Del Regno had Williams for Intro to Spanish II.
“Dr. William’s teaching embodied everything Mercyhurst is about: compassion, understanding and great knowledge,” Alex Minnaugh, a former Mercyhurst student, said. “I was lucky to be a student of hers in order to share her vast expertise in linguistics. We also shared a musical background.”
“I had Dr. Williams for two Spanish classes, and there was never a moment where I dreaded going to class. She was always a professor I recommend to others.
She did so much to make sure we understood what we were learning and that we were comfortable with it,” Michelle Benedetti, sophomore Business and Competitive Intelligence major, said.
“She made sure that we knew it was a safe space and that asking for help was not something to be ashamed of. She was such a thoughtful and caring person. I knew if I was ever struggling with anything, and not just Spanish, I could go to her and she would be there to listen,” Benedetti said. “I’m really going to miss seeing her around campus and talking to her.”
Williams leaves behind her husband and her parents, Roger and Mary Ann Christensen. The Merciad extends our deepest condolences to them, along with Williams’ friends, family, colleagues and students.
A celebration of Williams’ life will be held Wednesday, May 1 from 4-8 p.m. at Scott Funeral Home, 2104 Myrtle St., Erie. The Mercyhurst community will come together on May 6 at 11:30 a.m. to remember Williams’ life through poetry, song and personal tributes.