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ECC family mourns the passing of former president Dr. William J. Mariani

Article by: Michael Farrell

BUFFALO—It is with great sadness that SUNY Erie Community College announces the passing of its former professor and president Dr. William J. Mariani, who died Sunday, June 25 at Buffalo's Gates Vascular Institute. He was 67 years old. 

“Dr. Mariani was a tremendous leader for this college, and a very hard act to follow,” said current ECC President Jack Quinn, who became the college’s next full-time president following Mariani’s departure. “He was a tireless advocate for our entire college community and the enormity of its mission. And personally, I’ll miss him as both a colleague and a friend. He will be missed by our entire ECC family, and we extend our sincerest condolences to his wife, Marcia, and the entire Mariani family.”

First serving ECC as professor in its School of Management and founding dean of the Division of Development and Community Services, Dr. Mariani became the eighth president of ECC in 1997, and departed in 2006. His contributions to the three-campus college—and to D'Youville College, where he transitioned into executive vice president and interim president after his years at ECC—were numerous. 

Under his guidance, the college turned a $5 million budget deficit into a $4 million reserve fund. He led the implementation of the college’s alumni-focused ECC Foundation; steered its rise to becoming a regionally lauded leader in Workforce Development; helped launch the college’s still-thriving football program; established its rapidly expanding Distance Learning Program; and made ECC the region’s top choice of high school students for seven consecutive years. This makes his passing even more prominent to generations of Erie County residents turned community college graduates. 

“I was shocked and saddened to hear the news about the sudden passing of former ECC President Bill Mariani,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “It’s with a heavy heart that I extend condolences to the Mariani family and to the greater Erie Community College family as well. Bill will be warmly remembered and greatly missed.”

A graduate of D’Youville College and St. Bonaventure University, Dr. Mariani was the first community college president ever to be elected Chair of the Western New York Higher Education Consortium, and collected accolades as the Anthony Castiglia Italian-American Leadership Council “Man of the Year” Award, Junior Achievement’s Educator of the Year Award, and the Lake Erie Italian Club’s Special Achievement Award.

Other professional affiliations and community service activities included membership in the New York State Association of Community College Presidents, involvement in the Erie County Workforce Investment Board and Western New York Higher Education Consortium, and past president of the Rotary Club of Hamburg.

In announcing his departure from ECC in 2006, Dr. Mariani said to ECC faculty and staff, “As many of you know, I was always in this for the students. I can only hope that the experiences and wisdom I have gained in my role as president will allow me to do what I have always encouraged my faculty to do – maintain a true spirit, love and enthusiasm for the teaching and learning process.”

Dr. Mariani is survived by his wife, Marcia, and his children, Dr. Mara Mariani and William Mariani II, Esq., his mother, Elisabeth, and his sister, Deborah (Anthony) Palumbo. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state’s SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC’s faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership. For more information, visit www.ecc.edu or call (716) 851-1ECC.