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Ryan Williams and his family have found a new home in Barry’s Bay, Ont. Photo courtesy Our Lady Seat of Wisdom

New president lands at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom after many travels

  • October 19, 2019

Ryan Williams has travelled many roads in his career over three continents, and they’ve finally led him to a small town in eastern Ontario.

Williams, an American with worldwide academic credentials, is the new president of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom in Barry’s Bay, Ont., a 20-year-old Catholic liberal arts college that was only given degree-granting status two years ago.

It’s a long way from his last home in Texas, but Williams is certain this is the right place for him, his wife Marianna and his four daughters.

“When I had the opportunity to read about Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, I just fell in love with the mission … with the courses that it offers and the good they’re doing in this area,” said Williams.

“It was desire to serve Our Lady through the gifts and talents that we have in academic excellence,” said Williams. “That’s what drove us up there, the confidence that we’ll be doing good for the Church and the world and the particular school itself in having a special character of being distinctively Catholic and academically rigorous.”

Williams most recently worked as an ontological engineer at Cycorp, an artificial intelligence company based in Austin, Texas, his hometown. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., a Baccalaureate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and a Master’s degree in philosophy from Boston College. 

In 2005, he moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where he worked for the Episcopal Conference implementing a philosophy program for the national seminary of St. Thomas Aquinas and for St. Joseph’s Seminary, as well as pursuing  several charitable initiatives for the poor. 

In 2012, he was hired as the Academic Dean of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, N.Y., and became the Associate Dean of St. Joseph’s Seminary for the Archdiocese of New York.

His attraction to the job at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom lay in its approach to liberal arts.

“One of the special things about the college is that it gives a true liberal arts education and that’s something that’s very hard to find nowadays,” said Williams. “What I mean by that is, whereas most colleges now receive degrees that train you to do some particular thing, be it accounting or management, at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, we focus on the liberal arts of philosophy, literature, history, theology, music and classics.”

He said each country he worked in offered unique and valuable experiences.

“Certainly in Kenya, the mode of life is very different than most of the western world is comfortable with,” said Williams. “They taught me a lot about what can get done when people act charitably and happily towards one another with very little material resources.

“Whereas in Rome, there’s something special about studying theology in the city that has the beating heart, so to speak, of the Church. Meeting all the different orders. Being able to visit the Holy Father and go to Masses.”

Williams said Barry’s Bay — population 2,000 about 200 kilometres west of Ottawa — is small compared to others his family has lived in, but there are benefits.

“It’s very good to raise children and it’s nice to not have to drive a half hour just to get groceries,” said Williams, jokingly. “The transition is going to have normal challenges with a new place, new people and new culture of course, but by and large it has been a very good one for us.”

Williams continues to work on ensuring the college acquires four-year degree granting accreditation, which he hopes to attain from the province by 2020.

“Right now, our capacity for the school is 130,” said Williams. “We have about 100 students right now, and we would like, ideally to see those numbers get up to 150. That will require more infrastructure and a new building.”

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