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Accomplished University Program Director Recalls Mercer As First Step Towards Success


West Windsor, N.J.: As former commissioner of the Maryland Corrections System and current professor and program director of Criminal Justice and Intelligence Management in the Graduate School at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC), alum William Sondervan ’72, ’73 (A.A.S. Marketing, A.S. Business Administration) still credits Mercer as the first stepping stone in his long and accomplished career.

“Mercer was a vehicle that allowed me to have a great education and a great start to my career,” said Sondervan, who came to Mercer just after serving in the Army during the Vietnam War.  “At that time, I didn’t have the means to pay for an expensive education,” said Sondervan, a graduate of Hunterdon Central High School and former Flemington, N.J., resident.

When he first enrolled at Mercer he wasn’t sure of his career plans.  “I was just a kid starting college and I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Sondervan said.  Eventually he decided to pursue a marketing degree with the intent to go into the business field.

Sondervan recalled Phillip Jones, his Business Statistics professor at Mercer, as an instructor who went above and beyond to help him with his studies.  “At Mercer, I felt like my professors were always there for me,” said Sondervan, recalling how he overcame his challenges in statistics with Jones’ help and built a good foundation that he used as he continued his education.

Sondervan earned both his Business and Marketing degrees from Mercer.  He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey), while also joining the ROTC at Rider University.

William Sondervan ’72, ’73
(A.A.S. Marketing, A.S. Business Administration)

After graduating number one in his ROTC class, Sondervan signed on for active duty with the military police in 1972 and continued there for 22 years.  During that time he held leadership positions in police operations, investigations, and prisoner of war operations, and also commanded military police units at the platoon, company and battalion levels.  He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1994.

Sondervan next went to work for the Maryland Division of Correction, the largest criminal justice agency in the state.  He became commissioner, a post he held until 2003.

He also continued to move forward with his education.  He earned his master’s degree in Education and Counseling from Boston University in 1976, and his doctorate in Education/Criminal Justice from Virginia Tech in 1995.

Sondervan became the director of professional development for the American Correctional Association in 2003, overseeing the management, development and implementation of the Certified Corrections Program.
Today, he is the director of the Criminal Justice graduate program at UMUC, overseeing one of the university's largest schools, made up primarily of part-time adult learners, as well as military students.

“Teaching was always a passion of mine and I saw it as a way to give back everything I’ve learned through my work,” said Sondervan, who taught part time over the years at UMUC, until the dean of the college asked him to run the criminal justice program in 2006.  “It was a great offer and a perfect fit.”

Sondervan has been honored with numerous awards throughout his career, including the John F. DeWitt Award from the Maryland Correctional Administrators Association (2003), the Stanley J. Drazek Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Maryland (1999), and the State of Maryland Crime Prevention Award (1993).  He was also inducted into the Hunterdon Central Hall of Fame in 2011.

His passion for the criminal justice field is shared by his family, with his wife working at a national security agency and his son serving as a federal air marshall.

Sondervan said he finds his career “absolutely enjoyable,” with every day greeting him with a new challenge.

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