A $25 Million Belief in the Future of MBU

Posted by By Liesel Crosier | April 19, 2018

When Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46 gave $15 million to Mary Baldwin in 2011, her gift transformed the university, making it possible to respond to the needs of students and society by offering doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees in a wide range of high-demand health sciences disciplines. It was the largest gift in Mary Baldwin’s history.

Today, MBU announced that Smith has pledged another $25 million, a legacy gift that demonstrates her continuing belief in the future of her alma mater. MBU President Pamela R. Fox said Smith’s investment will serve as inspiration to other donors who support both the history and the vision of MBU.

“Mrs. Smith remains a visionary advocate whose leadership and philanthropy have, over and over again, nourished our mission and turned aspirations into reality,” Fox said at today’s announcement ceremony. “It is not an exaggeration to state that the Mary Baldwin of today is measured by Mrs. Smith’s dedication and wisdom.”

Smith has been MBU’s top donor for more than 50 years, providing continuous support for the ongoing innovations that fuel Mary Baldwin’s core commitment to women-centered education through the annual fund and gifts to the endowment. In 2006 her gifts launched the successful $80 million Ever Ahead campaign and sparked a major series of campus enhancement projects to more than half the buildings on the main campus. Smith and her sister, alumna Polly Murphy Keller Winter ’44, jointly created the Bertie Wilson Murphy Distinguished Chair in Business Administration to honor their mother. She has also made possible the renovation of the Deming Fine Arts Center on the historic campus.

Her most recent gift will go into MBU’s endowment to provide additional income for future investing and expenses. This testament to her faith in the vision and continued evolution of MBU comes during the initial phase of a new university fundraising campaign, Invest for Impact, which will support programmatic and enrollment goals through 2025.

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I too want to extend our profound appreciation to Mrs. Bertie Smith for this remarkable legacy gift,” said Board of Trustees Chair Jane Harding Miller ’76. “It is almost impossible to express our joy and respect in honoring her incredible faith in Mary Baldwin and her future.”

Board of Trustees Member Gabrielle Gelzer “Gabby” McCree ’83 shared her memories of meeting Mrs. Smith with the crowd, “I had the privilege of sharing a beautiful lunch with Mrs. Smith in Dallas last September,” she said. “Her abiding love and faith in Mary Baldwin and its leadership across the ages and decades shone forth from her.”

McCree also read at the ceremony Mrs. Smith’s words, written to mark the occasion:

“As a young woman arriving on campus in my sister’s footsteps at the age of 16, Mary Baldwin was the environment for me through outstanding academics and a transformative network of support through dedicated faculty and staff, including Dean Martha Grafton,” Smith said. “It has given me great pride and joy to support the ongoing mission of empowering women as well as the many innovations that have extended Mary Baldwin’s mission to new generations of students. Each president since Dr. Samuel R. Spencer Jr. in the 1960s has led Mary Baldwin forward with vision and courage, a legacy of leadership exemplified now by Dr. Pamela Fox.”

After two years as a student at Mary Baldwin — where she served as president of her sophomore class —Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas. She is a mother of four and survives her late husbands, John Deming and Joe D. Smith Jr. She  served on the Mary Baldwin Board of Trustees for 30 years until 1996 and is now Trustee Emerita. Her daughter, Bertie Deming “Bebe” Heiner of Charlottesville, was also an MBU Trustee.

MBU has previously recognized Smith by establishing the Bertie Murphy Deming Distinguished Service Award and by awarding her an honorary doctorate.

President Pamela Fox addresses a crowd in front of the Administration Building at MBU.

Faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of MBU gathered to hear the news of Mrs. Smith’s gift.