More than 330 individuals, who each have a story, took their seats on Page Terrace May 20, 2007 for Mary Baldwin University’s 165th Commencement. Stories of overcoming adversity. Academic and life lessons learned. Supportive families and friends. Juggled obligations. Relationships built. Three hundred thirty people on the brink of their next move.
Commencement began as a day of protocol and tradition. Graduates fretted about what side of their cap the tassel should be on (or someone else worried about it for them), where to sit, when to stand and when to walk, and if their shoes would see them safely down all the steps from Hunt Dining Hall to Grafton Library. The event followed an historic order — a welcome by Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox, academic and service awards , invocation, keynote speaker.
When the genuine reason for the pomp and circumstance arrived at last — the degrees — it becomes intensely personal. What could have been an endless list of names came alive with shouts from the crowd, applause, smiles, camera flashes — and sometimes the infamous air horn. For a moment, those sights and sounds hold memories of all-night paper-writing sessions, part-time jobs, morning physical training, interviews, late-night phone calls, and much more. What follows are a few of those stories from the crowd.
Brett Sullivan Santry enjoyed his place near the beginning of the long line of those awaiting diplomas. Students in the Master of Letters/Master of Fine Arts (MLitt/MFA) in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance are given front-of-the-line position as members the college’s newest program, initiated in 2001. Santry, a native of Pennsylvania, received his degree for completing the first part of the program (MLitt) and he plans to continue in pursuit of an MFA from Mary Baldwin. “I’m terribly proud of the work MLitt/MFA students produce,” he said. Santry has contributed his part to that body of work — within the Mary Baldwin troupe and outside it. He was a founding member of The Lord Ralph’s Men, an acting company formed in cooperation with the student organization University Wits, that toured from Virginia to Michigan in summer 2006 — acting in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Later in the afternoon, Santry would reminisce at a reception for fellow graduates of the program, but at that moment he may have been thinking about his defining moment as an Mary Baldwin student, director, and producer. He led middle- and high-school student actors from Stuart Hall School in a production of John Lyly’s Gallathea at Blackfriars Playhouse during its celebration of Shakespeare’s birthday this year: “The first laughs from the audience at the premiere were so gratifying