Remembering a ‘Rare, Gentle Lady’

September 28, 2011

Professor Emerita of Biochemistry Margaret “Peggy” Pinkston — whose career path exemplified the concept of a liberal arts education and the concept of the “Boldly Baldwin” woman — passed away September 24 at Brightview Baldwin Park in Staunton. She was 92.

Pinkston was a member of the Mary Baldwin University faculty from 1976 to 1989. In that time she served as director of the Honors Scholars program and supported her students and colleagues in many other ways.

Associate Professor of Biology Lundy Pentz remembers Pinkston as a nurturer and an educator who held her students to high standards.

“When I came here in 1980 as a brand-new faculty member, it was Peggy who really took me under her wing,” Pentz recalled. “She really kind of adopted everybody. She came across as just the most gracious, warm individual.”

from The Mary Baldwin University Magazine

Pentz credits his former colleague with first experimenting with tissue culture at Mary Baldwin, work she undertook to help better understand a food allergy she thought she had inherited. But before she was cultivating blood cells and studying the interaction of model proteins and DNA, Pinkston occupied herself with more sweet-sounding interests — as a classical violinist with a diploma from the Julliard School of Music.

Some who knew Pinkston — alumnae, colleagues, and friends — have posted condolences on the Mary Baldwin Facebook page . She played her violin at one alumna’s wedding. Another alumna recalled the biochemistry professor serving on her thesis defense committee, even though the student’s work was a non-scientific topic. Others wrote of how she inspired them and of her ladylike manner.

“Dr. Pinkston opened my mind to the range of possibilities that a women could pursue. Here she was a Ph.D. in biochemistry and an accomplished violinist as well. She was a powerful role model to young women just breaking into science in the late 1970s,” wrote Joi Phelps Walker.

“‘Sweet,’ ‘kind,’ ‘gracious,’ ‘talented,’ a rare, gentle lady, with all the old associations of ‘gentle,'” wrote Frank Southerington, professor emeritus of English.

“Peggy was a ‘lady’ in every sense of the word. She was gracious, real, and appreciated the art of science. She found her God in the bio-molecules of music and chemistry, and expressed her faith in her interest in and love for her students. The world has lost a marvelous mentor, and Heaven has added another violinist in its angelic symphony …” wrote Lucy Jones Clyde.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. October 8 at Covenant Presbyterian Church at 2001 North Coalter Street in Staunton.