“My goal, as we sailed from New York on the SS Independence, was to take it all in,” said M. Elizabeth “Betty” Swope when recalling her trip to Spain through Mary Baldwin’s Junior Year Abroad program. That year, and that trip, set the course for the rest of her life.
Swope’s experience as one of the “Mary Balduinas” — as Spanish host families and professors affectionately referred to Mary Baldwin students — led to a 40-year career in the Senior Foreign Service, which included positions in Egypt, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and France, as well as domestic placements. And developed her belief that we truly live in a global society.
Long before the 2007 inauguration of the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement, Swope was one of the college’s most determined advocates for study abroad opportunities. In the beginning, her physical ties to Mary Baldwin were loose; she was living abroad and stopped by campus to visit Spanish faculty members occasionally when she was stateside. Swope’s connection strengthened with multiple terms of service on the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors and Advisory Board of Visitors. One of her proudest moments as an alumna was delivering the 2002 Founders Day speech, and she was honored to address Mary Baldwin’s first inductees into the Global Citizen Society in 2010.
“When you take the first step to become involved in the life of Mary Baldwin, one thing leads to another, and you are swept along in the tide of activity,” Swope said.
Her support for the college has been reinforced by steadfast monetary gifts. Swope’s most poignant lesson about giving came from her mother. “Not long after graduation, I received a piece of mail asking me to give to Mary Baldwin,” she remembered. “My mother said, ‘Send them whatever you can.’ I think I sent $10, and I felt good about that.”
In addition to recurring gifts to the Annual Fund, Swope’s contributions to the Ever Ahead campaign have provided seed money for the Spencer Center Endowment. A new funding stream, the endowment will support student study abroad and civic engagement scholarships, curricular innovation awards for faculty, and the dynamic artist-in-residence program. Another project close to Swope’s heart was working with other alumnae to establish the Dorothy Mulberry Travel Scholarship in memory of the late Mary Baldwin Spanish professor.
“It did not take long for me to realize that a big part of why I have been successful in a career I adore is due to Mary Baldwin,” Swope said. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything extraordinary with my gifts; giving back is just part of the story.”