It was just three years ago that Mary Baldwin University President Pamela Fox stood with Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46 on a snow-covered hill in Fishersville, looked at the view below toward the hospital and healthcare clinics and beyond toward mountains, and imagined a time — in the not-so-distant future — when the institution would become an integral part of the community’s healthcare landscape.
Since that moment, Smith’s generous lead gift of $15 million has brought to the college several moments of celebration: an announcement in spring 2012 that Mary Baldwin would launch the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, a groundbreaking ceremony that fall, and opening the doors of the college in June 2014. Those moments culminated in a formal dedication ceremony on April 17 — to mark the college’s first year with an inaugural class of 70 physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) students, marvel at a beautiful and state-of-the-art flagship building, recognize critical support from donors and community partners, and celebrate an exciting new chapter in the history of Mary Baldwin University.
“We acknowledge with immeasurable gratitude that this dedication is wrought from dedication. Scores of committed partners, including individuals, organizations, and institutions, united in dedication to the power of a vision,” Fox addressed the crowd of about 250 who attended the ceremony held inside the atrium at Murphy Deming. On the eve of the dedication, the Mary Baldwin Board of Trustees announced that it has named the teaching and instructional wing of the Murphy Deming building for Fox, who was essential to the establishment of the college of health sciences and positioning the entire institution for a thriving future.
Sen. Tim Kaine joined Fox on the podium, and in his remarks, noted the important merger of a major healthcare initiative with an economic development strategy. Financing from the Virginia Rural Development office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been essential to the success of the project.
“I hope you feel proud,” Kaine said. “You deserve congratulations.”
Mary Baldwin Vice President for Health Sciences Linda Seestedt-Stanford beamed with pride as she recounted the path that she and the growing Murphy Deming family have taken so far. With tears in her eyes, she praised the committed faculty and hard-working students whom she called “the bright shining stars in our world.”
“Regardless of where they are from and what they have done in their young lives, they share one thing in common — and that’s a passion to become a healthcare provider,” Stanford said. “Their academic program is their work; they put in an 80-hour week, minimum, between classes and studies, but they keep smiling because they know what they will achieve one day. And they are proud, really proud, to be part of the charter class at Murphy Deming.”
The college of health sciences will welcome new PT and OT students in June, launch the RN-to-BSN program in August, and matriculate the first class of physician assistant students in January.
OT student Sarah Laux — who, like the rest of her classmates will embark on clinical rotations during their second year — thanked Smith.
“Your generosity serves as an example to pay it forward,” Laux said. “Your gift is giving us the opportunity to pursue our dreams and also pay it forward with community involvement and future professional practice. This will allow each of us to touch hundreds of lives in our careers.”
Smith was not able to attend the ceremony, but she watched from her home in Louisiana via live stream. Her daughter Bertie Deming “Bebe” Heiner was there to deliver remarks from her mother.
“As I look over this awesome building I have watched come about on paper and then in actuality, I’m thrilled to be here, even if only electronically,” Heiner said as she read her mother’s words. “Pamela’s vision never faltered. It was followed by action in all areas. I’m proud of all of you that made it happen. And I salute those who took our beloved Mary Baldwin into the future.”