Ringing in Mary Baldwin University’s 175th Year

The newly minted Mary Baldwin University kicked off its 175th year with an extensive on-campus celebration Wednesday and — in a move that reflects the institution’s longstanding entrepreneurial legacy — officially announced three new initiatives to benefit students within the next year.

The event took the place of the school’s annual Charter Day.

Hundreds of well wishers, including alumni, faculty, students, staff, and community members gathered under the hot August sun on Page Terrace and the hill in front of Hunt Hall to commemorate the occasion. The ceremony featured a procession of faculty and leadership boards, the transmission of the charter from Board of Trustees Chair Jane Harding Miller ’76 through Theresa Cash Lewis ’99 to representatives of each of the five student communities, and remarks from government representatives.

Madison Brass, drummer Paschal Younge, and a string quartet from the Heifetz International Music Institute provided musical interludes and the MBU flag was raised for the first time. A live stream of the event broadcast online, a peal of church bells that resounded through Staunton, and a gubernatorial proclamation — marking August 31, 2016  as Mary Baldwin University Day — helped even those who could not make it still feel the pride that echoed across campus.

Betsy Berry Williamson ’48 traveled from Richmond to celebrate in Staunton. Her grandfather taught music under Mary Julia Baldwin and after graduating from Mary Baldwin, she also became a teacher.

“I love the change, it brings so much opportunity,” Williamson said. “When I graduated women could only become teachers and secretaries. That is not the case anymore.”

Board of Trustees Chair Jane Harding Miller ’76 (left) and President Pamela Fox announce new initiatives for the 175th year.

Miller and President Pamela Fox together announced the three new initiatives, calling them “manifestations of our hallmark foresight, courage, and commitment.”

In fall 2017, the MBU College of Business and Professional Studies will launch new graduate programs, comprising a progressive series of stackable graduate credentials leading to an MBA with a track in the emergent field of entrepreneurship in sustainable business and for-benefit corporations. The move is made possible by a generous donation from Susan Nolan Palmer ’67, who has for years supported students in the Mary Baldwin College for Women through a scholarship fund.

Launching this spring is another new program at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, an online master of health sciences, with tracks in emergent, high-demand fields in healthcare: health systems management and leadership in quality and patient safety.

Miller also formally announced new undergraduate programs for fall 2017 in each of MBU’s four colleges: arts and sciences, business and professional studies, health sciences, and education.

Cadets from the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership raised the MBU flag for the first time.

“They are highly responsive to students and families who approach college with a highly focused career intent and passion,” Miller said. “They offer distinctive co-curricular advantages and they each offer accelerated time to degree and advanced credentials offering signature value on many levels.”

Maria Carlton ’05, co-chair of the MBU Advisory Board of Visitors announced that the university would spearhead 175 service projects during the anniversary year, paying homage to the principles of citizen engagement and leadership that have led the institution since its founding. A group from the college of health sciences that traveled to Haiti in early August kicked off the initiative with their service abroad trip, aimed at assisting nurses in Port-au-Prince and Anse-à-Galets.

The event, Fox said, was an opportunity to not only celebrate a name change and kick off an anniversary year, but also mark the metamorphosis of Mary Baldwin University.

“Mary Julia Baldwin left us few words, but the genius of her life was the institution itself and her molding of lives rather than the exposition of theories,” Fox said. “Through the exemplar of her rise from a shy orphan to the pantheon of leaders in Virginia as our Thomas Jefferson, our James Madison, she imprinted our institutional soul with foresight, courage, and commitment.”

Junior Zorina Morton was one of many students at the midday event, able to attend the ceremony because classes were cancelled.

“This is such a monumental occasion,” she said. “I’m so excited that I get to be a part of history, that I get to leave a mark on Mary Baldwin College and University. It’s very exciting getting to watch the transformation.”

Following the event was a luncheon on Cannon Hill near the President’s House, and a groundbreaking at the Alumnae House on North Coalter Street, which will undergo a major renovation during the 175th anniversary year.