Since 1898, Founders Day has been held each year on the Thursday closest to Mary Julia Baldwin’s October 4 birthday. The hallmark of Founders Day is a ceremony held in honor of Baldwin and Augusta Female Seminary Founder, Rufus W. Bailey. Founders Day also marks the first time seniors don their caps and gowns.
“We continue our 175th anniversary celebration today in the most fitting way, honoring our founders, Rufus Bailey and Mary Julia Baldwin. The voices of their legacy transmit, steward, and enhance our core values,” said President Pamela Fox at this year’s Founders Day ceremony October 6.
As Mary Baldwin College of Women seniors marched across the street for the ceremony donning their gold graduation stoles, Virginia Women’s Institute of Leadership cadets announced their arrival with the echoing of drums.
During the ceremony faculty and staff honored Mary Baldwin’s founders and leaders by bringing their voices alive.
Matt Davies, assistant professor in the MLitt/MFA Shakespeare and Performance program, imparted seminary founder Rufus Bailey’s, thoughts on women’s education.
“At the heart of Bailey’s words are “she” he was particularly concerned with the education of women,” Davies explained. “Now we say “she” and “he” and “they,” as we are fully committed to each individual who comes to us at Mary Baldwin University.”
Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence Andrea Cornett-Scott spoke of Mary Julia Baldwin’s dedication to her seminary and to women’s advancement in general. Scott underlined the way in which Baldwin carried herself and noted that her life reflected insistence on high academic standards, devotion to Christian precepts, and responsibility to the community.
A sense of anticipation for graduation was palpable in the sanctuary when Fox honored seniors who represented Mary Baldwin’s five programs — Mary Baldwin College for Women, Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, College of Education, Shakespeare and Performance, and Baldwin Online and Adult Programs.
Additional odes to the university included a serenade by American Council of Education Fellow Aime Sposato, an original sonnet delivered by Professor of English Sarah Kennedy, and a prayer by Chaplain Emerita Patricia Hunt.
Directly after the ceremony the crowd assembled for a toast to the university at the steps of the Admissions building and on the lawn where Baldwin herself once walked.
Looking forward to the universities bicentennial in 2042, Fox charged the Mary Baldwin community to be as bold and strong as its founders dreamed it would be.