Mary Baldwin Celebrates Historic Commencement

May 21, 2017

Mary Baldwin University held its 175th Commencement Sunday, May 21, capping off its quartoseptcentennial year with a historic ceremony that celebrated its enduring commitment to the liberal arts as well as its diversity — both in students and programming — that exists on the historic campus.

Farrah-Amoy Fullerton plans to attend med school after graduation.

“We are making history,” said MBU President Pamela Fox. “You are the first graduates of Mary Baldwin University.”

For the first time, MBU conferred doctoral degrees, with the graduation of the charter class of occupational therapy, physical therapy, and bachelor of science in nursing candidates from the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

In fact, of the 389 students who graduated from Mary Baldwin on Sunday, 82 were Murphy Deming scholars. One hundred and one graduates represented the historic Mary Baldwin College for Women, 116 in the Baldwin Online and Adult program, 64 in the College of Education, and 26 in the Shakespeare and Performance program.

Commencement speaker Tori Murden McClure delivered — judging by the number of laugh lines and prolonged standing ovation at its conclusion — one of the most engaging and hilariously irreverent graduation keynotes in recent memory.

The president of Spalding University and world-class athlete delivered a gentle admonition to the “stupendous sisterhood” and “blossoming brotherhood” of Mary Baldwin graduates to avoid certain individuals — the know-it-alls, people who know only one thing, those who are humorless, or those who think they are perfect — using the refrain “I am here to tell you that such people are tedious. Do not marry or become entangled with such people, do not even have lunch with such people.”

Tori McClure holds a replica of the row boat used to traverse the Atlantic Ocean while describing her harrowing journey.

McClure’s was the first woman and the first American to navigate solo the nearly 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in a rowboat. She also logged a 750-mile trek to take her place as the first woman and first American to ski to the geographic South Pole. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Smith College, her master of divinity from Harvard, and her juris doctor from the University of Louisville School of Law. She has served as president of Spalding since 2010, where she also earned her master of fine arts in writing before publishing her memoir, A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean.

“It is up to us, it is up to you, as educated people, to close he gap between the promise of humanity and the performance of human beings,” McClure said. “Education helps us traverse the distance between possibility and fact.”

For its class gift, the Class of 2017 is dedicated to creating a student space on campus. The charter class at Murphy Deming purchased a display case for student and faculty achievements to be housed inside the school’s atrium.

Commencement award recipients were announced at various events throughout the weekend, but all were recognized on Sunday. They included:

The Master of Letters/ Master of Fine Arts Ariel Award: Tyler Bruce Dale

  • Andrew Gurr Award for Outstanding Thesis: Molly Beth Seremet
  • Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award: Brooke Wiles
  • Mary Keith Fitzroy Award: Sharanya Rao
  • College of Education Outstanding Undergraduate: Hannah Walker
  • College of Education Outstanding Graduate Student: Courtney Hallacher
  • Outstanding Baldwin Online and Adult Student Award: Robyn Evans
  • Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Awards: Dylan Woodruff Fix, Amy Lynne Lehman, and Katherine Elizabeth Blatt
  • Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award: All alumni, including the Class of 2017

MBU’s 175th anniversary year had officially begun on August 31, 2016, with a special Charter Day celebration and official name change from college to university.

Throughout the anniversary year, there have been several notable events, including a special Founder’s Day program in October and an All-Alumni Homecoming in April. Fox noted at Commencement that the MBU community — including students, faculty, staff, and alumni — exceeded the university’s anniversary year goal of 175 Acts of Service.

“We know you will go forth as empowered leaders,” said Board of Trustees Chair Jane Harding Miller ’76. “You are Baldwin women. You are Baldwin men. And people will see that wherever you go.”