Full Circle: Maria Cerminara Acar ’82 serves as volunteer campaign chair

When Maria Cerminara Acar ’82 was a rising junior at Mary Baldwin, she earned the opportunity to intern at the ABC Network headquarters in New York City during the summer. Back then it wasn’t a paid position, but the experience counted for a lot — the internship was her first glimpse of corporate life. It also came with a few perks.

“On a somewhat frivolous note, it was fun meeting network stars that summer,” Acar remembers, “particularly the cast of General Hospital, a show many of my friends and I were addicted to back then in the ‘Luke and Laura’ days.”

Acar went on to find professional success in New York, a city she has called home for most of her life. She recently retired from a 22-year career at L’Oréal USA as a vice president of marketing in the professional products division.

Generously devoting her time, leadership, and support to Mary Baldwin as volunteer campaign chair for MBU Empowers, Trustee, and dedicated donor, Acar reflects on what the university means to its students, both then and now. 

“Mary Baldwin helped prepare me for the road ahead after graduation in both my professional and personal life, and for this I am forever grateful.” 

Looking back, moving forward

“When I look back on the years I attended Mary Baldwin, I think about the lasting friendships I made, the professors who influenced my life, and the unique experiences I had with so many fun memories along the way.”

Paying forward those kinds of experiences to a new generation is important to Acar. She wants to contribute to helping current MBU students receive a meaningful education — just as she did when she was on campus — that will help them chart their futures.

And she also recognizes that she is not alone.

“I thank all of our donors for the financial contributions they have made to MBU. Even with the reality of COVID-19, among other challenges, we have still received unwavering support. We are so thankful for these gifts that help our students, faculty, and programs as we navigate through this critical time.” 

MBU focuses on donor recognition and appreciation

Echoing Acar’s thanks to all those who support MBU is the Office of University Advancement, which recently led an effort to launch new giving societies and circles and the fiscal year 2020 donor honor roll for the MBU Empowers Campaign.  

“The honor roll celebrates the generosity of each and every alumni, parent, grandparent, faculty, staff, foundation, and friend who have demonstrated their commitment to MBU. Now everyone is able to see and appreciate our donors’ philanthropic endeavors.” 

A dedicated MBU supporter herself, Acar was recognized for 2020 Annual Giving with membership in The Provost’s Circle, as well as being named an Impact Investor with her Class of 1982 during the Invest for Impact Campaign, which gave a strong start to MBU Empowers. 

“I am fully committed to Mary Baldwin and what the MBU Empowers campaign is all about — empowering the young women and men attending Mary Baldwin toward lives of personal and professional success. The dollars we raise today will help generations of graduates to come. I am very excited to be part of this effort, and I hope my fellow alumni and friends of MBU will join me in enthusiastic support of our university.” 

Experiences that last a lifetime

“MBU’s mission, while articulated differently in 1978 when I first arrived on campus, is really quite the same now as it was then and even since the institution was founded in 1842. To me, it is very meaningful that Mary Baldwin has consistently evolved with societal changes to best serve our students.”

Acar credits her liberal arts education — she was an art history major and marketing minor — with teaching her the skills necessary to navigate the corporate world. At L’Oréal, she had responsibilities in operational marketing and product development, working across several of the company’s brands.

In addition to life on campus, Acar also looks back fondly on her study abroad experience through Mary Baldwin when she spent half her junior year at Richmond College in London, studying English art and architecture.

“My roommate, Deborah, and I probably visited every museum and church in London during that time and were on a quest to see as many Robert Adam’s ceilings as possible. It was a great experience for us both to be in class with students who were from Lebanon, Iran, Turkey, and France and to learn about their cultures.”

No stranger to travel, Acar grew up in New York City, but moved to Freeport, Grand Bahama Island with her family when she was nine years old. Her father’s career also took them to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and her family eventually moved back to New York when she was a college sophomore. Her late sister, Lia Ann Cerminara ’85, also came to Mary Baldwin as a freshman when Acar was a senior.

“I smile thinking about that year on campus with Lia and am grateful for the time we shared together at Mary Baldwin. She passed away just two months after I became a Trustee and was so happy that I was getting involved with our alma mater.”

Acar has served on the MBU Board of Trustees since July 2013, including committee work in the areas of institutional advancement, communications, and business, finance, and audit.

“Mary Baldwin helped prepare me for the road ahead after graduation in both my professional and personal life, and for this I am forever grateful.”

Maria Cerminara Acar ’82