Historic 179th Commencement Weekend Set to Begin

Mary Baldwin University is setting the stage for a Commencement weekend like no other in its 179-year history on May 15–16.

Above, MBU’s Commencement ceremony in 2019. This year’s Commencement will be divided into four individual ceremonies over two days, one of many measures to help safeguard the health and safety of attendees during the pandemic.

Two days of graduation ceremonies will kick off on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., as MBU welcomes graduates in both the Class of 2021 and 2020 and their guests to the main campus in Staunton. Approximately 440 degrees total will be conferred over the course of the weekend.

MBU President Pamela R. Fox will preside over the four individual ceremonies, each lasting around one hour. All will be held in person on Page Terrace, and also livestreamed

The first three celebrate members of the Class of 2021, while the fourth and final honors the Class of 2020, whose graduation ceremony was moved online last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Due to length restrictions, there are no keynote speakers this year, but ceremonies will present remarks from Fox, MBU deans, and notable faculty members that are personalized to each group of graduates.

All attendees will observe health and safety measures as mandated by the university and the Commonwealth of Virginia, including capacity limits, masking, and physical distancing. 

Each graduate was issued two tickets for their guests, color-coded for each ceremony, which will be required for admittance to Commencement. The ceremonies are not open to the public.  

MBU graduates receive their diplomas at the 177th Commencement ceremony in 2019.

MBU’s 2021 Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences Commencement Ceremony

First on the schedule at 9 a.m. on May 15 is MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, which will combine their traditional hooding and pinning ceremony with Commencement. Lisa Shoaf, dean of Murphy Deming, will recognize recipients of prestigious health sciences awards and give closing remarks. 

MBU will award 36 graduates with the doctor of occupational therapy; 35 with the doctor of physical therapy; 29 with the master of science in physician assistant; and 14 with the master of healthcare administration.

For the first time this year, three graduates will receive their master of science in nursing (MSN) from Mary Baldwin. The MSN program first launched in 2019.


MBU’s 2021 Business, Education, and Shakespeare & Performance Graduate Programs Commencement Ceremony

Following at noon on Saturday is the ceremony for MBU’s graduate programs in business, education, and Shakespeare and Performance (S&P).

Tynisha Willingham, interim provost and chief academic officer, will recognize award winners in each field, and the deans of the three colleges — Paul Menzer, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Pamela Bailey, interim associate dean of the College of Education; and Joe Sprangel, dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies — will close the ceremony with words of wisdom for the graduates. 

In the S&P graduate program, 14 students will earn their master of fine arts and 17 their master of letters. In the College of Education graduate programs, 20 master of science degrees in either Applied Behavior Analysis or higher education, 19 master of education degrees, and 15 master of arts in teaching degrees will be awarded. The master of business administration program rounds out the ceremony with 21 graduates.


MBU’s 2021 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony

Sunday’s ceremonies will kick off with Commencement for undergraduates in the Class of 2021 at 9 a.m.

In addition to honors and awards, the ceremony will include readings by class leaders. Senior Class Vice President Colette Levens ’21 will present a scripture reading, and Senior Class President Kylie Stottlemyer ‘21 will lead attendees and graduates in a litany.

With input from graduating students and 2020 alumni, MBU Chaplain and Associate Professor of Religion Katherine Low composed a new text for the litany to honor the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, based on Psalms 23 and 121.

Roderic Owen, professor of philosophy, will present closing remarks for the undergraduates in the Class of 2021. He will be retiring this year after 41 years of service to Mary Baldwin. 

MBU will confer 217 bachelor’s degrees, including the bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, bachelor of social work, and bachelor of science in nursing (RN to BSN).

The tradition of the senior class gift will continue this year, as the Class of 2021 unveils their gift to visualize equity — their class theme since they were first years — in achieving goals at Mary Baldwin during the Ham and Jam decorating on the Thursday before Commencement weekend. 


MBU’s Class of 2020 Commencement Ceremony

At noon on Sunday, a special ceremony will honor the Class of 2020, one year after they received their degrees remotely last May.

Both undergraduate and graduate programs will be represented, as members of the Class of 2020 return to campus for their opportunity to walk the Commencement stage. 

For the 2020 ceremony, Class Secretary Valena Rose ’20 will present the scripture reading, while Student Government Association Secretary Michaela Hatcher ’20 will lead the litany.

Carey Usher, dean of the Mary Baldwin College for Women and associate provost for academic affairs and student success, will give closing remarks.

All ceremonies will feature the traditions of alumni investiture, led by Jules Moss ’92, and singing A Hymn for Mary Baldwin, led by Amber Ocasio ’14, student accounts coordinator, on Saturday and by Jael Taylor ’21 on Sunday.



For more information on the Commencement ceremonies — including the rain plan, day-of details for graduating students, parking, health and safety protocols, and more — please visit MBU Commencement

Please note: All degree numbers are approximate and reflect information as of May 11.