2021 Commencement Awards

Accomplished seniors, graduate students, and a member of the MBU faculty received prestigious awards from Mary Baldwin University during its Commencement celebrations. 

Congratulations to all 2021 recipients on their achievements. 

The following profiles are drawn from nominations by their program directors and university leaders. 

Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen receives the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award from President Pamela Fox.

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards

Each year MBU bestows one of its highest honors, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to individuals who demonstrate “fine spiritual qualities, nobility of character, and unselfish service to the broad community.” In addition, the following recipients received the Mary Keith Fitzroy cash award.

Student Award

Kylie Jordyn Stottlemyer exemplifies the Sullivan qualities of noble character and unselfish service: she is regarded as an outstanding leader whose daily life exhibits love and helpfulness to others, and whose service is marked by sincerity, humility, and integrity, and personification of service above self. Her engagement across her four years at Mary Baldwin spans student leadership positions including SGA treasurer and president of the criminal justice and social work clubs, and many hours of volunteer service with the Rape Aggression Defense Group, Samaritan’s Purse International, and CASA. Her academic achievement is also exemplary as a Baldwin Honors Scholar graduating in criminal justice and a Capstone Festival award winner.

Faculty Award

Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen is beloved and universally respected by the entire Mary Baldwin family in commitment and connections spanning 41 years. “In my more than 40 years in higher education, I can sincerely affirm that I have not been privileged to work with a more exemplary colleague and citizen,” said President Pamela R. Fox, who bestows the Sullivan Awards each year. Owen has left an integral mark on his colleagues, thousands of students, and the founding and developing of signature Mary Baldwin programs in education, the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, the adult degree program, the Spencer Center, and the Coalition for Racial and Social Justice. He is a champion of the MBU mission and of the centrality of the liberal arts, international studies, diversity and inclusion, and much more.  

Kylie Jordyn Stottlemyer ’21 receives the student Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

College of Education Awards

Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award

On the path to becoming a special education teacher, Alexis Brown has been a leader and mentor in the Education Living and Learning Community, giving much of her time to helping in the classrooms at Bessie Weller Elementary School in Staunton and working with students in a variety of ways. She successfully completed the three-year fast-track option for her bachelor’s and will be completing her master of arts in teaching next year. She served as a mentor in the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and as an education department TA, and she worked with the SAW Tutoring Network to recruit and train tutors, collect professional resources, help with the community book drive, and serve as a tutor herself. She’s balanced studies and service while also working an off-campus job.  

Outstanding Graduate Student Award

Kirsten Pickford earned her teacher’s license from MBU’s Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Licensure Program and then continued through the master of education in authentic learning and leadership. She is now a dedicated science teacher at Shelburne Middle School. Her professional project was to develop a horticulture program at the school specifically for at-risk kids as a way to motivate them academically and to support them socially and emotionally. She plans to start the program at Shelburne as soon as health and safety conditions permit.

Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award 

This award is given to the baccalaureate graduate with the highest cumulative grade point average (GPA) at MBU.

Eleanor Hilgart — a double major in mathematics and biology with a minor in music — achieved a 4.0 GPA at Mary Baldwin. Admitted to ten graduate schools in the field of biomedical and molecular engineering, including the University of Chicago, Duke University, and the University of Virginia, Hilgart will attend Johns Hopkins University with a fully funded PHD fellowship next year. “As a student, she exhibits a humility in her intelligence and is known among her peers to be generous in the sharing of her knowledge,” said her advisor Associate Professor of Mathematics John Ong. “We cannot think of a more deserving student than Eleanor as the recipient of the Martha Stackhouse Grafton Academic Award. We know she will make Mary Baldwin University proud in the years to come.”

Interim Provost Tynisha Willingham congratulates Eleanor Hilgart ’21, recipient of the Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award for highest cumulative grade point average.

MBU Online Awards

Outstanding Graduate Award

This award recognizes a student who has excelled academically as well as being one of the best representations of the MBU Online program. 

Sommer Petrecca earned her BA in Autism Studies and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) this May, and will continue in the master of science in ABA program through the BA/MS dual degree program at MBU. After doing volunteer work with young people who have autism and other developmental disabilities, Petrecca fell in love with special education and later began to work for an ABA therapy center. She obtained credentials as a Registered Behavior Technician and transferred to MBU so that she could complete a degree that aligned to her new professional goals. After graduating with her MS next year, Petrecca plans to take the national board examination in behavior analysis. “I am exceptionally proud of Sommer’s passion for the field, her speed of concept mastery, and her ability to bring her on-the-job clinical experience back into her MBU coursework,” said Lori Wall, her advisor in the College of Education.     

Legacy Award

Given for the first time in 2020, this award honors the legacy of the Adult Degree Program at MBU, and is given to a graduating senior who has overcome obstacles and persevered in earning their degree.

Terra Gammon left college due to family circumstances as a young woman, returning to finish her degree with MBU Online in summer 2014. Attending with a full course load and a young daughter, Gammon was on her way to getting her bachelor’s degree in history and a secondary teacher licensure in history and social sciences. Three years ago while heading to Charlottesville to pick up her daughter from school, she was in a terrible car accident that left her unable to speak, walk, move her left arm, or write due to a head injury. After one year of intense therapy and regular visits and phone meetings with her MBU advisor Kerry Mills, Gammon returned to MBU to finish the few credits she had left for her degree. She can now walk and has regained all the motor and executive function she lost. “Happily, she is now graduating, fulfilling her dream, and has overcome the physical, mental, familial, and financial hardship the accident caused,” said Mills.

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences
Linda Seestedt-Stanford Leadership Award

The Linda Seestedt-Stanford Award was created in 2018 through the generosity of Angela Blose Corley ’67. This award recognizes one graduating student in each of the founding programs: occupational therapy, physical therapy, and physician assistant. Students are selected for this award based on demonstrated excellence in academics, clinical performance, and a record of service and leadership activities during their time in the program. 

Physical Therapy Recipient

Tåsi Ann Guerrero Ada brightened the halls of MDCHS from the moment she arrived on campus and impressed the faculty with her desire to become the best physical therapist possible. She embraced the hardest courses immediately, and during her first year Ada went above and beyond to pursue a strength and conditioning certification Throughout her coursework, Ada encouraged classmates, staff, and faculty and always demonstrated kindness, compassion, and respect. During her two 16-week clinical rotations, she devoted weekends to certification workshops in women’s health. “It is easy to see her passion for physical therapy through her willingness to help others, her empathy and care for her patients, and her ability to make those around her at ease,” noted Martha Butler and Matt Vellucci, Ada’s clinical instructors. “She brings a wealth of both academic knowledge and life experience to the table, and throughout her clinical experience still sought additional ways to grow professionally.”

Physician Assistant Recipient 

Montana Lynne Weitzel has been a relentless advocate for her classmates, a superlative student, and a creative leader. She has left an impact on the Physician Assistant Program that will linger for a long time. She demonstrated exceptional professional behaviors, service to the program, and academic excellence, while also serving as class president. 

Occupational Therapy Recipient 

Asma Amir Juddha demonstrated excellence in clinical performance, service, and leadership and brought passion, enthusiasm, and energy to her work. Her strengths stood out during clinical experiences and through her service and leadership during her time at Murphy Deming. She volunteered with the YMCA’s NeuroWellness program supporting clients’ participation in wellness activities as well as at the Middle River Regional Jail, enhancing the occupational performance of women at that center. “We are so honored that this exceptional graduate, whose past experience includes work as an assistant teacher and in pediatric behavioral support, found the profession of occupational therapy as we know she will make a tremendous impact on our profession,” said Allison Ellington, program director. 

Tåsi Ann Guerrero Ada ‘DPT 21 was the physical therapy recipient of the Linda Seestedt-Stanford Award.

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences
Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Awards

The Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Award was created in 2017 through the generosity of Nancy Morse Evans ’71. This award recognizes a Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences occupational therapy, physical therapy, and registered nurse to bachelor of science in nursing (RN to BSN) graduating student who demonstrated academic excellence, clinical distinction, and a record of service and leadership while in their program. 

RN to BSN Recipient 

Joy Lavonne Hancock is an accomplished student with over nine years of experience as a registered nurse in the local community. She graduated among the top students in her class academically, received accolades from her preceptor during her community health practicum experience, and has a strong record of service and leadership to the profession, community, and Mary Baldwin University. In addition to her program and a busy work schedule during a world-wide pandemic, she also served on the Murphy Deming nursing honor council. “Joy has a consistent presence of professionalism and pride for the practice of nursing,” said Monica Heck, RN to BSN program director. “She is a pillar of nursing professionalism and a fine example of a nurse leader.”

Physical Therapy Recipient

Meagan Marie Pritchard excelled academically, ranking in the top 25% of her cohort. “Her passion for learning is palpable,” said Deborah Diaz, program director for physical therapy. “She is curious and seeks to truly understand and even ‘push the envelope’ to challenge others, including her professors, to think differently.” Pritchard is passionate about serving people with neurological conditions, and contributed greatly to the partnership that Murphy Deming has with the Staunton-Augusta YMCA’s NeuroWellness Program. Pritchard’s commitment to the NeuroWellness Program did not stop with the time required for classes. She facilitated sessions during school breaks and holidays, and often shared that she would be there for every session if she could. Her drive and commitment also characterized her time in clinical education. “She was able to take on a significant caseload while not showing signs of being overwhelmed and had a great sense of humor in the process,” said Andrew Baldwin, her clinical instructor.

Occupational Therapy Recipient 

Taylor Alicia Bruno excelled in the clinic during her fieldwork experiences, consistently receiving ratings of exceeding expectations for entry-level practice. Her fieldwork educators highlighted her positive attitude, work ethic, and collaboration with the healthcare team. Bruno also consistently excelled in the classroom, and shared her talents with others serving as an anatomy and neuroanatomy tutor. She has engaged in service activities in the local community, including providing critical home repairs for disadvantaged families, brightening the day for children at the Central Virginia Burn Camp, and helping create a custom Halloween costume for a girl who uses a wheelchair. “Truly, she embodies and demonstrates leadership in everyday contexts,” said Allison Ellington, occupational therapy program director. “She models excellence in her approach to every task and looks for opportunities to serve.” 

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences
Master of Science in Physician Assistant Student of the Year Award

Darin Poulsen is not your average physician assistant (PA) student. Experienced in multiple career fields before he felt the call to healthcare, Poulsen moved his young family to the Valley and jumped in with both feet. “Always prepared, always willing to help, always ready to grow — that is what Darin is like as a student,” said Kent Diduch, PA program director. Poulsen has excelled in clinical rotations with great praise from patients and clinicians, and he has become recognized as an esteemed colleague by the faculty.  

Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences
Outstanding Master of Healthcare Administration Graduate Award

Amanda Catherine Edwards has demonstrated commitment and dedication in the demanding MHA curriculum. Based on the input of faculty members, Edwards was chosen this year based on her overall GPA, outstanding course work, contributions to the field of healthcare, and for demonstrating the highest level of respect and engagement with professors and peers.

Phi Beta Kappa

The Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) Society is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society, and membership is an emblem of high achievement and exceptional potential, conferred upon barely one percent of college seniors nationwide. To be elected to PBK, a senior student must have demonstrated a commitment to the pursuit of excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and eligibility requirements include a high GPA, foreign language, mathematics, and laboratory science. 

Inducted during their senior year were Hannah Fishburne, Rachel Krosky, Colette Levens, Elyse Levens, and Cory Martin. Tamera “Skye” Phinizy was tapped for membership in PBK as a junior, when criteria for being elected to PBK is even more rigorous.


Recipients of awards in the graduate programs of business, education, and Shakespeare & Performance stand to be recognized.

Shakespeare and Performance Awards

Ariel Award for Outstanding Program Service and Leadership

The Ariel Service Award is named after a character in Shakespeare’s late play, The Tempest. Ariel is a character who gains freedom by performing acts of service. The award therefore reminds us that freedom derives not from an act of self-expression but from an expression of selflessness.

Amanda Rogus has always put the needs of the Shakespeare and Performance Program before her own. Her example will linger long after her, as she begins her PhD work at the University of Washington in the fall, also as the recipient of the prestigious provost’s scholarship.

Andrew Gurr Award for Outstanding Thesis

The Andrew J. Gurr Thesis Award is named after a great scholar and a great friend both to the American Shakespeare Center and to Mary Baldwin University, who named him as Doenges Scholar in 2001. The Gurr award is given annually to the master of letters (MLitt) or MFA thesis that the faculty judge to be that year’s superior effort among the 35 or so theses written each academic year. 

Alexandra LaGrand wrote an outstanding master of letters thesis that required archival work in private research libraries on two continents and exemplifies the rigorous scholarship demanded by the MBU Shakespeare and Performance program. Her work sets a new and demanding level of excellence for all the students in the coming year. She will be pursuing her PhD at Texas A&M in the fall as the recipient of their prestigious, university-wide provost’s scholarship.

Susan Nolan Palmer Outstanding Master of Business Administration Apex Project Award

The Susan Nolan Palmer Apex Project Award is bestowed upon the master of business administration (MBA) student that excels in completing the final project for the program. The selected student exemplifies the ideals of the program in a highly professional manner.

Toni May is an exceptional student whose apex project was a business that will help others battle their autoimmune disease as she has battled hers. Despite the challenges, May leads a whole life with work and family, and she dedicates herself to helping others be as healthy as they can be while also living full lives. “Toni always gives her best and always wants to be the best, while helping others,” said Joanne Tritsch, MBA program director. “A funny, talented, and very bright student she embodies our program participants.”