In Memory of Margaret Herscher “Peggy” Hitchman ’40

Mary Baldwin University honors the life of Margaret Herscher “Peggy” Hitchman ’40, a devoted supporter and Trustee Emerita. 

Hitchman passed away on March 11 at her home in Charleston, WV. At 101 years, she was likely the university’s oldest alumna, and her mother and daughters are also alumnae. 

Margaret Herscher “Peggy” Hitchman ’40 at the celebration of her 100th birthday in 2019; she passed away on March 11 at her home in Charleston, WV, at 101.

A physics major, Hitchman was active in the glee, science, music, and dramatic Clubs and served as reporter, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of the school newspaper during her college career.

“Mom had a great love for Mary Baldwin; you could just feel it whenever she referred to her time there,” remembered Hitchman’s daughter Grace Hitchman McGrath ’70. “She made many references to how she liked the small class size where you had to think and stretch your intellectual boundaries, as there was no place to be insignificant like in a large university lecture hall. She was especially appreciative of how her professors were personally invested in encouraging their students.” 

Wanting to provide similar educational experiences to future generations, Hitchman and her late husband, William R. Hitchman, endowed a scholarship for high-achieving students with financial need at Mary Baldwin. 

The scholarship was named in honor of her parents, George Schilling and Grace Sutherland Herscher, a member of the Class of 1915 at the then-named Mary Baldwin Seminary.

“Grandmother’s parents wanted her to continue her education,” said McGrath about Grace Sutherland Herscher. “Apparently, a finishing school wasn’t up her alley … she wanted to know more. Biology, botany, nutrition, how things worked, history, and especially geography. She wanted to travel. In the end, my grandfather whisked her away after climbing over the wall of the school several times, so I’ve been told.” 

Hitchman attended Mary Baldwin in the wake of the Great Depression. Through the scholarship she and her husband established, she wanted to recognize her parents for their sacrifices to ensure she received a college education. 

“What I often recall growing up was how frugal Mom and Dad were,” said Hitchman’s daughter Eve A. Carter ’74. “And how much they taught us the same principles. I became very much aware of their giving spirits — spirits that never took abundance of wealth (whether monetary or otherwise) as ‘deserved,’ but a responsibility to use to the best possible end for as many as possible.” 

Senior portrait from the 1940 Bluestocking yearbook (left); and service in the WAVES during World War II (right)

Hitchman was a loyal and influential leader on the Board of Trustees for more than a decade. Her Board service coincided with a time of significant growth for Mary Baldwin, when it acquired the upper campus (formerly Staunton Military Academy) and created both the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership.

“After having a stroke in her late 40s, Mom went back to school to become an ICU nurse as a pay-it-forward to those who helped her recover,” said McGrath. “She thus became a big supporter of Mary Baldwin’s science program and the medical specialties that were being championed. The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences was a dream come true for her as a fruition of hard work to pass on to the future.”

In the early 1990s, Hitchman supported the renovation of Miller Chapel to provide students a space for worship, prayer, reflection, and study, and also served as a member of the steering committee for Mary Baldwin’s Sesquicentennial Campaign.

In recognition of her service and dedication, Hitchman was one of 50 alumni and friends to receive a sesquicentennial medallion in 1992. Celebrating the institution’s 150th anniversary, the medallions recognized those who performed outstanding service to Mary Baldwin and brought recognition and honor to the institution through their achievements. 

Receiving a sesquicentennial medallion from former Mary Baldwin President Cynthia H. Tyson in 1992

In addition to Mary Baldwin, Hitchman also graduated from the Nursing University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC, and Morris Harvey College in Charleston, WV. She served as a member of the WAVES military unit of the United States Navy during World War II, and later in life as a nurse in the Intensive Coronary Care Unit at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.