‘You Inspire Us’

May 18, 2021

Graduate hooding at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences Commencement ceremony

During four ceremonies stretched across two days, the MBU family celebrated the Class of 2021 during the 179th Commencement exercises on Page Terrace, and also welcomed back 2020 graduates for special recognition of their class.

President Pamela R. Fox, who presided over all the ceremonies, honored the fortitude of students and recent graduates for successfully navigating the past 14 months of the pandemic. 

“Everyone was unsure on some days what to do next in the midst of a global health crisis, pressing issues of social justice, and chaos on many other levels,” Fox said in her opening remarks. “But each of you came to know yourselves better. You honed your values; you demonstrated resilience and hope; you drew inspiration from uncertainty. In doing so, you inspire us.” 

At each ceremony, Fox asked graduates’ families and loved ones to rise for applause and thanks, in addition to their professors present at the ceremony, recognizing the support system that has helped seniors and graduate students reach their graduation day.

The university also recognized those who received Commencement awards this year, recognizing especially impressive achievements and academic success. 

Graduate hooding at the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences Commencement ceremony
“You honed your values; you demonstrated resilience and hope; you drew inspiration from uncertainty. In doing so, you inspire us.”
President Pamela R. Fox

Kicking off the first day of ceremonies were graduates of the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, who earned 119 total degrees to round out the college’s fifth anniversary year.

Remarks by Fox and Dean of Murphy Deming Lisa Shoaf paid special tribute to the sacrifices and dedication of the graduates, many of whom served as working healthcare professionals or completed clinical experiences during the pandemic. 

Shoaf encouraged them to use their experiences as fuel to address pressing issues in healthcare, such as gaps in access, health disparities, and scarcity of resources. 

“You can be change agents — one patient at a time, one clinic at a time — but also be change agents for these larger issues in healthcare to help affect change in the years to come,” she said. “I hope you will take on this challenge as you begin the next chapter of your life.”

New graduates of MBU from the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences

At noon on Saturday, the university recognized the 106 students who completed graduate programs in business, education, and Shakespeare and Performance.

Each dean of the respective programs delivered closing remarks, acknowledging the challenges of the past year and the hope each graduate brings for the future.

“In this season of silence, perhaps we have learned to listen harder,” said Paul Menzer, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “To hear more clearly the voices of those who are muffled long before they put on a mask. So that when we take our masks off — and we will — our voices must be louder, clearer, and more eloquent than ever before.”

Graduate hooding and recessional march from the Commencement ceremony for graduate programs in business, education, and Shakespeare and Performance

Though Sunday brought chilly temperatures and scattered rain showers to Hunt Hill and Page Terrace, graduates were still able to cross the Commencement stage as their families and loved ones watched either in person or via the livestream.

“I would like to think that heaven’s gates have opened up, and it’s falling down as a blessing this morning on these graduates,” said Chaplain Katherine Low, as she invoked the occasion. 

During the Class of 2021 undergraduate ceremony, the university awarded more than 200 bachelor’s degrees to students, ranging in age from 16 to 79.

Fox awarded two Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards — one of the university’s highest honors recognizing noble character and selfless service — this year both to a graduating senior and an esteemed, long-serving member of the faculty. Both received in addition the Mary Keith Fitzroy cash award.

The student Algernon Sydney Sullivan award winner was criminal justice major, student leader, and dedicated volunteer Kylie Stottlemyer ’21 while the faculty recipient was Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen, who is retiring after 41 years of dedicated teaching, leadership, and program development across many facets of the university.

Owen also provided closing remarks for the ceremony, centering the story of university namesake Mary Julia Baldwin as inspiration for the graduates.

“I believe you will seek to embody the spirit of Mary Julia Baldwin,” Owen said. “That each one of you will be resilient, strong, and courageous while fighting against all forms of harassment and discrimination and bravely facing the inevitable set-backs and challenges to come.”  

“Each one of you will be resilient, strong, and courageous while fighting against all forms of harassment and discrimination and bravely facing the inevitable set-backs and challenges to come.”
Professor of Philosophy Roderic Owen, Commencement speaker

Graduation for undergraduate students who earned their bachelor's degrees

The final ceremony welcomed back members of the Class of 2020, whose senior year or graduate school path were interrupted by the pandemic.

“We are so proud of you for persevering to complete your courses and capstone projects at all levels from undergraduate to doctoral,” Fox said in her opening remarks for the 2020 ceremony. “Today celebrates and recognizes you.” 

Dean of the Mary Baldwin College for Women Carey Usher gave closing remarks, and recognized the Class of 2020’s strength and sacrifices during uncontrollable conditions. 

“This year, we continue to celebrate the achievements of all graduates of 2020 in quite possibly one of the strangest years any of us will ever experience, and I invite you to make note, not only of your success, but of the strength and resilience you have called upon to navigate these past 14 months,” she said.

Members of the Class of 2020 returned to campus for special recognition during their Commencement ceremony.

To watch the complete livestream of each ceremony, please visit marybaldwin.edu/live.