2020 Alumni Awardees Honored at Virtual Homecoming

At the virtual Homecoming in early June, MBU presented the 2020 Alumni Awards to seven accomplished and dynamic women during the kickoff event over Zoom. 

“We are so pleased to celebrate our 2020 awardees after the pandemic forced us to cancel Homecoming activities last year,” said Adrienne Teague, executive director of alumni engagement. “Their professional, civic, service, and personal accomplishments are truly remarkable and well deserving of recognition. We are very proud of the accomplishments of our alumni, especially these seven deserving and distinct women.”

Vice President of University Advancement Charles “Chuck” Davis presented two Career Achievement Awards, the Service to Community Award, and two Service to the Community of Faith Awards, while President Pamela Fox bestowed the university’s most prestigious alumni awards: the Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award and the Emily Vance Pancake Smith Medallion.

“I hope that, as you hear more about these deserving women, you will feel the energy and spirit of Mary Baldwin in their accomplishments,” said Davis during the award ceremony. “Each of our recipients has gone on to excel in their profession, find occasion to give of themselves to their communities through service and volunteerism, support our faith-based communities, and remain engaged with Mary Baldwin.”

Read more about each of the 2020 Alumni Award recipients below and click here to view a recording of the Homecoming kick-off event, including the alumni awards presentation and acceptance remarks from each awardee.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of our alumni, especially these seven deserving and distinct women,” said Executive Director of Alumni Engagement Adrienne Teague about the recipients of 2020 Alumni Awards.

Emily Vance Pancake Smith Medallion

The Emily Smith Medallion was named for Emily Vance Pancake Smith, a graduate of Mary Baldwin Seminary in 1906, who for over 50 years provided unparalleled service to Mary Baldwin, her local church, the Staunton community, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is said that Emily “gave her enthusiasm, talent, and leadership” to each undertaking of which she was a part. The Emily Smith Medallion was created by the Mary Baldwin Board of Trustees in 1964 to recognize alumni who, like its namesake, have shown exceptional commitment to the university, church, communities, and beyond.

Lyn McDermid ’95

Lyn McDermid is the 2020 recipient of the Emily Smith Medallion. A trail-blazer and forward-thinker throughout her career, McDermid brings her talents in engineering, business, communication, and technology to the companies and organizations she has served. 

Not having access to college after she finished high school in the early 1970s, McDermid became the first woman to join the apprentice program at Newport News Shipbuilding. She would later go back to school through Mary Baldwin’s then-named Adult Degree Program, graduating in 1995 with a degree in business administration, and later earned her master of business administration from the University of Richmond. 

McDermid’s career would take her to Dominion Resources, a Richmond-based Fortune 500 energy company, where she rose to the position of senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO). She left Dominion in 2013 to become CIO and director of federal reserve information technology for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, one of 12 regional federal reserve banks that work to strengthen the nation’s economy and communities. She retired from the bank last spring.

As McDermid was carving her impressive career path, her commitment to Mary Baldwin never waivered. She found time to serve on the Board of Trustees for 13 years, from 2001–14, becoming the first Adult Degree Program graduate to hold the position of board chair in 2009.

During her tenure as chair, the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences was envisioned and built. She chaired the successful Ever Ahead fundraising campaign and remains a prominent donor and supporter today. For her invaluable service to the university, McDermid received an honorary doctor of humane letters in 2015.

Mary Baldwin is not the only organization to benefit from McDermid’s volunteer leadership: she has served on the boards of the CIO Forum, the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Foundation, and ChildFund International, among others. For her professional success and volunteer commitments, she has received numerous honors, including being named to Computerworld’s list of Premier 100 IT leaders; receiving the RichTech Chairman’s Award and the Executive Business Achievement Award. 

Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award

This award is named in honor of former Alumni Association President Emily Wirsing Kelly, Class of 1963, and honors alumni leaders who have demonstrated excellence in leadership and outstanding service to Mary Baldwin University.

Louise Rossett McNamee ’70

The 2020 recipient of the Emily Wirsing Kelly Leadership Award is Louise Rossett McNamee. McNamee entered Mary Baldwin with the Class of 1971, but after three faced-paced years of study, graduated early in 1970 with a degree in English. A few years later, she began what would become a high-profile and extremely successful career in advertising in New York City. 

She achieved a personal and industry milestone in 1989 when she became the first woman to have her name added to the masthead of a major advertising agency, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG. She would go on to serve as president and partner of the firm that bore her name, whose client roster included major global brands Nestle, Dannon, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Schering-Plough, among others. 

Today, McNamee is widely recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, brand development, and product innovation. She has earned numerous ad industry honors, including being named “A Leader and Legend” by Advertising Age Magazine.

As she was building her remarkable and groundbreaking career, McNamee always made time for Mary Baldwin, devoting decades of service to her alma mater. She served on the Board of Trustees for more than 15 years, including five years as chair. She also led the 2003 presidential search committee that brought President Pamela Fox to Mary Baldwin, and she oversaw the development of the 2014 strategic plan, Composing Our Future

McNamee has twice given the Commencement address at Mary Baldwin. In 1985, she was not much older than the graduates to whom she spoke, but she inspired them nonetheless with lessons from her blossoming advertising career. She returned to the Commencement podium in 2009 when she was awarded the university’s highest honor, the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, as well as an honorary doctor of humane letters. 

She shared the following as part of her 2009 address to graduates: “You haven’t been educated at Mary Baldwin in order to have a successful career — although I’m sure you will — you’ve been educated so that you may have a successful life. And there is a world of difference.”

McNamee remains a passionate spokesperson for Mary Baldwin and all that the university values, especially women’s-centered education and the liberal arts. 

Career Achievement Awards

The Career Achievement Award recognizes alumni whose outstanding career performance demonstrates the value of a liberal arts education, serves as an inspiration for current students, and brings distinction to the university and its alumni.


Janet Farrar Byington ’75

As a recipient of the 2020 Career Achievement Award, Janet Farrar Byington believes in the power of the liberal arts, not just in regard to her education, but also in her career.

Pursuing a diverse set of professional interests from the law to real estate to college counseling, highlights of her wide-ranging career include serving as the district director for Georgia Congressman Phil Gringrey for 11 years, leading fundraising and development for a number of nonprofits, and renovating and selling more than 50 homes. She is also the author of two children’s books. In each of these varied fields, Byington has earned remarkable success — testimony to the value of intellectual curiosity, problem solving, and creative thinking that are at the core of a liberal arts education. 

In addition to her career, Byington is also invested in her community. She is the recipient of Rome, Georgia’s Heart of the Community Award for volunteerism and support of the city. Now retired, Byington is focused on her passion for flipping houses. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling extensively around the world with her husband of 31 years, Bill, and she loves to “grandma sit” for her six grandchildren. 

Anita D. Filson ’83

Also a recipient of a 2020 Career Achievement Award, Anita Filson earned her Mary Baldwin degree in philosophy as one of the early graduates of the then-named Adult Degree Program. Her liberal arts education served as the foundation for a successful, trail-blazing career as an attorney and jurist in the Shenandoah Valley. After attending law school at Washington and Lee, Filson practiced with a firm in Lexington and then on her own for 15 years. 

In true Mary Baldwin fashion, in 2001 Filson became the first woman judge to be elected by the legislature for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Virginia’s 25th judicial district. She served as the lead judge in a court improvement program for Staunton, Augusta County, and Waynesboro, which worked to improve how courts and communities deal with difficult issues related to foster care. Before her retirement, Filson served three years as a Circuit Court judge, where she was again the first woman judge appointed to the bench. 

Seeking to support the next generation of legal professionals, Filson devoted much time to mentoring many in the legal community. She also worked extensively with at-risk youth and families here in the valley.

Service to Community Award

The Service to Community award recognizes alumni who provide distinguished and outstanding volunteer service to their communities and bring honor to their alma mater through their activities.

Laura Lee Johnson Schultz ’75

The 2020 Service to Community award recipient is Laura Lee Johnson Schultz. For 30 years, Schultz worked as an elementary school teacher and high school counselor. A military wife, she and her family moved often in support of her husband’s career in the Marine Corps. Wherever they were stationed, she made it a priority to serve her community. Whether it was volunteering at her daughters’ schools, working in a non-profit thrift shop, or tending the garden of her Episcopal church, Schultz sought opportunities to make a difference. 

In 2002, as service members were returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with severe injuries, Schultz recognized a vital need to provide better support to these critically wounded marines and sailors during their treatment, recovery, and rehabilitation. Her work led to the founding of the Wounded Warrior program at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital and Bethesda Naval Hospital, where she went on to direct the program for five years, selflessly and enthusiastically devoting thousands of hours to its success. 

Her work was so impactful that in 2007, Schultz became one of only a few women to receive the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest recognition of a civilian by the Secretary of the Navy. Her years of volunteer service speak to her commitment to making a difference in the lives of the men and women who are wounded in the service of our nation.

Service to Community of Faith Awards 

The Service to Community of Faith award honors alumni who have provided distinguished service to their faith and spiritual communities, recognizing the close and important relationship that has existed between the university and the Presbyterian Church since the university’s founding.

Kristen Barner ’90

Reverend Kristen Barner is a recipient of the 2020 Service to Community of Faith Award. Barner, whose parents are also ministers, completed her master of divinity at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Her ministry has taken her to Virginia, Arizona, and South Carolina, where she has worked in non-profits, youth ministry, as a hospital chaplain, and an associate pastor. 

Today, Barner works as a wedding minister, guiding and supporting couples in her home of Charleston, South Carolina, and around the country. In testimony to her ability to connect with couples, Barner has been recognized by WeddingWire and The Knot. Barner is also an active clergy advocate and spokesperson in support of marriage equality. Her commitment to her faith and dedication to others serve as a source of inspiration and hope.

Lisa Nichols Hickman ‘93

Reverend Doctor Lisa Nichols Hickman is also a 2020 Service to Community of Faith Award recipient. Hickman is thrilled to have started a new call at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, where she serves as associate pastor for children and families. Holding a doctorate in theology from Duquesne University, she has recently received a pastoral study grant from the Louisville Institute, and is the author of several books and leads workshops and retreats across the country. 

Hickman is passionate about engaging with her community and has led a variety of outreach initiatives focused on higher education, mothers, persons with disabilities, and other groups. Perhaps her work is best summarized by her nominator, who said, “Lisa has become an outstanding Presbyterian clergywoman and a fully engaged citizen reaching out beyond her own church boundaries.”