Mary Baldwin Unites to Celebrate 93rd Founders Day and the Class of 2022

Drummers from the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) played a march as a procession of nearly 100 seniors in traditional black caps and gowns descended the stairs toward Page Terrace. Professors and administrators in formal academic regalia looked on, nodding and smiling at waving students as they filed into rows of chairs positioned before the facade of Grafton Library. 

More than 100 attending underclassmen and family members cheered as MBU chaplain and religious studies professor Katherine Low greeted the Class of 2022 from a podium. 

“Today we are gathered to celebrate the 180-year heritage of this university and your place within it,” Low told the group. “Not only has your hard work and dedication proven you worthy of that legacy, it has made us confident you will boldly embody and carry it into the future.”

Her invocation opened the 93rd Founders Day, which commemorates the death and vision of school progenitor, Mary Julia Baldwin. The annual ceremony formally recognizes the accomplishments and leadership role of the graduating class.   

Clockwise from top left: Graduating students descend the stairs to Page Terrace; MBU chaplain and religious studies professor Katherine Low greets the Class of 2022; students assembled for the ceremony before Grafton Library.

A series of administrators — including President Pamela R. Fox, Provost and Chief Academic Officer Tynisha Willingham, and Vice President of Student Engagement Ernest Jeffries — gave talks congratulating the seniors. Each positioned their achievements during the global pandemic as belonging to Mary Baldwin’s historic pantheon. 

“The genius of Mary Julia Baldwin was her foresight to [structure an institution around] the molding of people versus the exposition of theories,” said Fox, adding Baldwin would undoubtedly be proud of them. 

“You have shown remarkable character and compassion in persevering through [one of the most challenging periods] this institution has ever faced,” she continued. “You exemplify the [founding and functional] spirit of this institution and carry it within you.”  

From left: President Pamela R. Fox giving a speech; Seniors descending the stairs to Page Terrace.

The MBU Choir played on the class’s theme of “citizenship” with an a cappella performance of Brian Tate’s song “Connected.” Its call-and-response style chorus — “I am you, you are me!” — paid homage to students’ efforts to pull together to overcome pandemic-related challenges. 

“We did something no other class in the history of this university has had to do,” asserted VWIL cadet and Student Government Association president Parmie Dean ’22 in a closing speech. 

From left: The Mary Baldwin Choir performs; VWIL cadet and Student Government Association President Parmie Dean ’22 lands a joke (and gets a laugh out of Vice President of Student Engagement Ernest Jeffries).

The pandemic forced students to leave campus and transition to virtual learning in March 2020. They returned to Mary Baldwin the following fall to strict safety guidelines and social distancing measures — and have been navigating them ever since.  

“We gritted our teeth with determination; we banded together; we made sacrifices,” said Dean. “And you know what? We made it. We’re still here. The finish line … is … finally … in … sight!”

Classmates answered the exclamation with an explosion of applause. After a closing prayer, they flocked to the large bronze bell in front of the Administration Building, taking turns ringing and posing before it for photos with friends. They hugged one another. Performed happy dances. Exchanged fist bumps. Shouted for joy. 

Members of the Class of 2022 gather after receiving their medallions.

Clockwise from top left: Chief Diversity Officer Andrea Cornett-Scott poses with with her grandson, Marquis Brunson; Class of 2022 President Endia Harvey shows off the commemorative medallion; seniors took turns ringing the MBU bell to celebrate.