Extraordinary Commitment

October 20, 2021

MBU President Pamela R. Fox announced a $12.5 million transformational legacy gift from Paula Stephens Lambert ’65 during an Oct. 14 dinner for donors and the Board of Trustees at Staunton's Hotel 24 South.

President Pamela R. Fox awed attendees when she announced a $12.5 million transformational legacy gift from dedicated university supporter and entrepreneur Paula Stephens Lambert ’65 during an Oct. 14 dinner for donors and the Board of Trustees.

“I am very honored and humbled tonight to announce this gift from Paula Lambert, one of the most significant in the history of Mary Baldwin,” said President Pamela Fox. “Her entrepreneurial spirit is a guiding light for the entire university, and her generosity enables Mary Baldwin to continue to move forward with foresight and bold innovation.” 

MBU President Pamela R. Fox announced a $12.5 million transformational legacy gift from Paula Stephens Lambert ’65 during an Oct. 14 dinner for donors and the Board of Trustees at Staunton's Hotel 24 South.

Lambert’s lead commitment launches a new chapter of the MBU Empowers Campaign, which has now greatly exceeded its initial $25 million goal. At the dinner, Vice President of University Advancement Charles “Chuck” Davis, III, shared the news that the campaign had just crossed the $36 million mark.

“All of these gifts, large and small, from all of our donors have advanced our campaign with energy and momentum, and we’re incredibly grateful for all of that support,” said Davis. The success inspired university administrators to extend the MBU Empowers for another two years to pursue a comprehensive goal of $50 million. 

“This campaign is about students,” Davis continued. “It’s about empowering inclusive leaders who have the capacity to change the world,” referencing in particular 10 MBU student leaders attending the celebratory event. Throughout the evening, they were able to connect with MBU administrators and Board members representing excellence and expertise across many different industries. 

One of them was Parmie Dean ‘22, a double major in psychology and studio art, who shared her impressive engagement on campus as SGA president and a member of the Ida B. Wells Society and the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership. 

“MBU empowers me by giving me opportunities similar to this one, where I have opportunities to speak, negotiate, and network with people who can shape the room,” Dean said. 

Current MBU students connected with trustees and university leadership at the celebratory event.

With an eye to student benefit, Lambert’s gift was as generous as it was strategic: A significant portion of the funds are dedicated to “unrestricted support,” enabling Mary Baldwin to pursue exciting new opportunities and nimbly address needs as they arise.  

“I’m just thrilled that a gift like this can make such a difference,” said Lambert, who lives in Dallas and founded award-winning artisan cheese manufacturer, Mozzarella Company. It was over fresh mozzarella in Lambert’s company kitchen — with Lambert wearing her favorite red chef’s coat and signature red glasses —  that she and Fox first met in 2004. During the visit Lambert shared that her success started because of her experiences at Mary Baldwin, where the faculty instilled in her a love of culture and language. Lambert said that she now wants to pay it forward by ensuring her alma mater continues to flourish.

Lambert’s gift also endows in perpetuity the MBU study abroad scholarship fund she founded in 2015. The generous, competitive stipends have already helped open the world to students each year through immersive cultural experiences in countries like India, Germany, and Japan. 

“I have loved meeting the scholarship recipients when I’ve come to Mary Baldwin,” said Lambert. “I have seen how it has changed their lives, and that makes me so happy.”

Paula Stephens Lambert ’65 in her office at the award-winning artisan cheese manufacturer Mozzarella Company, which she founded in 1982 in Dallas.

Traveling from her home in Texas to study at Mary Baldwin in the early ‘60s fostered Lambert’s love of experiencing new places and following her curiosity. Though she spent just two years in Staunton before returning south to finish her degree at the University of Texas, she said her time at Mary Baldwin built the foundation for the woman she would become.

“I loved being in Virginia, and on that beautiful campus,” said Lambert. “When I was there, there was a great faculty, and I just enjoyed it so much.”

After graduation she went to live in Perugia, Italy, where she studied Italian language and art history. Her experience with Umbrian food culture inspired her to found Mozzarella Company in 1982. The company won widespread culinary acclaim for being among the first to introduce Old World handmade cheeses to the United States on a commercial scale. 

During the course of her career, Lambert has achieved many accolades such as the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America and MBU’s Career Achievement Alumni Award. Her factory now produces more than 30 varieties of artisan cheeses.   

Today Lambert focuses on leading gastronomic tours of Italy, France, and Ireland that showcase off-the-beaten-path destinations and singular experiences gleaned from her many travels.   

“I want students to go and have experiences like I did and live abroad, learn a new way of thinking, and meet new people,” she said. “I think it will make the world better.”

Through her extraordinary gift to Mary Baldwin, Lambert will foster countless opportunities for students to broaden their horizons and engage in life-changing experiences at the university and beyond.