President Fox Announces Retirement After 20 Years of Dedicated Service

August 22, 2022

President Fox announced she will retire as the university’s ninth president on June 30, 2023, after two decades of trailblazing vision and action. 

Mary Baldwin University President Pamela R. Fox, PhD, announced today she will retire as the university’s ninth president on June 30, 2023, after two decades of trailblazing vision and action. 

“With humility, I have been extraordinarily honored to lead and serve alongside each of you,” Fox wrote in a message to the MBU community. “We have worked together with shared commitment to maintain our momentum with devotion to the mission, legacy, and promising future of Mary Baldwin University.”

Fox’s retirement was formally announced during MBU’s annual State of the University address

President Fox announced she will retire as the university’s ninth president on June 30, 2023, after two decades of trailblazing vision and action. 

Fox’s history-making presidential tenure is the longest since Mary Baldwin became a four-year college in 1923 — and one of the most transformational in its 181-year history. Since arriving in 2003, Fox has spearheaded numerous major innovations, including launching a successful new branch campus and college for healthcare professionals, transitioning from a college to a co-ed university, emphasizing a strong commitment to diversity and access to higher education, and overseeing record enrollment with the matriculation of MBU’s largest incoming classes against a backdrop of daunting admission trends for private institutions. 

“Pamela has charted a path to success for the next generation of students through innovative programmatic changes, executed with remarkable speed and success,” said Chair of the Board of Trustees Gabrielle G. “Gabby” McCree ’83.

During Fox’s time in office, Mary Baldwin strategically evolved into a university that now empowers inclusive leaders among three distinct populations of students: residential undergraduates; online undergraduates and graduates; and healthcare professionals in the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.  

“We have worked together with shared commitment to maintain our momentum with devotion to the mission, legacy, and promising future of Mary Baldwin University.”
President Pamela R. Fox

MBU is also now poised for significant future growth, thanks to Fox’s visionary leadership, anchored in her foundation as a classically trained musician and musicologist. Fox approached Mary Baldwin as a collaborative composition over the last 20 years, championing creativity, discipline, and diligent execution among leadership, faculty, and staff. Her clear intent and vision inspired the MBU community with ideas and innovations to meet challenging market trends while maintaining the university mission.

“It takes a leader with the most extraordinary qualities to guide an institution through such times and remain true to its mission,” said Jane Harding Miller ’76 former chair of the Board of Trustees. “Pamela has been such a leader, and while the Mary Baldwin of today looks quite different from that of 20 years ago, she has safeguarded its mission and spirit.”

MBU has propelled its evolution under Fox’s leadership, and that forward focus has enabled the university to flourish despite an ever-changing higher education landscape. During her tenure, Fox:  

  • Envisioned and opened the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences in 2014, offering the institution’s first doctoral degrees and expanding onto a branch campus in Fishersville with a new, state-of-the-art facility that has spurred significant economic development in Augusta County. 
  • Enabled the collaborative process that created two iterative and highly successful strategic plans.
  • Added more than 30 new degrees or programs with a career focus, in the areas of nursing, business, health sciences, social work, autism studies, and more.
  • Spearheaded two of the largest fundraising campaigns in MBU history and personally secured the institution’s future with transformational and record-breaking gifts from alumni Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46 and Paula Stephens Lambert ’65.
  • Oversaw major campus improvements and construction, including extensive renovations to Pearce Science Center, the construction of SMA Worth Field to support the rapid growth in athletic programs, improvements to the Alumnae House, and the opening of a new Center for Student Success. 
  • Created the Samuel and Ava Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement in 2007 to emphasize the importance of service learning and enrich student opportunities for local and global engagement.
  • Cultivated diversity, equity, and inclusion at MBU, including creating a social justice coalition, naming a chief diversity officer, supporting 25 years of the Office of Inclusive Excellence, and supporting a residential campus of more than 50% students of color. During Fox’s tenure, MBU has been highly rated among national college rankings for social mobility. The commitment to diversity was one Fox brought to her presidency, as symbolized in the West African “chain link” Adinkra that was a key theme in her April 2004 inauguration ceremony. 
  • Brought to Mary Baldwin — and to Staunton — the Heifetz International Music Institute, a famed summer training program for exceptional young string musicians. She showed steadfast support for the arts community including the American Shakespeare Center; made possible the installation of public sculptures by renowned global artist Betty Gold;  and introduced to the community the work of international artists Srinivas Krishnan and Claudia Bernardi. Holding the rank Professor of Music at Mary Baldwin, Fox often graced the community with piano performances.
  • Nurtured and expanded Mary Baldwin’s cherished traditions, including the Capstone Festival, a tradition from the seminary days, and Apple Day, with a return to the orchard and focus on community service. 
  • Received the award of Honorary Alumna status by the Alumni Association in 2010.

Mary Baldwin is a campus within a community, Fox has said since day one of her presidency. Her tenure elevated the prestige and recognition of MBU and Staunton throughout the region and nation, and has included significant service, including appointments to the boards for the American Shakespeare Center, Frontier Culture Museum, and the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. She is a member of Rotary International; and the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce named Fox its Citizen of the Year in 2012. 

Her husband and partner, Dan Layman — who was also named a citizen of the year in 2022 — has been devoted to Mary Baldwin and the larger Staunton community. He was the “first” husband to be in residence at Mary Baldwin, and now serves as president and CEO of the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge. Layman also started several beloved new traditions such as Halloween pumpkin displays outside the President’s House, and Christmas cookie open houses featuring hundreds of gingerbread squirrels he baked himself.

“Pamela has charted a path to success for the next generation of students through innovative programmatic changes, executed with remarkable speed and success.”
Gabrielle G. “Gabby” McCree ’83, Board of Trustees Chair

Fox is also regarded for her advocacy work on the state level and national higher education stage, including service and leadership on the board of directors for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, American Council on Education, Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia, the USA South Athletic Conference, and the Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges.

“When we convinced Pamela to join us in 2003, we knew our future as a small liberal arts institution within an ever-evolving educational landscape would be challenging,” said Claire “Yum” Lewis Arnold ’69, former chair of the Board of Trustees. “Pamela has met Mary Baldwin’s enormous challenges with extraordinary focus, unbounded energy, contagious enthusiasm, critical thinking, intelligent creativity, and visionary leadership, all grounded in realism, healthy self-awareness, and self-deprecating humor. Not only has she successfully led multiple transformational initiatives, she’s managed to do so while staying true to our mission and laying a solid foundation for her successors to continue our journey of intelligent evolution. She is an inspiration and a role model for leading positive change.”

Investment in MBU’s innovation was made possible by Fox’s fundraising skills for both immediate and impactful growth as well as to nurture the university’s endowment. As Fox prepares for her retirement, the Office of University Advancement is partnering with alumni, university supporters, and the MBU Board of Trustees to honor her legacy through a special fundraising effort. 

The Fox Futures Initiative will advance key academic programs, establish career-focused interdisciplinary curriculum, dramatically strengthen endowments, and fund campus improvements. It will also establish an innovative Center for Life Success that will offer premium professional and life-skills advising to drive student success from move-in day, to graduation, and beyond. 

Today MBU announced nearly $7.5 million in new gifts from the Fox Futures Initiative, including significant gifts to name and endow the Palmer College of Professional Studies, the Betty Gold College of Arts and Sciences, and the McCree Center for Life Success.

“Pamela Fox has led MBU through one of the most transformative and sustained periods of growth and evolution in our history,” McCree said. Our board has witnessed and supported her leadership and continues to do so in her clearly articulated vision for this new era. Our diverse and inclusive community of undergraduate, graduate, and online students are well prepared for the workforce,  poised for successful employment in a new economy, and equipped to be positive contributors to society in a post-pandemic world.”

A celebration to honor Fox will be hosted by the Board of Trustees on April 13. Higher education executive talent firm Academic Search will partner with the MBU presidential search committee and Board of Trustees to conduct the search to find the next MBU president with a goal of naming a successor in spring 2023.