Remembering Education Professor Dr. Alice Waddell

The Mary Baldwin community is saddened to announce the loss of longtime assistant professor of education, Dr. Alice Waddell. She passed away on Nov. 8, 2022, at the University of Virginia Medical Center at the age of 71.

“Alice is remembered for the joy she found in guiding her students to fulfill their potential as teachers and community leaders,” said President Pamela R. Fox. “We’re so grateful that she was a part of our university community. I valued her engagement and wise input, and reflect on the many educators she inspired through her passion for learning, service, and engagement.”

Waddell joined Mary Baldwin in 2004 as a high-performing education professional with a proven track record of success. 

The Lexington native started her career as a middle school civics teacher after graduating with a political science degree from Radford College. She went on to earn a master’s degree from James Madison University, and doctorate in educational administration from Virginia Tech, then spent about 15 years working as a principal for several Rockbridge County elementary schools. 

In a statement to the Lexington News Gazette, Waddell’s former public school colleagues praised her for building a tight-knit family atmosphere, fostering a nurturing culture of student support, and transforming schools into some of Virginia’s best. Her efforts were recognized in 1998 with principal of the year awards from both the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the U.S Department of Education National Distinguished Principals program.

Waddell came to work for Mary Baldwin as a supervisor of student teachers in 2004. Her wealth of expertise and skill as an instructor quickly led to a role teaching education courses — especially those in elementary, middle, and secondary methods. She also served as an esteemed advisor and mentor for students in graduate-level education programs, as well as alumni as they pursued teaching careers

“Alice wanted her [current and former] students to be the best teachers in the field, and therefore held them to the highest of expectations,” said Dr. Pamela Bailey, associate dean and director of MBU’s School of Education.

She strove to instill the idea that being a great teacher meant being an enthusiastic lifelong learner, always seeking and incorporating advances and updates around delivery methods, curriculum, student needs, and more. 

Waddell believed in teaching by example. Pupils and colleagues say her devotion to the profession and preparing the educators of tomorrow was as obvious as it was infectious. 

“Alice was larger than life,” said former student-turned-MBU-instructor Gwendolyn Whitmore. She went out of her way “to touch the lives of each and every student she encountered — whether they were” an elementary schooler, college-aged, or a returning adult. 

Whitmore says Waddell worked tirelessly to ensure her students understood the gravity of their responsibilities as educators. They had to be prepared to give their all, day in and day out, to do everything in their power to introduce their students to the joy — and radical importance — of learning. 

For Waddell, the success of that imperative relied on compassion, planning, and passion. 

“She was an incredible civics educator — she taught history like she was telling a story, bringing the characters and subject to life,” said Whitmore. “She encouraged her students to do the same for future generations, because she knew that that’s what it took to get kids engaged.” 

“Alice was a great steward of education from preschool to graduate school. If I had just a few words to write her epitaph, it would read: Her students always came first. ”

Tamra Willis, retired association professor of education

Waddell also played a key role in helping to guide Mary Baldwin’s education program. 

“Alice was tremendously dedicated to researching [the state of public education in Virginia], assessing where the needs were, then looking for ways that MBU could be a leader at meeting them,” said Bailey. 

For instance, ongoing shortages of qualified teachers inspired Waddell to spearhead the effort to create the university’s provisional teaching licensure program. 

Bailey, Whitmore, Fox, and other colleagues agree that Waddell’s impact on Mary Baldwin’s education program was beyond profound: Her contributions will live on in the memory and actions of both them and former students for decades to come. 

“Alice’s legacy will be the manner in which she taught her students how to be good teachers simply through modeling it to them in her university classrooms,” said retired graduate teacher education program director, Carole Grove. 

She cites the maxim, ‘To teach is to touch a life forever,’ as befitting. 

“Alice has touched countless lives, and she will live on in those that practice the art of teaching as she taught them,” said Grove. “They, too, will touch lives for the future. … We are all better for having known her, and will miss her immeasurably.”

Waddell is survived by her husband, Finley “Brud” Waddell II, son, Finley Waddell III, brother, Robert Moore and his wife Kathy, and by a large extended family.