Commencement Highlights and Award Winners 2023

The iconic, grassy hillside buzzed with excitement as hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and family members gathered before Page Terrace on Sunday, May 21, to celebrate the 307-member undergraduate Class of 2023 at Mary Baldwin University’s 181st Commencement.

It was the second ceremony of the weekend, with nearly 300 graduate and professional degree earners honored the day before.

“In this moment, to our graduates, dreams are reality,” said retiring President Pamela R. Fox, presiding over her 20th MBU Commencement. “Today, the profound belief we held in each of you is manifest. We are filled with joy and pride. Graduates of 2023: Congratulations, this is your day.”

The view from Mary Baldwin University’s 181st undergraduate Commencement ceremony.

Fox praised graduates at both ceremonies for persevering despite profound uncertainty imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread national social unrest during their first years at the university. 

“Thank you for the courage you have shown to pave the way to your future, and to the world’s future,” said Fox. “You honed your values, demonstrated resilience and hope, and drew inspiration from uncertainty. In doing so, you inspire us.”

Gold College of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Paul Menzer echoed Fox in commending graduate degree earners for overcoming adversity and achieving academic excellence despite immense challenges. He implored them to reflect on — and take pride in — the significance of their accomplishments.

“Graduate education can be an arduous journey, one in which no single task presented to you is impossible, but one in which you are asked to do difficult tasks — and do them over, and over, and over again,” said Menzer. “We therefore celebrate today not just your ingenuity, but your industry; not just your talent, but your tenacity; not just your excellence, but your ethic. Congratulations to all of you.”

From left: President Pamela R. Fox overseeing her 20th MBU Commencement; Board of Trustees Chair Gabby McCree ’83 presenting Fox with a special honorary proclamation.

Annual awards were presented at each ceremony to honor exemplary graduates. (A complete list of recipients can be found below.)

For example, 35 undergraduates were named to the Senior Honors List, while five were initiated into MBU’s Lambda of Virginia Phi Beta Kappa Society, a chapter of the nation’s most prestigious honor society. Awards announcements were punctuated by a number of surprises. 

First, MBU Board of Trustees Chair Gabby McCree ’83 gave a special speech and proclamation commemorating Fox’s final Commencement. McCree outlined her significant contributions to the university, and told guests about honorary recognitions that were announced during a special Trustees ceremony held in April

“That we may have a lasting reminder of her vision, which builds the bridges between the past, the present, and the future, the Board of Trustees voted to rename the Administration Building as the Pamela R. Fox Leadership Hall,” said McCree. “As the cornerstone of our historic campus, it is only fitting that her legacy shall remain a part of its identity. … We are forever grateful for the dedication, energy, and commitment that [Dr. Fox] brought to Mary Baldwin each day.”

On Sunday, the Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award, the university’s highest academic honor, was given to three co-winners. Winners were political science major, Alana Gill; health sciences major, Samantha Grimsley; and physics and math major, Zachary Zintak. All had a perfect 4.0 grade point average.  

Graduates being congratulated by faculty members at Saturday’s ceremony.

Retiring philosophy professor, Dr. Edward Scott, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Faculty Award for his more than 30 years of dedicated service, and gave this year’s undergraduate address. Like Fox and Menzer, he began by congratulating graduates for their achievements.

“You stayed the course, you took the tests, you forged a learned wisdom even when hazards obstructed and blocked your way,” said Scott. “The grades you earned are yours. So sing the pealing bells once we confer your degrees. Because you did not seek to secure this coveted plum on the sly or on the cheap, you drew upon that rich reserve you did not know you had until some required paper [or project] revealed your itch to get it right, to slay the monster of your own self-doubt.”

Scott went on to implore students to deeply contemplate their dreams and goals, and to seek to craft lives of vision, purpose, and imagination. He asked them to look boldly at the pressing questions of their time, and to play a role in solving them. Scott closed with a final wish and metaphor before welcoming the Class of 2023 as MBU’s newest alumni. 

“Now, with my time expired, I yearn for one more thing: I wish to see mortar boards tossed high into the sky,” he said. “But watch that you save what is falling into your hands. It’s not the graduation cap festooned with so much glitter and glue. Ready or not, it falls to you. It’s the world — catch!”

Retiring professor, Dr. Edward Scott, gave this year’s undergraduate Commencement address.


Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award
Dr. Edward Scott, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Undergraduate Awards

Martha Stackhouse Grafton Academic Award
Alana Gill, Samantha Grimsley, Zachary Zintak

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award
Jaliyah Bryant

School of Education Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award
Susanne Noto

MBU Online Outstanding Graduate Award
Melissa Wills

Phi Beta Kappa Inductees
Abigail Adams, Alana Gill, Christian Herrera, Courtney Hicks, Coral Moret

Senior Honors List
Heather Korzun, Naomi Leigh Ritchie, Anna Arneson, Adele Lorine Beaucicot, Samantha Grimsley, Sara Gum, Sophie Alexandra Sulesky, Codie Heilig, Anna Fisher, Ashlynn Danielle Carter, Courtney Rosenstadt, Gwendolyn Elverson, Louis Altman, Meagan Rose Cuomo, Sophia Frey, Josh Henson, Abigail Ramey-Polifka, Savanna Ember Underwood, Zachary Zintak, Abigail Adams, Lindsey Poe, Kaitlyn Brockman, Gina-Marie An, Graceon Lee Armstrong, Alexis Barba, Hildegard Botkin, Stephanie Adkins Funtila, Aleria Hull, Graceann Alexandra Lawhorne, Suzanne Fallon Noto, Madelyn Bickford, Dazaé Rajore Carter, Christian Del Hoyo, Patricia Haden, Keandra Burnell, Danielle Claire DeVere

Graduates at Mary Baldwin’s 181st Commencement Ceremony.

Graduate Awards

College of Education Outstanding Graduate Student Award
David Lotterhos

College of Health Sciences Nancy Morse Evans Leadership Awards
Physical Therapy: Raven Giles
Occupational Therapy: Julia Sheffer
Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing: Jordan N. Raynes

College of Health Sciences Linda Seestedt-Stanford Leadership Awards
Physical Therapy: Daniel Quillen
Physician Assistant: Cole Reynolds
Occupational Therapy: Caitlin Vance

Outstanding Master of Healthcare Administration Graduate
Bradley Dressler

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Student of the Year
Holly Coryell

Shakespeare and Performance Ariel Award for Outstanding Program Service and Leadership
Katelyn Spurgin

Shakespeare and Performance Andrew Gurr Award for Outstanding Thesis
Caroline Shea Lyons

The Cohen Ampersand Award
Anna Taylor

Susan Nolan Palmer Outstanding Master of Business Administration Apex Project Award
Isabelle Lily Ross

Miss the ceremonies or want to relive them? Livestream recordings can be found HERE.