The last graduates of Mary Baldwin University were baptized Sunday with intermittent rain showers, an enthusiastic call to never be complacent, and the buoyant optimism befitting an institution on the verge of a major milestone.
Mary Baldwin’s 174th Commencement exercises celebrated the achievements of 324 graduates in the Class of 2016, including 136 in the Residential College of Women, 134 in the Baldwin Online and Adult Programs, and 72 students in Mary Baldwin’s graduate programs.
On August 31, Mary Baldwin will change its name to Mary Baldwin University, reflecting years of programmatic and physical growth in the institution’s 175-year history. Mary Baldwin President Pamela Fox reminded the crowd gathered in front of the Martha S. Grafton Library this was the “proud and final graduating class of Mary Baldwin University.”
“Mary Baldwin is truly reaching for the stars, just as you are,” said keynote speaker Tracy “Lolita” Burks-Healy ’87. “It has given me many gifts during my time here, and all the years after. There’s just something so special about these hallowed hills that will forever be a part of me, and you.”
Most famously known for her brand, Lolita, which she started in 2001 at her kitchen table, Burks-Healy used her love of art and design and her aptitude for creative marketing (which was inspired by many wonderful classes at Mary Baldwin), to create a brand that now, after 15 years in business, resonates across the world. She has more than 50 trademarks in various countries and more than 2,000 copyrights.
“Staying ambitious, curious, understanding the power of elbow grease, not being afraid to fail, are all things that are the opposite of being complacent,” Burks-Healy told the crowd. “Complacency is a state of mind that accepts fate without question, prevents learning, and most of all kills the drive to make things better. It also limits you and allows you to succumb to the fate of your own thoughts.”
Before the graduates walked across page terrace to receive their diplomas and a handshake from President Fox, several were singled out for their achievements, including Emma Reger, this year’s Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award winner. The English major from Broadway graduated summa cum laude and also earned the Benn Award for Creative Writing.
The college conferred an honorary doctor of humane letters upon Kellie Warner ’90. She is business operations executive for Bank of America in Charlotte, and has contributed greatly to her alma mater, including serving on both the Board of Trustees and the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors.
For their unselfish service, noble character, and spiritual qualities, graduating senior Betsey Suchanic and the late Rita Wilson ’82 were awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards.
Commencement 2016 saw graduates as young as 17 (Program for the Exceptionally Gifted student Cassandra Bumford) and as old as 71 (Baldwin Online and Adult Programs student Faith Bedford). There was also a mother-daughter duo that walked on Sunday. Tracey and Kelli Fix, of Stuarts Draft, both received their BA in liberal arts and education studies.
Here are all the Commencement Award Winners:
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award: Betsey Suchanic
Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award: Rita Wilson ’82
Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award (highest grade point average): Emma Reger
Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Outstanding Student: D’Evi McCauley
MLitt/MFA Ariel Award for Outstanding Program Service and Leadership: Kendra Emmett-Goldwasser
The College of Education: Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award: D’Evi McCauley
The College of Education: Outstanding Graduate Student Award: Erin Hart