Part of a longstanding tradition at Mary Baldwin University, two individuals were recognized during the college’s 168th Commencement for their service, character, and spiritual qualities. Recipients of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award were 2010 graduate Erin Spencer Paschal and Chaplain Patricia Hunt.
The Definition of Grace
Hunt receives the honor at the end of her 25-year career at Mary Baldwin, which has been marked not only by the countless prayers offered before faculty meetings and sermons during Christmas Cheer worship services, but by the meaningful talks she has had over the years with students. As Hunt nears her retirement at the end of June, those students reflect on her valuable insight and perspective, including Kristen Barner ’90, who is associate pastor at Shepherd of the Hills United Church of Christ in Phoenix.
“As my professor, mentor and colleague, Pat has taught me some invaluable lessons that consistently help me to navigate through the world,” Barner said. “The first is that there just might be two sides — or more — to every story and everything we learn. When my mind and heart assure me that I have discovered some truth about something, Pat has always been able to cajole me into exploring other possibilities. That, I believe, is the definition of Grace: there is, perhaps, more truth to be found and uncovered.”
Hunt, an ordained Presbyterian minister, created the Quest Program of spiritual exploration at Mary Baldwin in 1996, which encourages students to pursue spiritual meaning through religious growth, intellectual honesty, and service to the community. She has published a book of her sermons and prayers and writes a weekly column for The News Virginian. A Baltimore native, Hunt grew up in High Point, North Carolina, and received her education at Peace College, Wake Forest University, and Union Theological Seminary in Richmond.
Hailing from Athens, Georgia, Paschal graduated Sunday with a degree in political science and a minor in economics. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and has been selected for membership in Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, and Omicron Delta Epsilon, the international economics honor society. In addition, Erin presented her senior project, “Taking the Initiative: A Case Study of Proposition 8 in California” at Mary Baldwin’s Capstone Festival, a showcase of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity.
Paschal began her career with the Student Government Association as a senator for her residence hall. During her junior year, she served as the president of College Democrats and as lead advocate for the student advocates, guiding students accused of offenses related to the honor or judicial codes through the processes, with, remarked Diane Kent, associate vice president for enrollment management/student affairs, “sensitivity, confidentiality, and sound judgment.”
In her senior year, Paschal served as SGA president, representing students to the Board of Trustees, faculty, and administrators; creating a budget allocations process; and often participating in admissions events to recruit prospective students the college.
Paschal worked as a field intern with the Democratic Party of Georgia and as a government relations intern with the General Electric in Washington, D.C. In addition, she has coached swimming in both Georgia and Virginia. Paschal eventually plans to work on Capitol Hill.
The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards were established by the New York Southern Society in 1925 in memory of Sullivan, a southerner who became a prominent lawyer, businessman, and philanthropist in New York in the late nineteenth century. The Society and carefully selected colleges and universities jointly arrange for the issue of medallions which are to be perpetual reminders of Sullivan.
Special Award Winners
Kathryn L. Stephens of Leesburg, Virginia: Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award, which recognizes the senior with the highest cumulative grade point average. Stephens graduated with a degree in health care administration with a minor in leadership studies and has commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant.
Kathryn A. Reyna of Stuarts Draft, Virginia: Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Outstanding Student. This mother of two not only works a full-time job but also found time to travel to England for six weeks on the Virginia at Oxford program last summer to conduct research on her senior thesis. She hopes to either teach English to middle or high school students.
Martha Williams “M.J.” Robinson of Waynesboro, Virginia: Master of Arts in Teaching Outstanding Student. As co-founder of the nonprofit organization, One Child at a Time, Robinson has provided tutorial help for approximately 900 high school students from Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County.
Christine Schmidle, a native of Germany: MLitt/MFA Ariel Award. In addition to her excellence in the classroom, Schmidle proposed, produced, and directed a German version of Hamlet last January at Blackfriars Playhouse.