The end of the 2010–11 academic year — as did years of hard work — drew to a picturesque close Sunday as Mary Baldwin University celebrated its 169th Commencement.

The Hon. Shirley Fulton delivered an inspiring message in her keynote address to the graduates and their families and friends, harkening back to her dreams as a young girl growing up on a South Carolina farm and relaying her achievements and personal struggles as an adult.

Fulton at lecturn

“You have the world at your feet. You have endless opportunities and you have the necessary tools to be the leaders and changemakers the world is waiting for,” Fulton said. “Hold your flames high and step boldly into your greatness with confidence, compassion, and pride. Hold fast to your values and your traditions as you carry your dreams with you into the world and know that you can make the impossible dream come true.”

A Commencement tradition, one graduating senior and one non-student received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for service, character and spiritual qualities. This year’s recipients are student Ada Sue Myers, of Christiansburg, and Staunton leader Lee Stuart Cochran. Read more about Myers, Cochran, and other students who received top honors Sunday on Mary Baldwin News.

While some grads prepared for the challenges of the working world, others looked forward to furthering their education. Now that she’s earned her undergraduate degree in international relations, 17-year-old Program for the Exceptionally Gifted, or PEG, alumna Hannah Dubit of Lexington will leave for Israel in August to study government diplomacy and conflict studies at the Raphael Recanati International School in Herzliya.

The new graduate credits PEG and Mary Baldwin for giving her the confidence to tackle the challenges ahead.

grads on Page Terrace

Reflecting the range of opportunities available at Mary Baldwin, graduates ranged in age from 16 to 80. Of the 332 students who received their degrees, 18 were cadets in the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership and eight were PEG students.

Thirty eight seniors graduated cum laude, 14 magna cum laude, and 14 summa cum laude, keeping Associate Professor of Biology and unofficial college calligraphist Lundy Pentz busy in the days leading up to the big event, hand lettering each diploma with Latin honors .

A record-breaking number of students graduated from two of Mary Baldwin’s graduate programs, earning Master of Arts in Teaching (52) and Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Performance (17) degrees. Also this year, Mary Baldwin awarded more degrees in both history and psychology than any other major. Business administration was another popular choice, especially among student in the college’s Baldwin Online and Adult Programs. Five students graduated with self-designed, independent majors: business administration/computer and information services, criminology, exercise science, psychology/sociology, and women’s studies.