older_gradA perfectly sunny, mild morning greeted Mary Baldwin University’s 371 graduates and their families and friends May 18 for the 172nd Commencement. The college debuted a live stream of the ceremony, which included undergraduates in the Baldwin Online and Adult Programs and Residential College for Women and graduate students in the Master of Letters/Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare and Performance and Graduate Teacher Education programs.

Roanoke-based journalist and author Beth Macy inspired soon-to-be graduates with anecdotes and advice from her life and career that elicited laughter and nods.

“Remember the lilacs. That’s my way of telling you to spend your time doing what taps into the essence of you, whatever that essence may be,” Macy said.

“As much as you can, try not to focus too much on the money,” continued the the nationally published writer and Harvard Nieman Fellow. “As much as you can, spend your energy engaged in meaningful work that makes you happy and enriches your larger community — and the rewards will follow, eventually, I promise”

Internationally acclaimed artist Betty Gold was presented with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, recognizing her notable body of creative work — including three abstract steel sculptures on the Mary Baldwin campus.

The picturesque hillside erupted with cheers and applause as graduates received degrees in master’s and bachelor’s programs. Near the middle of the line-up was Berra Kabarungi, a Rwanda native who earned her bachelor of social work after enrolling at Mary Baldwin in 2011 as part of the college’s relationship with Women for Women International.

pamelafox2014“It’s very exciting, very humbling, and beyond what my mere words can describe,” said Kabarungi, who will return to her home country to pursue a career.

Two employees in the Mary Baldwin Baldwin Online and Adult Programs (Baldwin Online and Adult Programs) earned their degrees alongside family members, making the moment particularly memorable. Teri Maerki, assistant advisor, grasped her master of education diploma and then proudly watched her daughter receive her BA, while Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Director of Operations Debby Bibens walked just ahead of her husband, Baldwin Online and Adult Programs graduate Gary Bibens.

Senior class president Holly Johnston and Mary Baldwin Associate Dean of the College Lew Askegaard garnered Algernon Sydney Sullivan awards, the top honors presented at Commencement recognizing unselfish service, noble character, and spiritual qualities.


Commencement award winners:

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award: Holly Johnston

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Non-Student Award: Lew Askegaard, dean of institutional research, associate dean of the college, and registrar

Martha Stackhouse Grafton Award (highest GPA): Selma Elsarrag

Baldwin Online and Adult Programs Outstanding Student: Debby Bibens

MLitt/MFA Ariel Award for Outstanding Program Service and Leadership: Amy W. Grubbs

Graduate Teacher Education Outstanding Student: Victoria Cave


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More information about the awards given at Mary Baldwin’s Commencement.

Remarks by Commencement speaker Beth Macy, journalist and author based in Roanoke.

Profiles of several 2014 graduates are available on Mary Baldwin News.