A sunny, breezy day provided a beautiful backdrop and the perfect bookend to the journey of the charter class at Mary Baldwin University’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.

The first occupational therapy and physical therapy students were first welcomed on a similarly pleasant Father’s Day in June 2014 in a brand-new facility, the first class of doctoral students in MBU history.

On Saturday, those students received their doctoral hoods, alongside a charter class of RN-to-BSN candidates, who received pins, marking the end of their time at Murphy Deming. All will receive their diplomas at MBU’s 175th Commencement exercises on Sunday.

The day served as a reminder to how far both students and the MBU health sciences programs have come in just six short years since President Pamela Fox first conceived of adding a health sciences program to the small, liberal arts university.

What was a vacant hill became a moonscape, which became steel-beamed curiosity for passers-by on Interstate-64. A state-of-the art facility became home to an ambitious, yet small team of tireless administrators and talented faculty who worked around the clock to build a first-of-its kind interprofessional curriculum and recruit the best and brightest students from around the United States.

From the anatomy lab to the sim lab, students toiled. They logged countless study sessions, group projects, field work, and community service missions. Some studied abroad, two of them got engaged to one another, and one volunteered to always portray Gladys the Squirrel at Murphy Deming Functions. Through it all, they made the Mary Baldwin community proud.

“I don’t need to inspire you. You inspire all of us,” said Founding Vice President of Health Sciences Linda Seestedt-Stanford, in her speech to the graduates. “You better believe you make us proud. I see self-efficacy written all over your faces.”

Seestedt-Stanford is set to retire at the end of June. The dean’s dedication, and ability to tackle the broad demands while at the same time accomplishing the necessary details of launching a health sciences program from scratch set the tone for the entire Murphy Deming team.

“We can’t conceive of [her retirement],” Fox said. “But we know she deserves her next chapter, after all she has done for us.”

As the spotlight turned to the graduates, three were singled out for their leadership, earning the Nancy Morse Evans ’71 Leadership Awards: Dylan Woodruff Fix from the bachelor of science in nursing program, OT candidate Amy Lynne Lehman, and PT candidate Katherine Elizabeth Blatt.

MBU Trustee Stuart Cochran offered his congratulations to the graduates, reminding them to prioritize health, family, and faith as they move forward. He acknowledged the hard work of the Mary Baldwin pioneers, led by Fox, Seestedt-Stanford, and lead donor Bertie Murphy Deming Smith, coupled with the dedication of the charter class graduates who now also bring prestige to the school. “I want to thank you for helping Murphy Deming be better and stronger.”