Devoted Alumna Establishes Business Scholarship

With considerable experience in the corporate world, Susan Nolan Palmer ’67 not only found she had a skill set she could share with Mary Baldwin College students, but she also decided to establish a scholarship to encourage and support those studying business. The Dr. Susan Nolan Palmer Scholarship Fund for Women in Business will be awarded to one student within the Residential College for Women who has financial need, maintains a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, and has declared a major in business. The Office of Financial Aid will likely begin awarding the scholarship in the 2014–15 academic year.

The new scholarship supports Ever Ahead: The Campaign for Mary Baldwin College’s fundraising priority to increase the college’s endowment to sustain valuable programs and provide student scholarships.

Additionally, Palmer is volunteering as a guest lecturer for MBC business and economics courses ranging from International Trade to The Female Executive: Strategies in the Work Place. “I feel like I have more to give back to Mary Baldwin than money,” Palmer said, explaining that she started coming back as a guest lecturer last year during her 45th Class Reunion. She will also join the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors in July 2013.

When she attended MBC the business major did not exist, and she is happy to promote it now. A pioneer clearing the way for future women business leaders, Palmer earned a stellar professional reputation, first at Prudential Financial in New York and then at Wells Fargo in San Francisco. “The biggest obstacle I faced was being a woman in business at a time when there were very few women in management or executive roles,” she said, “for instance, I was the only woman in attendance at business meetings when I worked in the New York area. Fortunately, this has changed, and I hope that Mary Baldwin women graduating with degrees in business will eventually fill a majority — not the minority — of seats in the room.”

Palmer graduated from MBC with a degree in political science. An advocate of continuing education, she went on to earn her PhD in industrial and organizational psychology from North Carolina State University and minored in business administration at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, where she now serves as faculty advisor and adjunct professor. The business school honored Palmer with the Weatherspoon Award for Exceptional Performance for her contributions.

During her Mary Baldwin days, she played field hockey, served on the Judicial Board, and acted in the sophomore play. She also spent her junior year studying abroad at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, during the Vietnam War.

Through her many accomplishments in business and academic environments, Palmer has never forgotten her undergraduate alma mater. “I feel that I was successful because of my education at Mary Baldwin. The faculty and my fellow students taught me how to think and how to compete,” she said.

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