Dr. Pamela Fox


Mary Baldwin College

Inauguration Speech by President Pamela Fox

I accept the privilege of this office. I commit us to candor and collaboration. I commit us to courage and confidence in working together as we face the choices and risks before us. I express my gratitude to Chair Yum Arnold, Chair of our Board of Trustees, and the entire board for entrusting me with this responsibility. I offer humble thanks to Louise McNamee and the presidential search committee, which she chaired. Tremendous respect is owed to Professor Sally James and the Inauguration Committee for our inspiring slate of celebratory activities and to all the performers and participants today.

Thanks to the delegates, students, church and community members, and alumnae/i, parents and friends in the Mary Baldwin family who celebrate with us today. My personal gratitude is profound. Many of my Miami University friends, my family, and colleagues have traveled here today. It is wonderful to see you and I’m deeply touched by your effort to come. I cannot speak at this inauguration without expressing my love and gratitude to my parents, William and Ruth Fox, for support and sacrifice over the past half century. And to my husband, Dan Layman, all love and honor—as there is no way I could carry out this role without you at my side.

Today we celebrate a joyous and solemn ritual that reinforces our sense of tradition and community. Today’s gathering is about more than any individual or any office. The core of the legacy we are celebrating today is the potency and durability of an idea—the transformative power of liberal education and the transformative power of women in the world. We are infused with connectedness to this beautiful place, to its mission and traditions, to one another, and to humanistic values. We are forever young, as our historic buildings always house new students and new dreams. We must be selective and disciplined as we maintain the delicate creative balance between openness and skepticism, between the imperatives of thought and service, and between tradition and innovation. We are a work in progress.

The West African Adinkra symbol, the Chain Link (as Dr. Crutcher explained), conveys a rich multilayered message of unity and human relations--weaving responsibility, interdependence, and cooperation. It respects the individual as a basic building block for the collective good of the community.

Our richly connected community has many important links. I am humbly linked to the inspiring leadership of this institution—the seminary and the college. A visible chain connects me to the four Mary Baldwin presidents who are here with us today. I ask them to stand in turn as I call their names: Cynthia H. Tyson, Virginia L. Lester, William W. Kelley, and Samuel R. Spencer. Thank you for your wisdom in shaping and guiding our great college.

Some of the faculty and staff present today have served under all of these presidents as a dedicated and talented community of support. The people who serve this college and her students are without equal in terms of diligence, expertise, and creativity. The achievements of this college are their achievements, and I now recognize all of you and for your accomplishments in service to this great institution.

We honor our richly diverse student body and their connection to our community.

We cherish the principles of academic freedom and disciplinary inquiry that forge a synergistic spark between student and faculty. We join our passionately loyal alumnae, parents, and friends as lifelong partners. We honor our links to this First Presbyterian Church, which provided the land for our first building and has been our continuing ally, and to the vibrant city of Staunton, of which we are proud to be a part. These strong links help our bonded and purposeful community to still thrive in a highly individualistic culture and a world of global human conflict.

In 1967, Dr. Spencer answered the question: Which comes first—the community or the individual? He affirmed: “Both must be in equilibrium. Society needs persons who understand that individual rights and community responsibilities are neither antithetical nor mutually exclusive.”

How have we done this? This is another important link—tradition and innovation. We have changed as the world changed around us. On May 10, 1986, Dr. Tyson captured this link eloquently in her inaugural address: “Mary Baldwin College is a master of adaptability, practicality, and courageous risk-taking. In this way, it has always grasped the present and shaped its own future.”

We have placed mission before market. Yes, we have seized opportunities and we have created opportunities. But we ground our innovations in the traditions of liberal education for women and the holistic integration of mind, body, and character. We have, as Igor Stravinsky proposed, utilized the conscious and deliberate acceptance of tradition not as repetition or a habit, but as a living force that animates and informs the present. As another great composer, Pierre Boulez acknowledged: “innovation is possible only after the complete digestion of the past.”

So when I asked the Mary Baldwin community in August to engage in a yearlong conversation about the purposeful composition of our future, we reaffirmed our values and core strengths and explored potential new opportunities through this combination of tradition and innovation, or what I call innovative tradition.

A rich counterpoint of voices resounded. Though dissonance was heard and respected, clear themes of harmonious consensus emerged.

From this dialogue we have fused our timeless and timely mission with our entrepreneurial spirit to determine how we can further distinguish Mary Baldwin College. Thus the formulation of vision—which is not a magical or evasive process—but rather an idea that resonates with power and authenticity, that champions the common ground of tradition and innovatively transforms it. We seek a vision that will inspire individuals and community, and a vision that will engender trust.

Mary Baldwin College will be nationally recognized as a leader in providing personalized, transforming liberal education.

According to this bold vision Mary Baldwin College will be a college like no other. It will be nationally recognized as a model institution because of its distinctive, signature programs offered through a learning community that provides personalized, transforming, liberal education as a foundation for lifelong learning, global citizenship, and the holistic integration of mind, body, and character.

We are uniquely capable of achieving this vision. Mary Baldwin College is distinctive in ethos or spirit; we have a signature spirit linking the individual and the community.

Mary Baldwin College is also distinctive in content. Nowhere else is there a program like the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership, the only all-female cadet corps in the world; there is no other program enabling gifted young women to succeed in college as early as age thirteen; there is no program like the Master of Letters/Master of Fine Arts in Shakespeare in Renaissance Literature in Performance in partnership with Shenandoah Shakespeare, the company that dared to build the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse; there is no Master of Arts in Teaching program like ours, grounded in the liberal arts with inquiry-based faculty and practicing teachers in every classroom; and for over 25 years our Adult Degree Program has set the standard in offering personalized opportunity to pursue a baccalaureate degree meeting individual personal, professional, and educational meets.

Our on-campus program for women has many distinctive features—transforming leadership opportunities and unique student government and organizations, excellent academic majors taught by distinguished faculty, the lifelong vitality of sisterhood and support, the honor and judicial systems, the richest and broadest range of diversity of almost any institution in the country, and unique programs such SOAR for minority women and as the Quest program for spiritual exploration.

To be a college like no other, distinctive in spirit and content, known as a national model for personalized, transforming liberal education, we propose five strategic initiatives to Compose Our Future.

First, we must Unite and Enrich Our Community. At Mary Baldwin College we welcome students of all ages, boast distinctive programs, celebrate the cultural diversity of our campuses, and provide graduate and undergraduate education. We are a complex and dynamic institution and we must rely on our values, traditions and shared purposes to create common ground. We must come together as an institution united by common conviction to assure that Mary Baldwin, as one college, exceeds by ever more the sum of its parts. In order to unite and enrich our community, we propose to utilize our historic theme of Mind-Body-Character as a signature for all of Mary Baldwin College.

Second, we must Sharpen our focus on academic excellence.

At the heart of the college is our culture of academic excellence. To ensure its evolutionary vitality, we must assess our curriculum and support innovation in teaching. In particular we must make fully engage our best students, ensure our offerings are international in scope, and encourage and enable faculty and student research.

Third, we must MAKE PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION OUR PRIORITY.

We know from experience that a Mary Baldwin College education changes lives in a way that goes beyond intellectual achievement. To make this more intensive and intentional, we will design comprehensive and progressive experiences. A cluster of signature experiences will be integral to every program we offer, including our vision that all students will have an international experience

Fourth, to achieve these programmatic initiatives, we must Renew our environment.

Our physical environment must provide a foundation for our visions and programmatic initiatives, supporting the individual and the spirit of community, and. in the near future we will complete a comprehensive campus master plan.

Finally, We must Fund our future.

Our aspirations depend on resources. It is essential that we commit ourselves to a long-term plan to acquire, invest and manage our assets wisely.

The key to achieving all of this is again the concept of linkage. We will create new connections among strong existing programs, foster new interdisciplinary connections, cross long-established organizational boundaries to unite in-class and out-of-class life and enrich external connections, particularly through the rich resources of our graduates.

We must grow and model leadership as a transformative learning community. As Gandhi said: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

To conclude, I offer a verbal image of our future. Our future is based the living vitality of our mission and traditions. So the compositional technique for Composing Our Future is one of thematic transformation, whereby a recognized motive is changed, expanded, and reharmonized, but is recognizable throughout, gaining strength and growing in meaning and beauty. The linking motive of our thematic transformation is INNOVATIVE TRADITION.

In each phrase an important part of our mission and tradition is stated. As we consider our mission of empowering education for women, we remember that although there are 80% fewer women’s colleges today than in 1960, we are the largest and fastest growing in Virginia. In 1842 education for women was a brave agenda of equal opportunity. In 2004 we offer not only equal but every opportunity for women. Women’s education is a powerful unfinished global imperative in the 21st century.

We live the liberal arts. Since the initial philosophy of Rufus Bailey, we have promoted the quest for self-authorship through the holistic exploration of mind-body-character leading to the richly examined life.

We have stressed personal transformation since our founding. Mary Julia Baldwin, assessed each pupil individually for placement. A century later, Dean Martha. Grafton greeted every student by name. Alumnae/alumni across the centuries agree: Mary Baldwin changed my life.

As the distinguished timeline of our institution advances, our signature identity has evolved from Augusta Female Seminary, to Mary Baldwin Seminary, to the junior college and seminary, to liberal arts college, to an integrated institution in 1968, and then in succession with the evolution of our unique signature programs for adults, young women, teachers, and Shakespearean scholars.

So, in concluding, I offer a series of additive phrases--beginning with our core mission, and adding successively new phrases until our vision is fully articulated.

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