Inauguration Speech by President
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.