Mary Baldwin officials on Thursday honored Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46, whose $15 million contribution has made possible the pursuit of three new graduate-level programs in health sciences.
At a special ceremony held at the future site of its college of health science, MBC also revealed the name of the new venture: The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.
Smith, from Alexandria, Louisiana, and several family members attended the brief ceremony off of Goose Creek Road in Fishersville. President Pamela Fox thanked Smith for her most recent contribution — the largest in the school’s history — as well as for her continued support through the years.
“It is absolutely certain that Mary Baldwin would not be the vibrant and growing master’s level university it is today without Mrs. Smith’s continued leadership and generosity through the years,” said MBC President Pamela Fox. “I have tremendously valued her wisdom, her advice, and her personal support. She is a truly remarkable woman and tremendous role model.”
Smith’s longtime support of MBC helped create the Bertie Wilson Murphy Distinguished Chair in Business Administration (the first to be created at any women’s college in the South), her gifts have manifested in the Deming Fine Arts Center on the MBC campus, and her investments have generated a forward momentum that has spurred others to contribute millions. The college has previously recognized her efforts by establishing the Bertie Murphy Deming Distinguished Service Award and by awarding Smith an honorary doctorate.
After two years as a student at MBC — where she served as president of her sophomore class — Smith earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas. She is the mother of two daughters and two sons and a grandmother to 11. She survives her late husbands, John Deming and Joe D. Smith, Jr. Her father founded Murphy Oil Corporation, which remains under family leadership. Smith served on the Board of Trustees for 30 years until 1996 and is now Trustee Emerita. Her daughter, Bertie Deming “Bebe” Heiner of Charlottesville, is currently on the Mary Baldwin College Board and was among the guests at Thursday’s event.
College officials also took the opportunity to publicly thank members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors for approving $500,000 to be invested in the MBC venture shortly after the Board of Trustees voted to move forward with the 30-acre site in February. The proposal was submitted by Crescent Development Group LLC.
“We found just the right partners in Crescent Developers and in Augusta County,” Fox said. “We join together to advance the economic development of this entire region; to play a vital role in the expansion of the medical corridor; and to be a catalyst to the entire region of Staunton, Waynesboro, and August County’s increasing synergy and connectivity.”
The Board has voted to pursue graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant studies and MBC administrators are in the process of hiring a vice president to lead those graduate programs. A formal groundbreaking is tentatively scheduled for October, and construction is expected to be complete for the first class of students, who are expected to enroll in June 2014.