August 28, 2011
First Presbyterian Church
The Wisdom of Baldwin Women: Our Core Commitments
President Pamela Fox
We are assembled here in convocation to open the 170th distinguished year of Mary Baldwin College in this historic First Presbyterian Church, who gave our college the land to build the Administration Building across the Street in 1844. This evening we bring together the class of 2015 and our transfer and international students as a united community.
Will you join me in a round of applause for your outstanding student leaders who have welcomed you over the past few days? They embody Boldly Baldwin women, modeling the excellence of leadership, caring, and service.
And for those you who have not yet met him, I want you to know my husband, Mr. Dan Layman. He is the Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement and my true partner. You will see him on campus and be sure to come to the holiday cookie decorating open house when he makes hundreds of gingerbread squirrels!
Over the past few days you have bonded within your Leadership Gateways. You have forged friendships and shared laughter, pushing away pangs of homesickness. As a class you already can say that you experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, and a tempest together!
Class of 2015, we are so grateful for the gifts you bring. Each of you is a phenomenal woman. We hold a radical belief in you. The promise of your potential is a powerful presence here this evening.
You will not remember all my words tonight. I do sincerely hope you will take my message with you. It is heartfelt and simple: the wisdom of Baldwin women is conveyed through our core commitments. As Baldwin women, we know who we are. And you are Baldwin women now.
Though presidents across the United States are addressing the new classes of 2015, you are not at just any college, you are here at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. Therefore, you are not only entering the elite 4% of women who graduate from women’s colleges in the United States boasting extraordinary achievements such as 20% of women in Congress or one third of all board members of Fortune 1000 companies, you are joining the particular legacy of women who graduate from Mary Baldwin College: Mary Julia Baldwin; Anna Jarvis, who invented Mother’s Day; the remarkable women for whom the buildings on campus are named — Lyda Bunker Hunt, Martha Grafton, Agnes McClung, Bertie Deming, Leona Carpenter — women who whisper their wisdom to you as you walk their hallowed halls. You join the entire the global network of changemakers who are your Baldwin sisters now.
So join them with pride. Wise women who transmit the Baldwin DNA.
What is it, this Baldwin DNA, our shared code of commitment? It invests extraordinary value in human relationships. It is driven by a bold spirit. It is lived through honor, integrity, leadership, and service. It is manifest in our credo: We are confident — we risk more and we achieve more. We are compassionate — we care more and we serve more. We are changemakers — we dare to make a difference and truly believe in the words of one of our Trustees, one woman can change many things, many women can change everything.
Let me add some further dimension. I will utilize the letters of Baldwin. Baldwin women are:
Bold academic leaders disciplined wise inclusive noble.
Daring. Determined. Courageous. Confident. Smart. Spunky. Adventurous. Awesome. We forge the way, we are not followers. Because we put ourselves out there, you may experience some setbacks. That is ok here at MBC. We are here for you. You can fall short through honorable efforts and learn from it. The day, when I was 21, playing my senior piano recital at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, I felt my finger fracture. I did not stop. I played the rest of the recital. It did end my hopes of being a concert pianist. But it made possible so much more. Ultimately it brought me here to Mary Baldwin where I could know all of you, to the most rewarding opportunity of my life. Eleanor Roosevelt said: “A woman is like a tea bag — you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Academic. Knowledge does come first, and wisdom after. You are here to seize the wonder of learning. Wonder is revealed in the crucible of the classroom by the world-class teacher-scholars of MBC. You have unprecedented opportunities to work hand-in-hand with the faculty in undergraduate research. Our Schools of Excellence offer some of the most innovative majors and minors in the country. The Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement offers the avenue to join knowledge to service. The life of the mind is the key to it all.
Leadership resides in all of you. Lead yourself first. Believe in yourself. Take care of yourself. Respect yourself. Virginia Woolf said: “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.” Soon, when we ignite the flame together, remember that people are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within (Elizabeth Kubler-Ross).
You simply cannot succeed without discipline. You must work consistently hard. I believe in the concept that discipline is the bridge to realizing your dreams. Even talent won’t take you there. H. Jackson Brown said that talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. Show up. Engage.
The Baldwin wisdom. Seek it as the basis to compose your life. This is where your WOW theme, Pearls of Wisdom, fits in. Pearls are created by living creature s— mollusks — with soft, unsegmented bodies and a hard exterior shell. Pearls are organic gems, created when the mollusk covers an intruding foreign object with thin, accumulated layers of nacre — calcium carbonate and conchiolin. The quality of natural pearls is judged by the orient, which is the soft iridescence caused by the refraction of light by the layers of nacre. Pearls seem to glow from within. Build your wisdom, layer by layer. With your distinctive radiance, join together as a class into a rare strand.
We celebrate that Baldwin is one of the most diverse colleges in America. But we are distinguished by inclusivity — the freedom to celebrate our differences and our shared experiences. Have you ever felt tolerated? That is not inclusion. Listen. Learn across differences. Treat all with respect and compassion. As Indira Ghandi said, you cannot shake hands with a clenched fist. Within this cross-section of women in America, you can become a multicultural citizen ready to transform other communities. Do not be a category. Don’t place others in a category. Inclusivity is beyond category.
Baldwin women are women of integrity. Honor is the principle of our life together. Be magnanimous. “Be large.” Take the high ground. Be kind.
Bold academic leaders disciplined wise inclusive noble
As you sing the Hymn to Mary Baldwin, as you take the pledge of inclusivity, as you sign the honor code, these are not just words. They are the wisdom of Baldwin.
You will manifest the core Baldwin commitments in your own way. It is a powerful legacy and it can shape your lifelong quest.
We also want you to have the time of your life. Participate in all our traditions. Cheer on the Fighting Squirrels athletic teams! Enjoy everything.
Mr. Layman and I offer you every good wish with our genuine affection.