Staunton, VA — At a special ceremony held at the future site of its College of Health Sciences, Mary Baldwin officials honored Bertie Murphy Deming Smith ’46, whose $15 million contribution has made possible the pursuit of three new graduate-level programs.
Her generosity will live on in the new college’s name, also revealed at the event: The Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences.
Smith, from Alexandria, Louisiana, and family members attended the brief ceremony off of Goose Creek Road in Fishersville on April 5. 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 Board and was among the guests at Thursday’s event.
The MBC Board of Trustees chose the 30-acre site in February after careful consideration. The new campus will be located in the heart of the region’s bustling medical community and will give students the opportunity to see not only beautiful views of both the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains, but their future careers in health sciences as well. Proximity to health care providers was one of the deciding factors in choosing the proposal submitted by Crescent Development and Augusta County.
Further attracting college officials was a $500,000 investment from the county, also approved in February. Fox took the opportunity to publicly thank members of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.
“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 health sciences campus will be part of a larger mixed-use development including a variety of housing options; a business park that would offer opportunities for additional medical offices; a 100-acre green-space conservation area; and trails for biking, walking, and running.
The Board has voted to pursue graduate programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, and physician assistant studies. MBC administrators are in the process of hiring a vice president to lead the 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.
Founded in 1842, Mary Baldwin College is a diverse institution that transforms lives through personalized education — integrating liberal arts, experiential learning, civic engagement, and global citizenship. At the undergraduate level, the College for Women serves about 800 students on the historic main campus in downtown Staunton, Virginia, and the Adult Degree Program serves both men and women on campus and at regional centers throughout Virginia. A top-ranked master’s level university, MBC offers co-educational graduate programs in teacher education and Shakespeare and Performance. U.S. News & World Report named MBC a top-tier master’s university in the South and Washington Monthly ranked the college No. 8 among all master’s level universities in the country.