The Mary Baldwin College Board of Trustees has unanimously voted to change the name of the institution to Mary Baldwin University starting August 31, 2016. In addition, the component of the institution currently known as the Residential College for Women will be the Mary Baldwin College for Women.
In a statement to the MBC community, Board Chair Jane Harding Miller ’76 said the new name honors the college’s heritage, acknowledges its evolution over time, and celebrates its future.
“Mary Baldwin University accurately describes both what we are and who we are,” Miller said. “We have evolved in significant and exciting ways that both meet students’ needs and create a thriving future for our very special institution. This is indeed the right moment to become Mary Baldwin University.”
Since 2001, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has classified Mary Baldwin as a master’s-level university, and in December 2012, Mary Baldwin College attained accreditation to award doctoral degrees from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, paving the way for the 2014 opening of the Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, which in 2017 will confer both master’s and doctoral degrees on its first student cohorts. Mary Baldwin operates on two campuses (in Staunton and in Fishersville, Virginia) and at an additional 12 Virginia locations.
The college’s latest strategic plan, Mary Baldwin 2020, calls for Mary Baldwin to “be recognized as a distinctive small university, committed to academic excellence and united through a constellation of communities, that empowers a broad range of learners to exceed expectations and pursue lives of purpose.”
For nearly two years, the administration carefully researched the prospect of changing the institution’s name and reached out to thousands for feedback through targeted focus groups, questionnaires, and polls. Two-thirds of students and 70 percent of faculty and staff approved the move to become Mary Baldwin University. Among alumni, a slightly higher percentage approved the name change than not. Administrators recommended the name change to the board in February.
The name change will take effect on August 31, 2016 — Charter Day and the start of the 2016–17 academic year, during which the institution will observe its 175th anniversary.
Mary Baldwin University will be the institution’s fourth name. It started in 1842 as Augusta Female Seminary and became Mary Baldwin Seminary in 1895 to acknowledge principal Mary Julia Baldwin’s influence on the institution after taking the reins in 1863. When baccalaureate degrees were first granted in 1923, the name was changed to Mary Baldwin College.
Honoring Mary Julia Baldwin’s legacy is critical, noted President Pamela Fox.
“She was a courageous, enterprising, and inspiring leader. She left a lasting legacy through her insistence on high academic standards, her focus on helping each student succeed, her talent for making lasting personal connections, and her entrepreneurial spirit,” Fox said. “We retain her name with pride.”
Trustees also voted unanimously to name what is currently known as the Residential College for Women as Mary Baldwin College for Women. The designation allows the institution’s oldest component to retain its historic name and at the same time signals the Board’s ongoing commitment to single-sex education for women.