June 1, 2023

Mary Washington Alumna Issues 1908 Challenge

An alumna from the Class of 1949 is sponsoring the Virginia Colwell Read 1908 Challenge to inspire donors to make 1,908 gifts on Mary Wash Giving Day. Mary Washington was founded in 1908, and the 1908 Society recognizes alumni whose classes already have celebrated 50th reunions. It is in that spirit that Virginia Colwell Read ’49 is challenging alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff, students, and businesses to make a total of 1,908 gifts on March 20, 2018, to unlock her $5,000 gift to the Fund for Mary Washington.

“I was brought up with the obligation to return what has been given to me so others will be blessed,” says Virginia. “My education was given to me, and it is my hope that by supporting UMW and this challenge, others will be able to share the advantages of an education.”

Virginia credits Mary Washington professors and specific advice from Dean of Women Nina Bushnell for many of her career and life successes. Mrs. B’s advice during freshmen orientation in the fall of 1945 was, “You can if you will – but you won’t, or will you?” At a point in history when there were few, if any, women architects, engineers, bankers, doctors, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, or economists, this advice came to mean a lot to Virginia as she discovered something very important and life-changing across campus.

“Professors at Mary Washington actually encouraged us to use our expanding intellect,” she says. “They didn’t treat us as subservient entities, but as unique individuals with skills and meaningful ideas. I learned that what I thought truly mattered.” Virginia says that feeling of “you can if you will” gave her confidence to express herself without fear of being laughed at or put down.

The confidence gained at Mary Washington has had tremendous staying power as Virginia’s class nears its 70th reunion. “In a lifetime of careers and homemaking, raising children and engaging in community affairs, traveling or setting roots, the fact that my professors accepted me as a valued individual – regardless of my gender – has helped me navigate numerous and varied roads,” she says.

We can, if YOU WILL help UMW meet the Virginia Colwell Read 1908 Challenge by making a gift on Mary Wash Giving Day. Mark your calendar for March 20. For more information, visit https://givingday.umw.edu.