February 26, 2024

Student Scholarship Applications Open Feb. 1

Student scholarship applications open February 1, 2022. Please help get the word out and encourage students to apply for all UMW Foundation scholarships, including the newly funded Taylor-Floyd Scholarship for Civic Leadership.

More information is available at https://umw.scholarships.ngwebsolutions.com/ or through the Office of Financial Aid at x2468.

A French Connection: Scholarship Established Through Beloved Professor’s Estate

Juliette Breffort Blessing came to Mary Washington in 1957 to share her worldly knowledge of all things French, including language, theater, and cultural history. Former students remember her flair for fashion, her wonderful accent, and her expert and often life-changing advice and guidance.

Juliette Breffort Blessing as featured in the 1974 Battlefield

Juliette Breffort Blessing as featured in the 1974 Battlefield

“I first met Madame Blessing when I was a freshman in her French Civilization and Literature class,” says Kathy Liggett Leis ’69. “Thanks to her expert teaching, I became totally enamored with the subject and changed my major to French. Her faith in me was unwavering.”

UMW Professor Ana Garcia Chichester ’76 remembers Dr. Blessing as a dedicated professor and role model. “I was a French major, so I had several courses with her and benefited from her love of literature,” says Ana. “I still remember the nineteenth century poetry course I took with her. She loved to read and recite poetry to our class. Her spoken French was beautiful and she was very proud of her Parisian accent!”

Other students, including Catherine B. Elwell ’73, remember Dr. Blessing from a freshman liberal arts seminar. “It was a stimulating academic course, which I appreciated as an introduction to my campus life at MWC,” says Cathy. “I remember Madame Blessing as very friendly, warm, approachable, and lighthearted.”

A native of France, Dr. Blessing held degrees from the University of Lille, the University of Paris, and the University of Dijon. In 1982, she was honored with the Ordre des Palmes Academiques, an award from the French government in recognition of her contributions as a “distinguished academic or teacher for valuable service to universities, education, and science.” The award is one of the oldest civil honors bestowed by the French Republic.

Dr. Blessing retired from Mary Washington in 1992 after 35 years of teaching, and she was awarded the title of Professor Emerita of Modern Foreign Languages. She lived in Washington, D.C., until her passing in 2020 at the age of 94.

Always thinking of ways to help and advance students, Dr. Blessing included arrangements in her will to create a scholarship at Mary Washington. The UMW Board of Visitors recently approved the new Juliette Breffort Blessing Scholarship for French Study, which will support study abroad opportunities for a junior or senior majoring in French language.

Kathy Leis says her former professor’s passing is a profound loss. “Dr. Blessing was the pivotal force in my life. Her love of the French language became my life-long passion and set me on my life path. I truly credit her with my immensely rewarding career teaching French, an unlikely outcome for a girl from Alabama whose spoken French at the time was –charitably – appalling.”

Kathy adds, “I am who I am because of Juliette Blessing.”

For more information about bequests to support students at Mary Washington, contact the Office of Gift Planning at jclarke@umw.edu or 540-654-2064.

Reflections on the Mary Washington Experience

Phyllis Newby Thompson ’69 and John Thompson.

Phyllis Newby Thompson ’69 and John Thompson.

Watch the first episode of the new ‘Leading Lives’ video series focusing on the stories behind philanthropy.

In the late 1960s, John Thompson regularly traveled from Blacksburg to Fredericksburg to visit his future bride, Phyllis Newby. After graduating from Mary Washington in 1969, Phyllis joined John at Virginia Tech, began a fulfilling teaching career, and received an award for outstanding educator in Virginia. John received a BS and MBA from Virginia Tech and launched a successful business career.

Phyllis Newby Thompson ’69 and John Thompson.

Phyllis Newby Thompson ’69 and John Thompson.

Now married 51 years, the Thompsons live on the West Coast, and they enjoy coming back to campus with their golden retriever, Max, to visit their favorite places and to reflect on how Mary Washington changed their lives.

“Our education was the whole jumping off place for everything wonderful that’s happened to us,” says Phyllis Newby Thompson ’69.

“I always believe that success is where preparation meets opportunity,” says John Thompson. “Education gives one an incredible leverage in life, and we think Mary Washington gave us a great foundation.”

Click here to see and hear the Thompson’s story in their own words.

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.

Chemistry Professor Sparks Alumna’s Career Success

When Marilyn Shull Black ’69 remembers Mary Washington, she pictures herself back in chemistry class in Combs Hall listening to an enthusiastic professor with a funny, Bostonian accent. The accent was especially noticeable to Marilyn since she was a Southern girl from Rock Hill, S.C., but it was more than the accent that caught her attention.

“Dr. Mahoney had an outgoing personality, he was engaging, and he showed me I could actually solve problems,” says Marilyn. “His passion for chemistry was the spark that ignited my future.” After working with Dr. Mahoney on her honors thesis – and being granted access to an atomic absorption spectrometer to measure the relationship between trace metals in children’s blood and their health impact – Marilyn decided to pursue a career in medical research.

This newly illuminated path led to a master’s degree from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Georgia Tech. Through the years, Marilyn held numerous research positions, including jobs at the Aerospace Medical Research Laboratories, Harvard School of Public Health, and Environmental Research and Technology. In 1989, she founded Air Quality Sciences Inc. (AQS), which rapidly became the leading testing and research company focused on reducing chemical and biological indoor air pollution.

In 2001, Marilyn founded the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute, a worldwide, non-profit, voluntary product certification program that works with more than 600 manufacturers. Today, she is Vice President and Senior Technical Advisor for Underwriter Laboratories.

“I love children and I love being a mother and grandmother,” says Marilyn. “I’ve spent all my career in chemical and environmental sciences specifically measuring indoor air quality and its impact on children’s health. The more I learned about contaminants, environmental exposure, and their connection to children’s health, the harder I worked to find solutions.”

Marilyn explains that adults get about 75 percent of environmental exposure to contaminants from the air they breathe. Since children breathe faster and have less body weight, they get even higher doses of contaminants, which can negatively impact brain development.

To show gratitude for Dr. Mahoney’s positive influence on her education, life, and overall career, Marilyn recently established the Bernard L. Mahoney Jr. Student Research Fellowship in Science. Dr. Mahoney retired from Mary Washington in 2002 and was granted emeritus status in recognition of his 39 years of service. He was honored to learn about the new endowment named for him that will offer assistance to UMW students majoring in a natural or physical science discipline. Selected students can receive stipends and essential support for research equipment, supplies, and/or approved conferences. At the conclusion of each Mahoney Fellowship, students will submit a summary report and showcase the final results.

Marilyn’s gift to fund the Mahoney endowment came through the Khaos Foundation, an Atlanta-based, non-profit organization she founded and named in reference to the mythological goddess of air. “I hope the new endowment in honor of Dr. Mahoney will serve as a catalyst to spark passion in others,” says Marilyn. “Perhaps they can continue to research problems and find real solutions that make a difference in our society.”

For information about giving opportunities, contact the UMW Office of Advancement at 540-654-2059.

Class of 2017 Shows Pride through Senior Class Gift

SCG AnnouncementMembers of the Class of 2017 showed their love for Mary Washington by giving back to, what is now, their alma mater. In total, 139 graduating seniors gave more than $7,000 to support various initiatives across the University. News of the total amount raised for the traditional Senior Class Gift was met with cheers when it was announced at Commencement rehearsal.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, members of other classes also stepped up to show their pride. In total, 274 “non-seniors” contributed $6,700 to UMW. The Offices of Advancement and Alumni Relations are proud UMW students are learning about the essential role of philanthropy – both from past donors and future alumni.

Visit http://umw.edu/giving to learn more about giving at UMW.

Giving Highlights

Every day, UMW alumni, parents, and friends show their support to the University in numerous ways. One way is through gifts to support students, programs, and special projects at Mary Washington. In the past weeks, University Advancement has accepted and processed gifts and pledges, including:

  • A $25,000 gift from a dedicated couple in the community to support Friends of the Philharmonic.
  • A $3,000 gift to the Fund for Mary Washington from an alumna of the Class of 1997.
  • A $25,000 pledge from parents of a 2016 alumnus to support the College of Business.
  • Two gifts totaling $2,000 for the James Monroe Museum – $1,000 from a couple in Richmond and $1,000 from a donor trust in Fredericksburg.
  • A $10,000 gift for the Belmont Building Preservation Fund from a Richmond-based foundation.
  • A $7,500 gift from an alumna of the Class of 1966 to enhance an endowed scholarship.

For more information about giving opportunities at UMW, visit giving.umw.edu. UMW faculty and staff can sign up to give through payroll deduction. Click here and enter UMW log-in credentials to access the payroll deduction form.

Amphitheatre Gift Honors Family Legacy

In 1948, Louise Garnett Goodwin ’30 ran for Fredericksburg City Council in an attempt to become the first woman to hold elected office. She did not win, but today her daughter – Mary Katherine Greenlaw ’61 – has the distinction of being the first woman elected mayor of Fredericksburg.


Recently, Mary Katherine honored her mother’s memory by making a $10,000 gift to the UMW Amphitheatre Challenge. “Mother passed away in 1997, but as we continue to read her diaries and go through her scrapbooks, we’re learning just how much Mary Washington meant to her,” says Mary Katherine.

Louise attended college through a Kiwanis Club scholarship and majored in chemistry and physical education. She was involved in numerous activities, including field hockey, basketball, soccer, and dance. In 1928, she served in the May Court during the ceremonial crowning of the May Queen. After graduating, Louise went on to teach Latin and coach girl’s basketball at Fredericksburg High School and later in the Belmont section of Spotsylvania.

“She loved Mary Washington as a student, and she continued to be involved as an alumna and member of the Fredericksburg community,” says Mary Katherine. “When I was a child, I remember being at the college all the time for various events, so the campus is very much a part of my experience as well. In fact, my son, two daughters-in-law, and two grandsons are also UMW alumni.”

Mary Katherine says she is proud to support UMW’s Amphitheatre Challenge. “Knowing that Mother was a part of the May Court in 1928 and that the campus and the Amphitheatre were a huge part of her life, I felt this was a great way to preserve history and honor her legacy at Mary Washington.”

The Amphitheatre Challenge continues at UMW as the deadline of May 1, 2017, draws near. Last year, the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation in Richmond, Virginia, offered UMW a challenge grant of $125,000 to support a $3 million restoration of the historic Amphitheatre. To receive the challenge grant, UMW alumni, parents, and friends must make NEW gifts to the Amphitheatre totaling at least $125,000. To offer your support before May 1, 2017, visit giving.umw.edu/achallenge or call 540-654-1024.

Giving Remains Strong at UMW

UMW alumni, parents, and friends continue to support students, programs, and special projects at Mary Washington. In the past few weeks, University Advancement has proudly accepted and processed hundreds of gifts, including the following:

  • A total of $20,500 in new gifts for the Amphitheatre restoration. This includes $15,000 from an alumna of the Class of 1968, as well as gifts from members of the classes of 1973, 1975, and 1979.
  • A $7,500 gift for men’s soccer from an alumnus of the Class of 1984.
  • A $1 million estate pledge from a legacy alumna of the Class of 1958 to endow a scholarship as a tribute to her mother – an alumna from the Class of 1919. When funded, this new legacy scholarship will be awarded to qualified students in the Department of History and American Studies.

University Advancement is preparing for last-minute gifts as the 2016 calendar year comes to a close. If you have contact with donors, please advise them that all checks must be dated by December 31, 2016, and that all envelopes must be postmarked by December 31, 2016, to count for 2016 charitable tax deductions.

When UMW closes for winter break, the best way to make a calendar year-end gift is online at http://umw.edu/onlinegiving. For additional giving information, visit http://giving.umw.edu/make-a-gift.

First Named Room in Hurley Convergence Center

SWIFT Collaboration Room

Torre Meringolo,Chris Marquardt, and Zach Hatcher in front of the newly named Swift Collaboration Room in the Hurley Convergence Center.

The UMW Board of Visitors recognized the continued generosity of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, Inc. (SWIFT) on Friday, April 15, 2016, by naming the SWIFT Collaboration Room inside the Hurley Convergence Center.

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