September 24, 2022

Alums Establish Mental Health Endowment in Friend’s Honor

Two years ago, Jake Kelly received a humorous text from his friend and former University of Mary Washington roommate, Phil Smith. But, just a week later, Jake and friends Jonathan Wigginton and Jeremy Wood, all 2010 alums, were shocked to learn that Phil had taken his own life.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

“It totally hit us out of the blue,” says Jake, who returned to UMW with Jonathan to speak to incoming freshmen during Orientation, right before September’s Suicide Prevention Month. “We asked ourselves questions we couldn’t answer. Why did he do it? What did we miss?”

What they did know is that they wanted to memorialize Phil at Mary Washington, where their friendship began during their first week of classes. And they wanted his death to help spark discussions about mental health and suicide prevention.

With the blessing of Phil’s family, they began working with UMW’s Office of Advancement to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment, which will provide more counseling services, education and training, and other resources for current and future Mary Washington students. The endowment is on the verge of being fully funded, thanks to many generous donors, including Betty Dobbins Talley ’68 – her significant gift gave the Talley Center for Counseling Services its name – who gave $5,000 on Giving Tuesday in 2021 as part of a dollar-for-dollar match.

UMW also announced this week the rollout of an after-hours and weekend service through ProtoCall. Students now can access critical counseling care through the Talley Center as well as outside licensed professionals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We have already seen an unprecedented volume of students coming in to see us, certainly in response to Jake and Jonathan’s presentation to freshmen,” says Talley Center Director Tevya Zukor. “As a firm believer that proactive treatment and intervention are the best way to prevent crises, it has been gratifying to see so many Eagles attending to their mental health needs.” Read more.

Mary Washington ElderStudy Encourages Lifelong Learning

As each August rolls around, University of Mary Washington students are getting ready for the new school year.

Mary Washington ElderStudy, now in its 30th year, kicks off its new season of exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances and social engagements in August.

Mary Washington ElderStudy, now in its 30th year, kicks off its new season of exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances and social engagements in August.

But they’re not the only ones heading back to class. Fredericksburg area seniors are gearing up for a new season of Mary Washington ElderStudy, or MWES. The lifelong learning program, celebrating its 30th year, offers exciting lectures, book discussions, gallery tours, performances, and social engagements to local retired or elder residents, including many Mary Washington alumni.

Lectures, now held in a hybrid format or on Zoom, are given by UMW faculty experts and accomplished outside speakers, covering a wide variety of topics: visual and performing arts, science and health, political science, business and economics, history, and much more.

“ElderStudy helps nourish one’s intellectual curiosity,” says Carolyn Eldred ’66, whose bachelor’s degree in psychology set her up for success in her career as a social science researcher.

She cites UMW President Troy Paino’s recent Mary Talk on the value of the liberal arts in a changing world. “I’m a firm believer in that kind of educational experience,” Carolyn says. “I’ve found that ElderStudy satisfies my hunger for continuing learning and exposes me to topics I might not have ever thought about. Learning can be an exciting, lifelong pursuit!”

Carolyn discovered MWES around the time of her 50th reunion at Mary Washington. A resident of the nearby Celebrate retirement community, which helps promote the program, she joined the curriculum and membership committees, helping curate each season’s activities, which are suggested by members.

This fall’s events include lectures on the history of education in colonial America, virtual reality, the issue of food waste, and the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House and the contributions UMW students made to the project. Professor of Political Science Stephen Farnsworth will provide an overview of the midterm elections. Theatre and Dance Department Chair Gregg Stull will offer sneak peeks of UMW Theatre’s upcoming season, as well as a lecture on the life and work of Stephen Sondheim in Seacobeck Hall’s newly renovated Weatherly Wing.

Participants can also tour Fredericksburg landmarks and visit UMW’s art galleries. In addition, there are monthly wine and cheese hours and book discussions over Zoom, and an in-person holiday luncheon and social in December.

“I’ve learned information changes over time, so it’s important to have a strong knowledge base in many different areas, so you can keep up as you age,” says Ellen Brown ’69, who majored in physics but enjoyed taking courses in art, literature, and theatre as a Mary Washington student. “With ElderStudy, there’s no homework or tests – just wonderful opportunities for lifelong learning.”

Ellen first discovered the program from former colleagues at Dahlgren’s Naval Surface Warfare Center, where she worked as a physicist for many years. She now serves on MWES’s curriculum and administrative committees. “We also make donations to support UMW departments whose faculty members have volunteered their time and expertise.”

Janet Kimbrell ’72 majored in English at Mary Washington, also loading up on courses in history, psychology, and drama. When she slowed down her real estate business six years ago, becoming involved in MWES gave her the chance to revisit these topics.

“When you’re retired, you have time to choose what you’re doing with your day,” says Janet, who has enjoyed hearing UMW Professor of Art History Julia DeLancey discuss how the bubonic plague impacted Venetian art. With the move to Zoom, she says, MWES now engages outside experts, such as a recent guest lecturer in New York City who spoke about jazz music.

“It’s such a blessing to have ElderStudy in our community because it helps us keep our minds active as we get older,” she says. “And we’re so thankful to be supported by the University of Mary Washington.”

Visit the ElderStudy website to learn more, request information and register for membership. 

-Article written by Assistant Director of Advancement Communications Jill Graziano Laiacona ’04.

Theatre Alum Creates Costumes For Hit Shows on Hulu, HBO

[caption id="attachment_166882" align="alignright" width="150"]Alicia Austin Alicia Austin[/caption] Alicia Austin ’16 had never even attended a play before coming to the University of Mary Washington. But after her first costume design course, she realized theatre was the perfect fit. “It was so interesting to me that I changed my major,” said Austin, who planned to study psychology but found elements of that in her new field. “I discovered that costuming could be a visual language to express each character’s personality.” Now she’s putting those sartorial skills to work. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Mary Washington, Austin completed an MFA at Yale University. Graduating just before COVID shuttered Broadway, she made a leap from stage to screen, joining design teams for remakes of HBO’s Sex and the City and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, as well as the Hulu hit Only Murders in the Building, which just began its second season. It’s a success story she’s been stitching together a little at a time. Read more.

Summer Science Students Earn Perkins Research Awards

As temperatures soared near triple digits last Wednesday, the weather formed a compelling case for Ava Spencer’s research on how extreme heat impacts Fredericksburg’s most marginalized communities.

Participants in Mary Washington’s 2022 Summer Science Institute pose for a picture with their professors and peers. Photo credit: UMW’s Summer Science Institute.

Participants in Mary Washington’s 2022 Summer Science Institute pose for a picture with their professors and peers. Photo credit: UMW’s Summer Science Institute.

“I wanted to look at these issues from a sociological perspective, in a way that could help people,” says Ava, a rising senior majoring in environmental science at the University of Mary Washington.

She was one of a pair of students who took home the top prizes at UMW’s Summer Science Institute (SSI), which engages undergraduates in an intense 10-week research experience with professors and peers. At a public symposium held in the Hurley Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium, she and physics major Kevin Leong were chosen by a panel of faculty judges to each receive a scholarship award through the John C. and Jerri Barden Perkins ’61 College of Arts and Sciences Student Research Endowment. The funds will help the students continue their projects through the upcoming school year.

Second place winners were Curtis Kasiski for his research on determining the dietary diversity of bumblebees, and Orianne Mbuyi Mujinga Kazadi for her work identifying fungal strains that can destroy invasive spotted lanternflies.

“I hope this award inspires them to open their minds to possibilities in life,” says Dr. Jerri Barden Perkins, who watched the presentations via Zoom. She was amazed at the variety and relevance of topics, she says, from fighting antibiotic resistance with phage therapy to using sockets to create video games. “The liberal arts and sciences education students find at Mary Washington broadens their perspectives and prepares them for the real world.”

Dr. Perkins earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Mary Washington and a M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia. She went on to conduct her own trailblazing research into rheumatoid arthritis and approved one of the first FDA drug therapies to combat AIDS. Her endowment, one of several she established at UMW, is in honor of her late husband, Cal, who practiced internal medicine.

“The Perkins scholarship award will allow us to recognize UMW students demonstrating exemplary performance,” says College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger. “This elevates SSI to a professional level.” Read more.

Alumna Whips Up Career as ‘L.A. Times’ Food Writer

Hungry for small classes and more facetime with teachers, Stephanie Breijo '09 studied journalism at Mary Washington. Now, she covers Los Angeles' culinary culture as a food writer for the L.A. Times.

Hungry for small classes and more facetime with teachers, Stephanie Breijo ’09 studied journalism at Mary Washington. Now, she covers Los Angeles’ culinary culture as a food writer for the L.A. Times.

Savory meatball subs smothered in mozzarella. Sizzling birria tacos with spicy salsa. Smoky barbecue brisket with all the fixings. And a rainbow of Italian cookies.

Just try looking at Stephanie Breijo’s Instagram on an empty stomach.

“Food is universal,” said Breijo, a Los Angeles Times food writer who graduated from the University of Mary Washington in 2009. “It’s a lens everyone sees the world through, whether they’re aware of it or not.”

Reporting takes her to every corner of L.A.’s restaurant community, from pop-ups in Koreatown to bistros in Santa Monica. But before she began highlighting epicurean happenings throughout the city and curating cuisine on social media – an art that didn’t even exist when she was a student – she acquired the recipe for great storytelling at Mary Washington. Read more.

Chemistry Alums Mourn Passing of Beloved Professor

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Emeritus Bernard Mahoney

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Emeritus Bernard Mahoney

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Emeritus Bernard Mahoney was in his element teaching and advising students during his nearly four decades at Mary Washington.

When alumni learned he had passed away on May 9 of this year, tributes began pouring in, reflecting on his many attributes: his “laughing” Irish eyes, his delightful Boston brogue, his knack for making even the most challenging of courses fun. Most of all, they spoke of how he made an impact on their lives and livelihoods, cheering them on for years, even after they graduated.

“He was my catalyst to succeed,” says Amanda Bruch McNeil ’80, crediting Dr. Mahoney for helping launch her career in the oil and gas industry at a time when it welcomed few women. “Without him, I never would have pursued that dream.”

Dr. Mahoney came to Mary Washington, then the women’s college of University of Virginia, in 1965. He held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Boston College and a doctorate in physical chemistry through University of New Hampshire. He also earned several prestigious fellowships, including from Harvard Medical School, the National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

At Mary Washington, he served as department chair, was instrumental in creating the Bachelor of Liberal Studies program, and helped design the Jepson Science Center. He became a distinguished professor, earned UMW’s Grellet C. Simpson Award, and was granted emeritus status upon his retirement in 2002. Read more.

Alum Honors Friend With Scholarship and Bench

Class of 1993 alums and friends of Coby Frye, who helped fund the bench. From left to right: Patrick Fines, Warren Fischi, John Cheatham, Keith Park and John Anstey. Photo courtesy of John Anstey.

Class of 1993 alums and friends of Coby Frye, who helped fund the bench. From left to right: Patrick Fines, Warren Fischi, John Cheatham, Keith Park and John Anstey. Photo courtesy of John Anstey.

John Anstey ’93 remembers meeting Carl “Coby” B. Frye ’93 on the first day of their freshman year at Mary Washington.

“His infectious laugh and broad smile immediately put me at ease,” John says. The pair, who lived a few doors down from each other in Westmoreland Hall and later roomed together, became inseparable. “And that friendship carried us through our time at Mary Washington and into adulthood.”

After Coby died unexpectedly in spring of 2019, John decided to channel his grief into something meaningful. He and his wife, Kara Lee Matala ’94, established the endowed Carl B. Frye Jr. ’93 Scholarship for University of Mary Washington students who embody Coby’s positive, “can-do” attitude. In addition, the couple raised funds, along with six of their classmates, to memorialize their friend by naming a bench for him on Campus Walk, a place where they made so many memories together as students. Read more.

Long-Awaited Reunion Brought Mary Washington Alums ‘Home’

Amber Tussing planned to reconnect with old friends at the University of Mary Washington’s Reunion Weekend, but she was surprised to meet just as many new ones. “When you can make friends across multiple generations, you know you come from a shared experience,” said Tussing, a 2000 grad who bonded with members of the classes […]

Jessica McGraw: Mother of All Reunions

Office of Alumni Relations Administrative Assistant Jessica McGraw '07 greets guests at a recent Alumni Toast. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Office of Alumni Relations Administrative Assistant Jessica McGraw ’07 greets guests at a recent Senior Toast, the first event of its type in more than 25 years. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

It’s back! More than 1,000 alumni are headed to the University of Mary Washington for the first Reunion Weekend in three years. Today through Sunday, generations of grads from the past seven decades will have the chance to reconnect with Mary Wash friends, faculty and their beloved alma mater.

As administrative assistant for the Office of Alumni Relations, Jessica McGraw ’07 has played a tremendous role in pulling off what’s being billed as the Mother of All Reunions. Thanks to her team’s meticulous planning, alumni will spend four days enjoying 85 events: learning opportunities, campus tours, parties and picnics, class photos, family activities and of course, Carl’s Ice Cream.

Since coming aboard last October, McGraw said she’s gained “numerous responsibilities” in preparation for this weekend, including designing name tags and buttons, proofreading brochures, running reports and processing payments. Her desk has been a whirlwind, with a rainbow of event tickets and welcome packets to assemble, but everything is spotless by the time she heads out for the day. Whew!

McGraw, who also holds a master's degree, earned a bachelor’s in political science from Mary Washington in 2007.

McGraw, who also holds a master’s degree, earned a bachelor’s in political science from Mary Washington in 2007.

For McGraw, who earned a bachelor’s in political science from UMW and a master’s degree in administration and management from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Illinois, a favorite charge has been chatting with older alums over the phone.

“I’ve spoken to so many who formed lifelong friendships while they were in college,” she said. “I love hearing their stories.”

This weekend will be an honor, McGraw said, helping them create even more Mary Washington memories … while also savoring some of her own.

Q: What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I was born and raised in California, but we came here when my husband was stationed at Quantico. After I graduated, I spent a year working in Admissions, then we moved to Chicago, followed by New Orleans. When we returned to Fredericksburg, I got a job working in the Registrar’s office before being hired for my current position.

Q: What are some highlights of this year’s Reunion Weekend?
A: Open houses at the recently renovated Seacobeck Hall and the Hillel Center, the alumni authors event and a reception for the newly formed Black Alumni Affinity Group. I’m personally excited for Professor of Political Science Jason Davidson’s America Entangled Alumni College lecture.

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Getting to talk to extraordinary alumni who have such positive feelings about Mary Washington.

Q: Most challenging?
A: Trying to accomplish everything during part-time hours!

Q: What might people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I love Formula One racing and have driven on a racetrack before.

Q: What’s your favorite thing on your desk?
A: My UMW polar bear! It’s so adorable.

Q: How do you spend your free time?
A: I sew, walk my dog and read.

Q: Have you read any good books lately?
A: I really liked Tina Brown’s The Palace Papers. I’m fascinated by the British monarchy.

Q: What do you like best about the UMW campus?
A: That little bridge that connects Seacobeck to the Palmieri Plaza.

Q: What’s your motto?
A: EGBOK: Everything is going to be okay.

Mary Washington Hosts ‘Mother of All Reunions’

For the first time in three years, University of Mary Washington will host hundreds of alumni for Reunion Weekend, which will be held Thursday, June 2, through Sunday, June 5. Eagles who graduated over the span of eight decades will return to the nest once again for learning opportunities, art exhibits, musical performances, class photos, family activities, trolley tours to Carl’s ice cream and more. Most importantly, the highly anticipated event is a chance for grads of all ages to reconnect in person with Mary Washington friends and faculty – including Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker ’81, who retires in June – and with the UMW campus. “This year, Mary Wash alumni have the unique opportunity to celebrate with friends who graduated in the years before and after them,” said Executive Director of Alumni Relations Mark Thaden ’02, whose team has planned more than 85 events for attendees. Billed as the Mother of All Reunions, it’s the largest in Mary Washington history, he said. An entire day has been added, devoted exclusively to graduates who have celebrated their 50th reunions, including the classes of ’70, ’71 and ’72, Thaden said, “so they’ll get the VIP treatment they deserve.” Read more.