December 5, 2022

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.

Fifth Annual Mary Wash Giving Day Breaks Records

Giving Day recap graphicThe numbers are officially in! Last month, the University of Mary Washington community came together on Tuesday, April 5, in celebration of the fifth annual Mary Wash Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising extravaganza to support UMW students, faculty and programs.

Now that all online, mailed and phoned-in contributions have been counted, the day’s official results show that this year’s total broke previous Giving Day records: $670,811, from 2,882 gifts made by 2,093 supporters, including 479 first-time donors.

Generous donations were made by alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to 122 different areas across the University, including academic, arts, athletic, service, career and cultural programs. “It really highlights how broad interests are at Mary Washington,” Director of Annual Giving Shelby Orlando ’14 said. “Our supporters can give anywhere their passion lies.” Read more.

Business Class: Alums Name Classroom for Beloved Professor

Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff stands with Rob Strassheim ’96 in the doorway of the newly named Galen deGraff Classroom in Woodward Hall. Photo courtesy of Rob and Sarah Strassheim.

Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff stands with Rob Strassheim ’96 in the doorway of the newly named Galen deGraff Classroom in Woodward Hall. Photo courtesy of Rob and Sarah Strassheim.

For Rob Strassheim ’96 and his wife, Sarah Gildersleeve Strassheim ’01, the idea to honor one of their favorite faculty members began with a passed note. Not in class, Rob says, but during a meeting nearly a decade ago about naming classrooms in Woodard Hall, now home of University of Mary Washington’s College of Business, or COB.

“I remember it vividly,” says Rob, who serves on UMW’s Board of Visitors. He recalls slipping a piece of paper to his wife with the name of someone who made a tremendous impact on both of their lives and professional careers: Professor Emeritus of Business Galen deGraff.

But the contents of that note didn’t stay secret for long. The couple soon embarked on a fundraising effort to name a classroom after their former professor, who taught business courses, primarily finance, for over two decades at the University until he retired in 2015. COB recently dedicated the Galen deGraff Classroom, thanks to generous gifts made by Mary Washington alumni, friends and former colleagues. The Strassheims also led a fundraising campaign to create an endowed scholarship in Dr. deGraff’s name to help recruit out-of-state students who plan to major in business.

“Dr. deGraff and the University of Mary Washington changed my trajectory,” says Sarah, now global chief financial officer for Merkle, a worldwide customer experience management company. “As a professor, he saw something in me that I didn’t have the confidence to recognize in myself.” Read more.

‘It’s Gonna Be May’: Alum’s Meme Celebrates a Decade

A decade ago, UMW alumna Kianna Davis ’13 created the famous ‘It’s Gonna Be May’ meme, which has since become a cultural phenomenon. Here, she shows off her April 2012 calendar from her junior year, which includes Mary Washington events such as Mortar Board and the Leadership Awards. Photo courtesy of Kianna Davis.

A decade ago, UMW alumna Kianna Davis ’13 created the famous ‘It’s Gonna Be May’ meme, which has since become a cultural phenomenon. Here, she shows off her April 2012 calendar from her junior year, which includes Mary Washington events such as Mortar Board and the Leadership Awards. Photo courtesy of Kianna Davis.

University of Mary Washington alumna Kianna Davis ’13 was in her Westmoreland Hall second-floor room, a year away from graduation, when she created her first-ever meme.

Within 24 hours, the image she shared of a young, fresh-faced Justin Timberlake – emblazoned with a now famous play on the song lyrics to It’s Gonna Be Me – had earned tens of thousands of social media interactions. Even her friends, family and fellow Eagles were sharing it, unaware that Davis had made it.

“I had been planning my busy April calendar and posted it as a joke to my friends,” said Davis, who majored in business at UMW and helped plan concerts and other campus events through Giant Productions and the University Programming Board. Still a dedicated fan of Timberlake’s former boy band, *NSYNC, she “had no idea what the meme would become.” Read more.

Fifth Annual Mary Wash Giving Day Breaks Records

The numbers are officially in! Last month, the University of Mary Washington community came together on Tuesday, April 5, in celebration of the fifth annual Mary Wash Giving Day, a 24-hour fundraising extravaganza to support UMW students, faculty and programs. Now that all online, mailed and phoned-in contributions have been counted, the day’s official results […]