July 23, 2024

UMW Awards Top Honors and Honorary Degree at Commencement Ceremonies

The University of Mary Washington presented its top honors during commencement ceremonies Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9. Claire R. Harrington of Chesapeake, Va., Lisa Blake Johnson of Vienne, Va., and Emma Katherine Leheney of Arlington, Va., received the Colgate W. Darden Jr. Awards, which are presented to the students with the highest grade-point averages (GPA) in the four-year undergraduate program. Each graduate finished with a 4.0 GPA. This is only the third time in the 55-year history of the Darden Award that the award has been given to three graduates. Liane R. Houghtalin, professor of classics, philosophy and religion in the College of Arts and Sciences, was presented the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the institution’s most prestigious annual award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. The recipient is routinely a senior member of the faculty. Eric C. Bonds, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, which is presented annually to an exceptional member of the faculty who has served the institution for at least two years but no more than five years. Marisa Martinez-Mira, associate professor of Spanish in the College of Arts and Sciences, received the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award. The winner is selected by the graduating class as the faculty member “whom they will most likely remember as the one who had the greatest impact on their lives.” Robert Greene, associate professor in the College of Business, was recognized with the Graduate Faculty Award. The honor recognizes an exceptional full-time faculty member who has demonstrated excellence in graduate teaching and professional leadership in a graduate program. The person selected must have served in a full-time position at the university for at least two years. Pamela Bridgewater, undergraduate commencement speaker, and the late Claudia Emerson, beloved professor of UMW, each received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. Emerson received the degree posthumously. The UMW Board of Visitors may award honorary degrees to recognize and express gratitude to individuals who have provided outstanding service or contributions that are instrumental in helping the University achieve major objectives.  

Claire R. Harrington

Claire R. Harrington is a biology major who received a Bachelor of Science degree. Her advisor describes her as someone who seemingly had her whole life completely mapped out from their very first meeting. In addition to pursuing her own research and earning undergraduate research grants, Harrington was active in several groups such as Young Life, Medi Home Hospice and the Alpha Phi Sigma and Chi Beta Phi honor societies.  A member of the intercollegiate track and field team, she holds the indoor pole vault record for both UMW and the Capital Athletic Conference. Harrington recently won a scholarship from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation to support her studies at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where she will enroll this fall.  

Lisa Blake Johnson

Lisa Blake Johnson is an English major who received a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduated with Departmental Honors in English. Her advisor describes her as a fresh and careful thinker, an animated participant in class and a strong writer whose work has only grown more polished through her years at UMW. Johnson has served as a tutor at the Writing Center and is a member of the Lamda Iota Tau honor society and an officer in the UMW Symfonics acapella group. During her second study abroad trip, she composed a musical rendition of Wilfred Owen’s antiwar poem “Dulce et Decorum Est,” which she performed while in England and again on campus as part of her Department’s Thursday Poems event.  

Emma Katherine Leheney

Emma Katherine Leheney is a psychology major who received a Bachelor of Science degree. She was awarded the UMW Alumni Award for demonstrating an outstanding combination of academic excellence, leadership and service to the university this year. Leheney was a member of an undergraduate research team that designed and completed two unique research projects. She and her colleagues presented their results at the Virginia Psychological Association Conference and at UMW’s own Psi Chi Symposium. Johnson also assisted a faculty member who was writing a book by helping with literature reviews and editing the manuscript.  

Liane R. Houghtalin

Liane R. Houghtalin is completing her 20th year at UMW. As a professor of classics, she has taught a wide array of courses, organized public lecture series, developed and led a study abroad program and facilitated students’ direct engagement with significant historic artifacts. Her interest in the influence of the classical world on the modern world has led her to organize a semester-long public lecture series on slavery and a symposium on the biographical tradition of Mary Washington. Houghtalin has given numerous presentations dealing with classical archaeology and numismatics both at national professional conferences and to statewide and community organizations. She also has made contributions to many books, including Underwater Investigations at Roman Minturnae and most recently to Bir Ftouha: A Pilgrimage Church Complex at Carthage. Houghtalin previously earned the highly competitive award for Excellence in College Teaching from the Classical Association of the Middle West and South. She received a Ph.D. and master’s degree from the Bryn Mawr College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.  

Eric C. Bonds

An assistant professor of sociology, Eric C. Bonds joined UMW four years ago and teaches courses in environmental sociology, social problems, and political sociology. Bonds has been praised by colleagues for his approach to teaching, with stimulated engagement outside of the classroom as a way of helping students connect course content to real world issues. His research on environmental issues, political power and social change has led to several articles in peer-refereed journals, essays that were reprinted in popular undergraduate anthologies and a forthcoming textbook. Bonds is the author of Social Problems: A Human Rights Perspective. He also has published articles in journals such as The Journal of World-Systems ResearchCritical Sociology, and Peace Review. Bonds earned a doctorate from the University of Colorado and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming.  

Marisa Martinez-Mira

Marisa Martinez-Maria is an associate professor of Spanish at UMW. Receiving the only faculty award that is selected entirely by students, she was nominated multiple times by the graduating class.

One student shared, “Professor Martinez-Maria is very caring in every class that she teaches. She is beyond deserving of this award. She is truly what the University of Mary Washington stands for.” Another student wanted to honor this professor for her love of teaching, saying, “She comes to every class eager to teach and with a great attitude. I have taken every class I can with her. She is beyond deserving of being recognized for her passion to teaching and being an amazing professor who has left an impact on every student she teaches.” Martinez-Maria received her doctorate and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Murcia.  

Robert Greene

Robert Greene, associate professor in the College of Business Department of Management and Marketing, can speak knowledgeably about entrepreneurship, strategic management, leadership, motivation and organizational ethics. Greene came to UMW in 2004 with more than 35 years of prior teaching experience in a variety of positions at both public and private higher education institutions.

He has had articles about such topics as entrepreneurship, management, and capitalism published in professional journals and other publications. An experienced entrepreneur with prior experience as a line manager in the private sector, military and academic organizations, Greene founded and served for 25 years as president of a management and marketing consulting business.

Greene’s research focuses on organizational behavior and human resource management, among other topics. During his time at UMW, he has served with distinction on a number of college and university committees and has been an influence in shaping the development of the MBA program.

Greene earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from Georgia State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia.

Pamela Bridgewater

Pamela Bridgewater, UMW’s 104th undergraduate commencement speaker, retired from active duty in the U.S. Diplomatic Service in 2013 with the rank of Career Ambassador after 34 years of distinguished service. Bridgewater has served as U.S. ambassador in three countries under three different presidents: President Bill Clinton appointed her U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Benin; President George W. Bush named her U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana, and President Obama appointed her as Ambassador to Jamaica.

Among her extensive overseas tours, she became the first African-American woman to serve as consul general in Durban, South Africa, during the historic transition from Apartheid to a non-racial government. As the political officer assigned to cover Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, a former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa said, “Bridgewater established a degree of trust and confidence with Mr. Mandela and the ANC leadership that the U.S. had not previously enjoyed.” Her contributions to international affairs and public policy have resulted in numerous commendations, including two U.S. Presidential Meritorious Service Awards, the Charles Cobb Award for Trade Promotion, Department of State Superior Honor Awards and the Secretary of State’s Career Achievement Award. The Fredericksburg native earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Virginia State University and a Master of Arts degree in political science from the University of Cincinnati. She completed course work and advanced to candidacy for the PhD degree from the American University School of International Service. She holds honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Cincinnati and Virginia State University and an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Morgan State University.  

Claudia Emerson

Claudia Emerson, a longtime and beloved faculty member at UMW, died in December 2014. The University of Mary Washington counts Claudia among its most distinguished professors. During her tenure here, she received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection Late Wife, and she was named Virginia’s Poet Laureate in 2008 — a position she held for two years.

Hundreds of students’ lives were touched by Emerson, who was instrumental in the establishment of the creative writing concentration as an option for our English majors. When she left UMW, after serving on the faculty here for 15 years, she held the Arrington Distinguished Chair in Poetry.