May 24, 2022

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 […]

Take Five! Mary Wash Celebrates Fifth Annual Giving Day, April 5

The countdown is on! Mary Wash Giving Day marks its fifth anniversary next week, and the entire University of Mary Washington community is invited to join the celebration. Participation matters most in helping UMW reach its goal of 3,000 gifts and 500 first-time donors during the 24-hour event on Tuesday, April 5. This year’s theme, […]

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 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 or 540-654-2064.

Announcement of Vice President for Advancement Search

A message from the Office of the President.

To the University Community,

As you may be aware, we are beginning a national search for a new Vice President for Advancement.  We are seeking a highly qualified individual for this critical area of operations for the University and will work diligently to ensure that we get the right person to lead this unit.

I have asked Jeffrey McClurken, Chief of Staff, to chair the search committee. The other members of the search committee are:

  • Devon Cushman, Class of 1993 and BOV Chair of Administration, Facilities, Finance, and Advancement committee
  • Jackie Gallagher, Professor and Chair, Geography Department, UFC representative
  • Patti Kemp, UMW Foundation Board, Class of 1969
  • Keith Mellinger, Dean of Arts and Sciences
  • Dana Norwood, Biology major, Social Justice minor, Class of 2022, SGA representative
  • Marion Sanford, James Farmer Multicultural Center
  • Catherine Seller, Advancement
  • Mark Thaden, Alumni Relations, Class of 2002
  • Alicia Tisdale, Financial Aid, USC representative
  • Susan Worrell, Interim Vice President for Advancement

The committee will be assisted in its work by Greg Duyck, Principal and Advancement Practice Leader of the executive search firm of WittKieffer with the goal of having candidates on campus in the spring.


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.

Because of You


Planning Matters Newsletter

Read the latest issue of Planning Matters from the Office of Advancement:

  • Learn how scholarship recipient Nicole Altenberg ’23 plans to combine her psychology major with her passion for dance.
  • Discover how IRA rollovers can support Mary Washington without increasing your taxable income.
  • Hear how Janet L. Hedrick ’73 continues to utilize and appreciate her Mary Washington education.
  • Read a note of appreciation from President Troy D. Paino.
  • See the latest news about Seacobeck Hall construction and its planned opening.

Click here to read now.

Crawley Announces Creation of Scholarship Honoring Jack Bales

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

Jack Bales at the celebration held by the University of Mary Washington in honor of his new book. Photo Credit: Erin Wysong.

A message from Bill Crawley.

When classes resume at UMW for the fall semester, things will not be the same — and not just because of the COVID-19 restrictions. Something will be missing – or, more accurately, someBODY will be missing. Jack Bales. Yes, difficult as it is to imagine the University without Jack, he has, in fact, embarked upon a richly merited retirement, effective at the end of last month.

I am sure that you will agree with me that the extent and quality of Jack’s contributions over the past 40 years are unparalleled – both to our students in their research and to us as faculty in our courses.  Many are the students whom I have heard say, “I would never have graduated without Mr. Bales” – or words to that effect. Many of them, I suspect, are not exaggerating, such was the attention and professional care he offered to any student who came knocking at his (always open) door.

To honor Jack for his exemplary service, a scholarship is being established in his name, which seems an altogether appropriate means of perpetuating his legacy of service to students. Activation of the award will require total donations of at least $25,000 – a goal to which I believe many of you would like to contribute as acknowledgement of the help he has given through the years.

To begin the process, my wife and I are donating $5,000, and we respectfully request that you consider joining us in whatever amount you wish. You may make your contribution at:

Every donation will help to achieve our goal, which will serve as an appropriate tribute to this wonderful friend of the University and its students.

UMW to ‘Come Together’ for Fourth Annual Mary Wash Giving Day

UMW is asking alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to “Come Together” and spread the word about the fourth annual Mary Wash Giving Day on March 19.

UMW is asking alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to “Come Together” and spread the word about the fourth annual Mary Wash Giving Day on March 19.

The University of Mary Washington is asking alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to “Come Together” for its fourth annual giving day on Thursday, March 19.

On Mary Wash Giving Day, donors can make gifts to benefit students and programs across the University from midnight to 11:59 p.m. at Challenges and matches funded by generous donors will be “unlocked” throughout the day, multiplying the impact of the gifts. The University has set a goal of 3,000 gifts and 1,000 new donors, topping last year’s record, when 870 donors made their first-ever gift to Mary Washington. Each gift made on March 19 will be tracked on dynamic leaderboards on the website, providing real-time updates on progress toward the participation goal.

This year’s theme celebrates how the University community comes together to deliver an outstanding liberal arts and sciences education to Mary Washington’s 4,000-plus students, while inspiring them to pay it forward for future generations of Eagles. Read more.

Download the Mary Wash Giving Day graphic to share on social with #MaryWashDay. To download, right click and choose “save image.”

Download the Mary Wash Giving Day graphic to share on social with #MaryWashDay. To download, right click and choose “save image.”