Superintendent ‘Living the Dream’

School Superintendent David White enjoys
a story with his book
buddy, first-grader
Paul Johnson III, in
King William County.

David White ’92 hopes he can impart a message of resilience to more than 2,200 students whose education he oversees: They will mess up at times. But mistakes can become opportunities. “Failure is an option. It’s what you do afterward that matters,” said White, who’s in his second year as superintendent of public schools in King William County, Virginia. “You can have that ‘Aha!’ moment at any time and get it together.” It’s a life lesson White was fortunate to learn early. He had way too much fun as a freshman at Virginia Tech, and his grades showed it. His parents pulled the plug. Back home in the Fredericksburg area, White applied to Mary Washington, where both his mother and grandmother had worked. He wasn’t the strongest applicant, but Sallie Washington Braxton ’77 in admissions took a chance on him, he said. “She told me that since she got me there, I’d better prove her right.” He did, applying himself to academics, fulfilling Army National Guard obligations, working a second … [Read more...]

Organ Aficionada

Pipe organ expert Peggy
Kelley Reinburg consults
on restoring historic organs
and building new ones.

Arp Schnitger was one of the most prolific and influential organ builders of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a craftsman whose work fueled continued interest in Baroque instruments centuries after his death. Yet Peggy Kelley Reinburg ’58 could find only one article on the German artisan as she toiled away on a paper for her sophomore year organ class. She managed to stretch what little information she could find into eight pages and earned an A on the assignment. But the dearth of knowledge gnawed at her long after she graduated from Mary Washington with a bachelor’s degree in music and  minors in languages and psychology. “I couldn’t get the information I wanted, and I was just so eager to know about these wonderful instruments,” Reinburg said. The Norfolk resident went on to write the definitive book on Schnitger while performing on his stunning creations – and those of other builders – in churches, cathedrals, and concert halls all over the world. “The organ is a very … [Read more...]

Finding Art

Nancy Porter Atakan is pictured in 5533, the art gallery she founded in Istanbul, Turkey, where she lives with her husband.

Nancy Porter Atakan ’68 stared at the images of the Hagia Sophia in the pages of her art history textbook. A Mary Washington classmate told of visiting the mosque-turned-museum in Istanbul, Turkey. For Atakan, then a teenager from the tiny mountain town of Galax, Virginia, such a place couldn’t be more remote. That she’d left home at all was more than her mother could understand. The only child of a nurse’s aide and a factory worker, Atakan could afford to apply to only one college. She chose Mary Washington for its distance from Galax and proximity to Washington, D.C. As the young art history and studio art major read about the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, she couldn’t imagine that within a few years she’d see it for herself, much less that Istanbul would become her adopted home. She wouldn’t have believed that she would run her own nonprofit art space there, or that her art would hang in galleries in New York, London, and Berlin. Her time at Mary Washington “was the first time in … [Read more...]

Woman’s Calling Is Improving Dementia Care

Rachael Wonderlin is passionate
about helping people with
dementia and their caregivers.

From her childhood home in South Jersey, Rachael Wonderlin ’11 marked university catalogs like a Christmas wish list. The colleges the high schooler liked best went in a must-see file. “I visited a whole bunch of schools,” Wonderlin said. But the moment she stepped foot on the University of Mary Washington campus, “I just had a gut feeling. I loved it immediately. It had everything I was looking for – small but not too small. It was very collegiate, very beautiful,” and it was just a few hours drive from home. Wonderlin came to Mary Washington with a love for older adults – she discovered this as a teen volunteer at a skilled nursing facility – so she majored in psychology with plans to become a geriatric doctor. But after getting a C in chemistry, she figured she wouldn’t have the grades for medical school. An elective course called “psychology of aging” erased any disappointment Wonderlin felt. The class met for an entire evening once a week. “Everybody in that class dreaded it. I … [Read more...]