Song, Composer, Going Strong

When she returned to UMW last December, Irene Taylor Robinson ’47 wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about. As the guest of honor at a luncheon, she had expected to talk about “High on Marye’s Hilltop,” the Mary Washington Alma Mater that she and the late Jean Crotty Machonis ’47 co-wrote. She was surprised, though, to be treated like a star by the younger alumni who’d come to see her. “We wrote a little song, but I’ve never really given much thought to it,” the 89-year-old said. “I’m a little floored that people want to meet me, and they are so kind in what they say.” Most of the fans had learned “High on Marye’s Hilltop” as freshmen at Mary Washington, where it is sung it at every commencement and homecoming. They’d sung it in dorms, at class meetings, and at Grad Ball. “It’s part of the Mary Washington soundscape for students and faculty,” said Professor of History Jeffrey McClurken ’94, one of two UMW historians at the luncheon. Robinson and her friend Machonis … [Read more...]

Religion Professor Takes on Zombies

Kelly Murphy ’01 may be an unofficial expert on zombies, but in the event of a zombie apocalypse she’d probably be one of the first people to get infected. “I’ve often joked with my students that the likelihood of a biblical studies scholar surviving the initial zombie outbreak is pretty slim,” she said. Mary Washington’s 2001 Outstanding Graduate in Religion now teaches biblical studies at Central Michigan University, where her course From Revelation to the Walking Dead is an unqualified hit. The course encourages students to take a deeper look at apocalyptic themes in biblical texts, literature, and pop culture. “Adding zombies to a class about ancient apocalyptic literature is a kind of shameless trick designed to get students to sign up for a class that they might not otherwise be drawn to take,” Murphy admits. “Many students don’t know what the academic study of the biblical texts entails, so they don’t realize how exciting it can be.” So what exactly do you study in … [Read more...]

A Heritage in Clay

Business administration seemed sensible, and Hadrian Mendoza ’96 worked hard to fulfill major requirements in his first three years at Mary Washington. Then came senior year, with only electives left to take. Mendoza filled his schedule with drawing, painting, and poetry – and a ceramics class that would prove life-changing. Working with clay lit up Mendoza’s brain like nothing had before. “It’s so natural,” Mendoza thought. “You take dirt, you use fire, and then you have a permanent object. How awesome is that?” After two semesters, he asked Lorene Nickel, now a professor emerita of art, what it would take to make a living as a potter. Was it even possible? Her answer, he remembers, was something an earnest business major had to consider seriously: It was possible, and he could be good at it. But it might not ever be lucrative. Mendoza had gotten into culinary school, but he never even sent a deposit. A year at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., wasn’t … [Read more...]

Oceanographer Knows the Gulf Stream

For Jenifer Higgins Clark ’69, going off to college meant going across the street. Her childhood home on Sunken Road had offered a panoramic view of the Mary Washington College campus - a vast playground of soft-sloping hills and stately buildings she’d spent countless hours exploring. So when Clark’s parents told her and twin sister Judith Higgins Hoye ’69 that if they wanted to go to college, they would have to attend Mary Washington as day students, she felt a tinge of disappointment. Looking back, she knows she needn’t have. Clark had developed a fascination with figures as a first-grader, tutoring math while still in grade school, so she majored in math. The math professors at Mary Washington challenged Clark and taught her to think independently, she said. They left her well prepared for graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and, later, for a longtime career as a satellite oceanographer. After graduation, Clark landed her first job with the Naval … [Read more...]