Courting Excellence

Three professors and a student pursue academic passions

Emily Ferguson ’17 could have gone Ivy League. Instead, the high school valedictorian and future physician chose Mary Washington, lured by the James D. and Irene Piscopo Rodgers ’59 Alvey Scholarship, a full four-year comprehensive award.

Private gifts like Rodgers’, which support the academic pursuits of UMW’s faculty and students, are crucial to bringing the best and brightest to campus. Premier colleges and universities embrace the time-honored tradition of establishing endowed scholarships and endowed distinguished chairs and professorships.

The Shirley Van Epps Waple ’52 Professorships, for example, offer faculty members enhanced financial support for two years for research in their disciplines. These eight endowed awards enable UMW to attract, retain, and acknowledge outstanding faculty who are distinguished in their fields.

A psychology major at Mary Washington, Waple, who died in 2010, became a credit counselor. She co-founded the Professional Adjustment Bureau of Troy, N.Y., with late husband Harry, helping scores of clients improve their financial lives. Inspired by her own liberal arts experience, she wanted the professorships to recognize excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship. Her bequest also supports awards for research and graduate teaching.

Shirley Van Epps Waple

Shirley Van Epps Waple

In the tradition of selective academic institutions, supporters of Mary Washington have established scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance to a handful of outstanding prospective students. The Washington Scholars program offers such benefits to superior in-state students, and the Alvey Scholars program, named in memory of longtime dean Edward Alvey Jr., does the same for those from out of state.

Rodgers has established a second Alvey award, the Justin and Helen Piscopo Alvey Scholarship, in memory of her parents. Rodgers majored in chemistry at Mary Washington, completed a master of science degree in chemistry at the University of Michigan, and became an expert consultant in high performance microscopy. She is an active advocate for her alma mater, and UMW recognized her accomplishments with an honorary doctorate of humane letters at commencement in May.

Learning to Change Lives, Honoring the Ordinary, Teaching to Learn, and Planning for the Future are the stories of one student and three professors who have pursued their academic passions and, with generous private support, bring the best to Mary Washington.