On Sunday, Beth and I rose early and headed 90 miles north to Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stanton).
Located in Virginia's pristine Shenandoah Valley, Staunton is a historically picturesque city with many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still standing and beautifully preserved.
According to the city's website, "Staunton's fine collection of historic preservation areas includes the Gospel Hill Historic District, so named in the late 1790s when religious meetings were held at its blacksmith shop. Its elegant homes include examples of Victorian, Greek Revival, and Federal styles. The Downtown Historic District is a compact 19th-century ‘Main Street,’ with buildings that date from Staunton's boom years between 1860 and 1920, and fine concentrations of Victorian-era architecture. Its Wharf Historic District harkens back to the days when the railroad changed Staunton from a rural village to a center of commerce, with strong and sturdy warehouses. Since 1972 the Wharf Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places, and its depot and other preserved buildings house restaurants, antique shops and specialty boutiques." In addition, Staunton is also the birthplace of our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson.
All quite impressive, but not the primary reason for our visit.
Instead, we drove to Staunton on this beautiful clear morning in order to witness my sister Karen's graduation from Mary Baldwin College. Founded in 1842 as Augusta Female Seminary, MBC is one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the United States. And by virtue of its Adult Degree Program, Karen was one of more than 300 students who proudly shifted her tassel to the left at the ceremony's conclusion.
But unlike most, she accomplished this goal not as an early 20-something, free for the most part from the responsibilities of life. Instead, the setting of her achievement was one of a full time employee, a full time mother and a full time wife. Her collegiate experience was one of sacrifice and harder work. Her curriculum required transitioning from homemaker to student and back again, often in the course of 24 hours. Her journey included coping with a son’s military deployment, often to places unknown and a husband’s on going battle with Lymphoma.
Through it all, she balanced a multitude of tasks, taking classes when she could, reacquiring long forgotten study habits and never complaining. And in the end, her accomplishment came at a time in her life when holding her new born grandson was by far, her most precious graduation gift.
In a word, she persevered.
And in so doing, she not only received her Bachelor's Degree but also clearly demonstrated the wisdom and qualities she inherited from our Mother. For like Mom, my sister also recognizes the immense importance of faith, family and hope.
I'm very proud you Karen.
“A sister is one who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.” - Anonymous