In the new U.S. News and World Report's Best Colleges 2011 issue, Mary Baldwin College is ranked high among the best colleges and universities in the county, placing 27th among regional universities in the South.
The stately white buildings that make up Mary Baldwin sit on a picturesque hill overlooking historic downtown Staunton, Va. Opened in 1842 as Augusta Female Seminary on 55 rolling acres of land, the small Presbyterian liberal arts college has provided an education for young ladies for almost 170 years, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher learning for women in the United States.
The name was changed from Augusta Female Seminary to Mary Baldwin College in 1895 to honor Mary Julia Baldwin who became principal in 1863 and remained in that position until she died in 1897. She is credited with saving the college during the Civil War when nearly every other school in the Shenandoah Valley was forced to close because of extensive fighting in the area. Her steady leadership allowed the college to survive the war and, afterwards, to expand and prosper. In 1923 the two-year junior college became a four-year school.
Today the college continues to thrive. In conjunction with downtown Staunton's American Shakespeare Theater, Mary Baldwin is one of only three universities in the country to offer a Master of Letters in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance. It also offers the Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership (VWIL) program for female cadets in affiliation with Virginia Military Institute (VMI) located in nearby Lexington.
The Program for the Exceptionally Gifted was begun as a way for gifted young ladies ages 12-16 to earn a bachelor’s degree. The graduate and adult degree education programs offer continuing education at the Staunton campus as well as five satellite campuses around the Commonwealth.
MBC’s ranking among the best colleges in the South shows it continues to provide a high quality education into the 21st century.
Cross-posted at The Washington Examiner