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Chapter 4

Creating Proud Traditions

students sitting at sub connection

The Evolution of Founders Day

As part of the celebration of Villa Julie College’s 60th anniversary, a history book was published. During that process, researchers discovered that the first day of classes was held on Oct. 1, 1947. Subsequently, the first Founders Day ceremony was held on Oct. 1, 2007. Through the years, Founders Day has evolved into a festive celebration featuring such events as a tea with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur; a picnic lunch for faculty, staff, and students; tours of the University Archives; and the entertaining Stevenson’s Got Talent student show.

Founders Day has also become an opportunity to recognize those who were critical to the growth and development of the institution. In 2008, the University dedicated three buildings on the Greenspring campus: the Carolyn Manuszak Student Union, the Rose Dawson Academic Center, and the Villa Julie Administration Building. The following Founders Day, the University dedicated the Ratcliffe Community Center on the Owings Mills Campus, and 2010 saw the dedication of the Stevenson University Archives, the Menning Meditation Center and Labyrinth, and the Harris and Hoeprich faculty houses, all on the Greenspring Campus.

dawson center


As with much at Stevenson, Commencement has grown in conjunction with the University. Initially, graduation ceremonies were conducted outside under a tent. When the Manuszak Center was built, the event was held inside. Over time, as the number of graduating students grew—along with the number of people who wanted to attend Commencement—the ceremony was moved to the Greenspring Gymnasium. Then the decision was made to hold one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and then the School of Graduate and Professional Studies began holding its own ceremony the evening before the undergraduate ceremonies.

Through the years, Commencement keynote speakers have had a diverse range of backgrounds—and advice. Some notable ones include Michael Ain, Kimberly Dozier, Wes Moore, and Jason Winer. (For a full list of speakers since 2000, see below.)

Part of the evolution of Commencement has been its symbols. The mace is considered a symbol of power. It is normally carried by the chief academic officer of the institution; at Stevenson, the mace currently is carried by Paul D. Lack, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Stevenson’s mace was designed and crafted by former faculty member Bush Greenbeck of the Villa Julie Theatre Department. It was made from wood that came from one of the “Seven Oaks” located near Knott Hall on the Greenspring Campus. Greenbeck later fashioned a Grand Mace and the smaller Processional Mace. In the head of each mace, he placed a penny from the year in which it was made.

graduation ceremony


- 2000 -
Barry Rascovar

- 2001 -
Martin O’Malley

- 2002 -
F. Patrick Ellis

- 2003 -
Ronald M. Shapiro

- 2004 -
Rebecca A. Hoffberger

- 2005 -
Benjamin S. Carson

- 2006 -
Neal A. Baer

- 2007 -
Michael C. Ain

- 2008 -
Farai N. Chideya

- 2009 -
Juan A. Williams

- 2010 -
Jimmy Wales

- 2011 -
Kimberly G. Dozier

- 2012 -
Westley Watende Omari Moore

- 2013 -
Jason Winer

- 2014 -
Byron Pitts

- 2015 -
John Harbaugh

recording graduation ceremony

i did it grad cap


At Stevenson, the tradition of the annual Convocation began in 2002 at the request of President Manning. The ceremony was to celebrate the new academic year with returning and new students as well as parents, faculty, and staff. Convocation is held every fall and has evolved through the years. In its first year, Convocation included a musical prelude, a processional, the National Anthem, a prayer of invocation, a welcome by the President, greetings from the faculty, a Convocation address, a presentation of the class, a benediction, and a recessional. In 2007, the Most Influential Educator Award was introduced, recognizing a high school teacher nominated in an essay by a first-year student. Since then, other additions have included a procession of student activity groups and varsity teams at Stevenson University as well as a performance of the Alma Mater by the Stevenson University Marching Band.

band playing at graduation

Homecoming + Family Week

Originally known as Villa Fest from 2002-2009, the celebration was renamed Homecoming Weekend in 2010. In 2014, because it had evolved into a week of activities, it was renamed Homecoming + Family Week. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, family, and friends are welcomed to several festivities throughout the week. These events include Mr. and Mrs. SU, happy hours, the bonfire, the Alumni Reunion Luncheon, family-friendly tailgating, the homecoming football game, the Crab Feast, and the Homecoming Dance. Homecoming + Family Week has something for everyone, and the spirit throughout is decidedly festive.

football team game entrance

green man group

Tailgating before the homecoming football game has become a tradition embraced by all facets of the SU community, from students and alumni to faculty, staff, and friends.

crab feast guests

women eating at event

Student Move-In

Since Aug. 19, 2004, the date of the first Stevenson move-in on the new Owings Mills residential Campus, the University has continuously adapted its approach to provide a seamless move-in experience for students and parents. As the number of Stevenson resident students has grown to nearly 2,000, the Office of Student Affairs and Residence Life has developed a staggered schedule of arrival and drop-off times for new students while Campus Security has worked diligently to create an effective traffic flow pattern. A staple of the Stevenson move-in process, the SMILE (Student Move-In LEaders) Crew—student, staff, and faculty volunteers—were added to the mix to help ease the potentially hectic process by unloading students’ belongings and providing friendly faces.

Returning students help incoming students during move-in. (Pictured)

students moving in

Social Entrepreneurship Award

pictures on wall

The lessons and accomplishments of nonprofit leaders were the inspiration for the creation of the University’s Social Entrepreneurship Award, launched in 2011. Presented during spring Commencement ceremonies every year, the award honors individuals who achieve high social returns for communities through transformative leadership and innovation. The inaugural winner was Darell Hammond, co-founder and CEO of KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization that helps communities build playgrounds for children. Other honorees include Jonathan Reckford, Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity International; Canadian philanthropist Craig Kielburger, Co-founder of Free the Children; Nancy Gianni, President and CEO of GiGi’s Playhouse; and Rev. John W. Swope, SJ, the Founding President of Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School (not pictured).

Winners of the University’s Social Entrepreneurship Award. (Pictured)

Re-creating the Alma Mater

In 2003, the original Villa Julie Alma Mater dating back to the 1950s was updated when faculty members Chip Rouse, Chair and Associate Professor of Business Communication, and Robert J. Suggs, D.M.A., Music Director and Conductor, teamed up to compose a new one at the prompting of President Manning. The songwriting duo was up to the challenge, with Rouse contributing the lyrics and Suggs the music. After the name change in summer 2008, the Alma Mater was again updated lyrically, but the original music stayed the same. Now, “Stevenson’s name we sing” proudly concludes every Commencement ceremony.

Chip Rouse, Chair and Associate Professor of Business Communications (standing), and Robert J. Suggs, D.M.A., Music Director and Conductor, collaborate on the Alma Mater.

suggs at piano

Blue U: A Way to Wellness

bocce ball game

In May 2009, Stevenson’s Office of Human Resources launched a new, robust wellness program to help employees take control of their health. That program transitioned into its current name, “Blue U,” inspired by Dan Buettner’s best-selling book, The Blue Zones, which focuses on the lifestyles of those in communities around the world where people are known to live longer and healthier lives. SU’s Blue U program has twice won the annual Baltimore Business Journal Healthiest Employer award. Staple activities of the Blue U program include onsite fitness classes, personalized fitness and weight-loss coaching, onsite biometric screenings, online health risk assessments, healthy cooking demonstrations, and social gatherings to build community and collegiality.

Faculty and staff play in a Blue U-sponsored bocce ball tournament. (Pictured)

Baltimore Ravens Practice

The Baltimore Ravens held a public practice at Mustang Stadium on Aug. 19, 2012. This was a homecoming for the team, which won its first Super Bowl while training at their former Owings Mills facilities; the building and fields now comprise Stevenson’s Caves Sports and Wellness Center, Gymnasium, and Stadium. SU honored the occasion by inviting Linebacker Ray Lewis, who was a member of the 2000 Super Bowl team, to visit the old Ravens lockers—now located in the locker room of the SU football team—and see a plaque honoring the historic site for football tradition that started with the Baltimore Colts. On Aug. 18, 2013, the Ravens—just months after the team’s second Super Bowl victory—returned again for a public practice.

various images of ravens players

The Stevenson Way

The Stevenson Way campaign grew out of the desire to foster and celebrate Stevenson’s four values—promoting a sense of community, fostering learning, instilling integrity, and achieving excellence—throughout the campus community. These values energize Stevenson’s mission and create an environment in which students, faculty, and staff can grow, thrive, and succeed. By way of an employee nomination process, Stevenson regularly honors faculty and staff members for demonstrating these values in their daily activities as an example and inspiration for others.

stevenson way ad

speaker event

President’s Reception and Dinner

Since 2001, the annual President’s Reception and Dinner has served as a way to thank Stevenson’s friends and supporters whose leadership gifts are transforming the lives of students and the institution itself. In the early years, venues such as the L’Hirondelle Club, the Baltimore Country Club, and the St. Paul Companies Pavilion on the Greenspring Campus hosted the dinner events. But as the University’s supporters grew so did the need for a location to host them all. Since 2010, every September, the Owings Mills Gymnasium brings donors together to meet the leadership and faculty from SU’s various schools and to witness the impact that their generosity has had on the campus.

fancy table setup

presidents reception

The Evolution of Undergraduate Admissions

The admissions process at Stevenson has been honed into an intensive process to identify and engage students who will thrive on the kind of education the University offers. Stevenson’s website gives prospective students and their families a multimedia-rich preview of the campus, from student life to academics. Admissions counselors are on the road throughout the year visiting high schools and college fairs across the country. Campus tours are also a critical part of the process, giving prospective students a more intimate view of daily life at the University. Each spring, the President’s Reception for Accepted Students brings students and families to the campus for a day-long celebration of their admission to college and a chance to witness how a Stevenson education can transform their lives. Prior to 2000, accepted students were invited to a meet and greet at the VJC president’s home, but with the phenomenal growth of SU during the past 15 years, the Owings Mills Campus now welcomes the hundreds of students who attend with their families.

accepted students

campus tour