Simpson Library boasted new CD-ROMS. The Battlefield Athletic Complex had just been completed. And acid wash jeans and shoulder pads ruled Campus Walk.
It was 1989 when a photographer captured an image a family would cherish forever. The picture – of Lisa Welty Pagliocchini ’89 trying her mortarboard on her 2-year-old niece, Mollie Elizabeth Welty – ran with Commencement Day coverage in Today, now University of Mary Washington Magazine.
Welty’s mother’s been “nutsy” about the photo ever since, stashing away the magazine for all of these years. Watching her daughter, now 26, turn the tassel on her own mortarboard on Saturday, May 10, brought the family full circle.
“Hindsight is always 20-20,” said Welty, who would have to leave home and come back to truly appreciate UMW. “It was the right school all along, I just didn’t know it.”
If she had, she might not have schlepped all her stuff from Woodbridge to West Virginia, even with a full ride to row on the university team. When the school she signed on with turned out to be too big and too far away, Welty came home.
She got a job – and a string of promotions – with GEICO. But she still wanted that degree.
“I never planned on stopping or changing or slowing down [in school], but it happens,” she said. “I knew I really needed to finish.”
Community college edged her closer, but she got serious when she transferred to Mary Washington. Battling lost credits and lost time, she scaled back at work, giving up her supervisor’s position and settling for less pay, but still working full time.
An English major, she’d study wherever she could – in Combs Hall, at the William Street Mansion, or perched in an Adirondack chair on Jefferson Square. She’d hit the books in the morning, go to class until 4, and work until midnight. Then she’d get up at 6 and do it again. Saturdays were for homework, she said, “no matter what.”
With her parents’ support and enthusiastic professors like Jon Pineda, Marie McAllister, and Mary Rigsby, she excelled. A member of Phi Beta Kappa who graduated summa cum laude, she was “an excellent student,” said Professor of English, Linguistics and Communication Warren Rochelle, “and a good role model to her younger classmates.”
Hard-earned diploma in hand, Welty plans to pursue a master’s degree at UMW’s College of Education and hopes to teach elementary school.
“It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I did it,” she said. “It [was] great to celebrate and seal the deal with a handshake.”