Hard work is the foundation for integrity in the workplace, said Ann Elizabeth (Anabeth) Guthrie ‘97, as she outlined rules for professional success for 1,082 University of Mary Washington undergraduate candidates and their families and friends gathered on Ball Circle.
The chief of communications for the National Gallery of Art, Guthrie delivered the 2019 commencement address at UMW, where she studied art history before launching a successful career of over two decades with D.C. museums.
Guthrie congratulated the undergraduates and spoke of choosing to enroll at Mary Washington after working at a Memphis-area museum as a volunteer student docent. Her experience of working hard and meeting her commitments to the museum laid the groundwork for her UMW experience.
“At Mary Wash, I didn’t wait for anyone to tell me the museum field would be too competitive or too hard to jump into without contacts up here. I just got to it,” said Guthrie, who felt supported and encouraged by Professor of Art History Marjorie Och and others in the department.
At UMW, Guthrie planned out her future – she always wanted a career in museums – while also working hard in the present. She thrived in her classes and was awarded an individual study research grant, which gave her the opportunity study abroad in Paris. Along the way, she illustrated a children’s book and utilized her craft skills in her own business.
“Through all of it, I knew then and know now that I worked hard,” Guthrie said. “I could get to the next thing because I knew that hard work would get me there. Not always perfect. Not always the best. Not always the most money. But incredible satisfaction from the hard work was surely enough.”
Guthrie made her dreams of a museum career come true. After graduation, she landed a year-long position preparing exhibitions for the Mary Washington Galleries before moving on to the Smithsonian Institution. She spent five years there working in various capacities, from public affairs assistant and specialist with the resident associate program, to manager and acting director of public relations with the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition.
She’s worked for the National Gallery of Art for the past 16 years, the last four as the communications chief. She served as senior publicist and deputy press officer before that.
For the graduates, she laid down five rules for their first Monday morning in the workplace:
- Say “thank you.” “You will be judged by your graciousness or lack thereof. It’s a very important gesture.”
- Take notes. “Every meeting I’m in, we’re all taking notes. … This is just a fair warning to you job seekers.”
- Be punctual, but not over-punctual. “Don’t show up too early for a meeting! Five minutes, okay. But more than that, I promise you, the person with whom you’re meeting will be annoyed, irritated and feel robbed of their time.”
- Have empathy. “The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. … In the workplace and in life, you have and will encounter so many different people. Having empathy will help you coexist.”
- Above all, work hard.
“These are your life jackets,” said Guthrie, who explained that these rules, especially the last, have helped her accomplish the goals she has set for herself in life.
“This integrity of mine, rooted in knowing that hard work is critical, is my path to success.”