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Simurda Appointed First Woman University Marshal at W&L

University Marshal Maryanne Simurda flanked by journalism professor Brian Richardson, the former marshal, right, and history professor Holt Merchant.
University Marshal Maryanne Simurda flanked by journalism professor Brian Richardson, the former marshal, right, and history professor Holt Merchant.
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Sarah Tschiggfrie
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When students and faculty met for Fall Convocation at Washington and Lee University on September 9, few would have given much thought to the nuts and bolts work necessary to prepare for the ceremony.

Yet, behind all the regalia, processions and speeches, mundane things such as wiping off the chairs after it rained are just part of the work coordinated by the office of the university marshal.

Maryanne Simurda, professor of biology, and the newly appointed university marshal, is the first woman to hold the position. A 20-year veteran of W&L, she was recently appointed for a five-year period by W&L President Ken Ruscio. The University Marshal coordinates the planning of the public ceremonies of the University: Fall Convocation, Founders' Day, the Law School Commencement, the Undergraduate Baccalaureate and Commencement.

"It's definitely an honor to be asked to serve as the university marshal," she said.

Simurda had previously served on the public functions committee for nine years under then University Marshal Holt Merchant, professor of history, so she was familiar with what happens on ceremonial days.

"But I was not as familiar with all the background work that needs to be done in order to make the public ceremonies happen," she explained. The background work includes coordinating all the people and departments involved in making the five public ceremonies of the university happen smoothly - from the Facilities Management people who arrange the stage and seating, to the Catering Service who prepares and arranges the food, to the University Safety who watches security and parking.

"There are a lot of different groups of people on campus who are coordinated through the university marshal's position," Simurda said. "My right hand in all this is Barbara Mollica, director of special events, and she is wonderful."

Simurda said that fortunately all the people involved are very professional and competent. "They have had a lot of practice with this, and know what to do, which makes my job a breeze," she said.

Indeed, President Ruscio acknowledged all the behind-the-scenes work necessary when he announced that he was grateful that Simurda had accepted the appointment, saying "It is a burdensome job in ways not always recognized."

Brian Richardson, professor of journalism and mass communication, is the previous university marshal, holding the position for four years. "Working with the wonderful faculty and staff who make our public events possible has been one of the highlights of my 40-year association with Washington and Lee," he said. "I will really miss that."

"I'm delighted that Maryanne has been chosen to succeed me," he added. "She is a distinguished colleague and a caring human being who is in for a rare privilege and a singular treat."