By Dr. Elizabeth Clarke,
When Mary Robinson came to Louisiana College in 2016, she had already experienced a full lifetime of professional and personal accomplishments—as a teacher, an ordained minister, a mother and grandmother—the Peabody Montessori elementary teacher was happy with the challenges God had placed before her.
But the Lord knew Mary was up for a new challenge.
“My journey was God’s journey,” Mary said. “I enjoyed working with the children, but I heard the call from God to go back to school.”
So that’s exactly what she did at age 67.
Mary, now 72, earned her degree in missions and ministries, with a psychology minor, last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She participated in Saturday’s Louisiana College Commencement Ceremonies.
Mary, who grew up in Shreveport, said she has always had the call of God on her life— becoming ordained at 15 as an evangelist. As an adult, she spent many years living all over, as a military wife, finally settling down in Cenla.
Robinson worked at Pinecrest State Hospital in Pineville for 30 years, 28 as a manager, before retiring in 1998.
Always active in church—the Rose of Sharon Missionary Baptist Church is her current church home—but she has also visited many times at Zion Hill Baptist Church, where LC’s Associate Vice President for Engagement and Enrichment, Dr. Joshua Joy Dara, is head pastor.
“Mary has a positive attitude to self-development,” Dara said. “She loves to talk about the word of God, and she is quick to share her faith with anyone. I was so glad when she came to Louisiana College to further her education. I knew she could do it. She is self-motivated, conscientious and hardworking. Also, she is an enthusiastic learner who seems to enjoy school and going to church. Today, I see the value of the support she provided both in the church and student life. I am so proud of her accomplishment.”
Another of Mary’s life’s passions has been singing.
“I’ve been singing since I was knee-high to a duck,” she said. “I’ve done piano and voice all my life.”
When she came to LC, she said she didn’t see as much diversity as she would like—not necessarily in the student body, but in the types of activities and music that students had available to them. An example, she said, was that students had Chapel Band and Voices, but those didn’t offer a lot of diversity of music.
“I was tired of seeing students standing around like wallflowers,” Robinson said.
I know it wasn’t the kind of music some of the students were used to. I tried to tell them, ‘either way, you need to praise God.’”
Still, Mary believed she could have more of an impact on campus.
“I started singing every morning when I got to campus,” she said. So much so, in fact, that when she was not around, people took notice.
Mary is a 35-year member of the Evangelical Board of Gospel Music Workshop of America, started by James Cleveland in 1968, and now has 150 chapters and 300,000 members.
She went to LC President Rick Brewer about bringing some diversity to campus music.
Robinson smiled when she talked about her involvement in the annual summer workshops held all over the world.
“Dr. Brewer knows all about it,” she said. “And so, we started the LC Gospel Choir.”
Brewer said Mary always encouraged him and everyone she met with her ““And Then Some” attitude and spirit.
“Age is only a number with Mary as she engaged the College’s learning and student life experience beyond the classroom just like a traditional age student,” Brewer said. “She and I share a deep love for ‘Old-School Gospel Music.’ Launching the LC Gospel Choir enabled this passion to become reality. Mary Robinson will ALWAYS be part of the LC “family.”
The Gospel Choir was finally able to hold a concert on campus in February—with social distancing and masks in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic Robinson said one of her other favorite activities at LC was being on the Wildcat Debate Team under the tutelage of Coach Brian Manuel.
“It has been a joy to watch the journey Mary has taken to obtain her degree at LC,” Manuel said.
“I know she will be using her degree to make a kingdom impact for years to come.”
Manuel said Mary’s energy, wit and Christian worldview are only matched by her drive to show others the love of Christ.
“I loved every minute of it, the camaraderie, the learning and discussing different topics,” she said of her time in Debate. “Everything starts with good communication.”
Robinson said she enjoyed all her classes, making special mention of her major adviser Dr. Marvin Jones, and Christian education Professor Dr. Tylitha Whatley.
“Dr. Jones created such a great atmosphere in the classroom,” she said. “Each of us gave a scripture from the Bible. I gave one from Proverbs that says ‘a man who says there is no god is a fool.’”
She said that she and Jones began praying intentionally for a student in the class who identified as an atheist.
“Before the end of the semester, he had become a Christian. We didn’t pressure him. We didn’t force God. God did it.”
Even though her studies at LC are completed, Mary said she still comes to campus occasionally—and still calls and encourages students not to “ever forget God. There is nothing like being in the arms of Jesus.”