Chrissy Gregg Baynham ’09 ~ Art, History, and WWII
After visiting 15 different universities and applying to ten schools, it took a trip to Europe and meeting Spring Hill alumnus Fr. Mark Lewis, S.J. ’80, for Chrissy Gregg Baynham ’09 to find the perfect college fit.
“During my senior year of high school, John Carroll University—where my mother works—arranged a trip to Italy for faculty, staff, and their families,” says Baynham. “One of the faculty chaperones was Fr. Mark Lewis, S.J. During our stay, I told him couldn’t make up my mind about where to attend school. He immediately suggested that I look at Spring Hill.”
Several weeks after returning home to University Heights, Ohio, Baynham applied to SHC. Once accepted, Baynham promptly enrolled—sight unseen. When Fr. Lewis returned to Spring Hill College the very next year to teach, Baynham’s courses included History 101—Western Civilization—taught by Fr. Lewis.
“Classes with Fr. Lewis opened up a new major for me, fostered my curiosity and passion for history, pushed me out of my comfort zone, and eventually set me on my career path,” says Baynham. “I started off as an art major, but ended up with a double major in art and history, and added a minor in graphic design.”
As she worked her way toward graduation, Baynham found herself thoroughly impressed with the Spring Hill College faculty. In particular, Baynham appreciated her instructors’ dedication willingness to work with outside the classroom.
“The guidance they provided and the effort they made to go the extra mile really fueled my interests and eagerness to learn,” says Baynham. “I really enjoyed courses with Janden Richards, Tom Ward, Patricia Harrison, and Stephen Wilson. And my classes with Wanda Sullivan were quite formative. She provides great constructive critiques, and a tremendous amount of nurturing and encouragement.”
Baynham also found encouragement and support from the many friendships made at Spring Hill College. Being more than 950 miles from home, Baynham says this was particularly important, especially her freshman year.
“The relationships fostered at Spring Hill shaped who I am today,” says Baynham. “My close group of friends were all somehow placed on the same floor in Walsh Hall and bonded pretty quickly from there. Then, the first week of freshman year, Hurricane Katrina struck. My roommate, Emily Wells, and her parents took me in for a week up in northern Alabama. We barely knew each other, but after that, we were best friends.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Baynham pondered transferring to another school or going back home and attending Ohio State, but she stayed at SHC because of her parents’ encouragement.
“I can’t tell you how glad I am that I stuck with it,” says Baynham. “I can’t imagine the life I would’ve had if I left Spring Hill. I’m proud of the different path I’ve carved out, and how it has influenced my life now. Back in high school, I never thought I’d end up in Mobile or living in New Orleans, but I’m thrilled it happened this way and wouldn’t change it for anything.”
After graduation from Spring Hill College, Baynham went on to earn her Master of Arts degree in Museum Studies from Indiana University in 2011. She now works for The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, as a virtual classroom coordinator.
“I manage the distance learning program the museum conducts with students nationally,” says Baynham. “I facilitate and present virtual field trips, large-scale webinars, and Skype programs with students from across the country. It’s a lot of fun because I talk to a new class almost every single day. I also get to keep up to date on the latest educational technology.”
Last year, Baynham and a colleague curated a special exhibit on Allied propaganda from WWII. She also had the opportunity to present a large-scale student webinar about the Allied effort to recover lost and stolen art during WWII with author of The Monuments Men, Robert Edsel.
“My history senior seminar paper at SHC was actually about the saving of art and artifacts in Italy looted by Nazi Germany,” says Baynham. “It was a pretty surreal moment to have the chance to revisit and present on something I studied so intensely with one of the authors who brought the topic into the spotlight.”
Baynham is married to her Spring Hill College sweetheart, Jonathan ’09, a theology and philosophy major. Jonathan teaches high school theology and is a department chair at Ursuline Academy in New Orleans. The couple returned to Mobile in April to join friends and fellow alumni for SHC’s 2014 Homecoming on the Hill.
“After being away from campus for a while, I think I took for granted the beautiful oak trees and azalea bushes that I was surrounded by for four years,” says Baynham. “Coming back for our five-year reunion a few months ago reminded how lucky we were to spend time at such a beautiful place.”