Mama Said: Ahead of Mother’s Day, UVA Folks Reflect on Their Moms’ Best Advice

May 5, 2022 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

While there are those who believe relegating the celebration of mom to just one day doesn’t fully do her justice, millions of Americans nevertheless will honor the tradition this weekend.

UVA Today reached out to several folks at the University of the Virginia in the days leading up to Mother’s Day with a simple question: “What was the best advice your mother ever gave you?”

Their sage advice profoundly shaped who these people are today. Perhaps it can inspire you too.

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Malo Hutson

Dean and Edward E. Elson Professor at the School of Architecture

My two younger sisters and I were raised by a single mother who worked nights as a nurse. Not surprisingly, she embodied the characteristics and qualities of so many who are in the nursing profession – deep empathy, a commitment to advocacy on behalf of others, and caring for the well-being of all. I believe that these qualities, coupled with her lived experience as a Black woman who both witnessed and faced structural inequities in her life, are some of the reasons why my mother impressed upon me the power and purpose of giving back. She always stressed the importance of education as a conduit for making a positive impact in the world. I have focused my career on addressing the challenges of health, well-being and equity, in the built environment and in higher education, because my mother taught me the value of advocating for, caring for and lifting others through our contributions to society.

Theresa Carroll

School of Nursing Senior Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Services

A portrait of Theresa Carroll, and a photo of her smiling in a wedding dress, with her mother's face resting on her temple.

My mama taught me that love is unconditional, not by saying it out loud, but by showing it. Mama believed we could do anything, and no matter what we did, she would be proud. She encouraged me, my siblings, even my daddy, to pursue our dreams. She didn’t put any restrictions or rules on her love or her approval. When I talk about providing holistic support to students, that is where it comes from for me. Being there for my students. Ensuring them they belong here. Celebrating when they achieve, but providing the tissues and open heart when they fail. I learned that from my mama, and I try to practice it every single day.

Ian Solomon

Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy Dean and Professor of Practice of Public Policy

A black and white photo of Solomon as a child with his mother, and a modern photo of the two

My mom was an artist. She was a painter. She was always painting my whole life. She ended up dying in 2016 after three years of battling ovarian cancer. I used to visit her down in Florida. Nothing brought her more joy than teaching painting in her garden and having people come over and paint. In the beginning, she could still paint along with them. By the end, she couldn’t do very much, but she still loved having people come over to paint. So, I would come down and paint. I actually gave a whole commencement address about her painting lessons at the University of Chicago. We would go for a long walks on the beach near her house. We talked about painting. We talked about life, we talked about spirituality, many things. One of her pieces of advice to me during one of these walks along the beach was that you have to be the artist of your own life, and you have to paint the canvas of your life. To me, that was kind of really profound and valuable and I’ve taught classes on that.

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Sara O’Leary

Head Coach, Women’s Tennis

My mom has given me a lot of great advice over the years, but one thing that she always tells me is to have faith and try not to worry. Always do your best and know that God is in control. Have faith in the work you have put in and trust that God has a plan. 

I love this advice and know it is so true. I still have a tendency to worry, but I am working on it! I love the quote, “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace.” I know my mom just wants me to be happy and allow myself to enjoy each and every day. She doesn’t want me to worry about things outside of my control, and she’s right, so I try and enjoy the day, focus on things I can control and trust in the plan God has for me. I am grateful for my mom – everything she has done for me and her wise words!

Siva Vaidhyanathan

Robertson Professor of Media Studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship

My mother, Virginia Vaidhyanathan, taught me to embrace the foreign, the different and the challenging. She held my hand as we explored Europe from Amsterdam to Istanbul and flew from Italy to India. We rode camels, horses and elephants together. The best advice she ever gave me was to say “yes” to adventure on the way to becoming a citizen of the world. 

Robyn Hadley

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer

The best and most consistent advice my mom gave my brothers and me was to be kind and to be helpful. One, it was the right thing to do. And two, there would be some days when things didn’t always go right for you, and you would hope someone would be kind and helpful to you. Thanks, Mom.

Jim Ryan

President

Two words: “Marry Katie!”

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications