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An Enduring Legacy
by Mary Dempsey
 
: Nedenia Dye, MVC ’93, the great granddaughter of Marjorie Merriweather Post and owner/manager of a highly regarded spa on the Honduran island of Roatan, was the featured speaker at WLP History Night. Photo Credit: Rick Reinhard

 

Nedenia Dye says people often look to her for firsthand stories about her great grandmother—business executive, philanthropist, and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. But she was only 7 years old when the family matriarch died.

Still, she has taken cues from her great grandmother’s life, among them a penchant for risk taking and a love of adventure.

“It’s also very important when you have a business to have strong people around you,” said Ms. Dye, MVC ’93, during a lively Women’s Leadership Program presentation on Sept. 27. “My great grandmother did.”

Ms. Dye, who owns and manages a highly regarded spa, Baan Suerte, on the Honduran island of Roatan, described her great grandmother as “ahead of her time” and a strong believer that local community should be supported. Some of Ms. Post’s support was channeled in the direction of Mount Vernon College, the successor to Mount Vernon Seminary where she was enrolled in 1901 at age 14.

In fact, Ms. Dye comes from a long line of Mount Vernon alumnae, including her grandmother, Adelaide Riggs, who attended in 1926, and her mother, Marjorie Dye, MVC ’48.

Indeed, she made her remarks in Post Hall, facing a wall featuring a portrait of her great grandmother in an evening gown and stole.

The history night presentation was set up as a panel Q&A, with four WLP students asking questions. Freshman Megan Mattson wondered what took Ms. Dye to Honduras.

“My friend and I had an idea to start a business,” Ms. Dye recalled. “I wanted to go to Asia but she said ‘No, Central America is closer. If [the business] fails, we can swim home.’”

A decade later, her spa is thriving. She recently launched an effort to help island children with a talent for soccer.

“These are kids with no resources. Their family unit is broken. The kids have to leave school to work,” she explained. Through a friend who owns one of Honduras’ soccer teams, she is financing a project through which the teens are taken in by a team, educated, and trained.

“We now have four kids ‘in the pros’ and another six getting ready,” Ms. Dye said.

Soccer and spas—not quite where she was headed when she studied communications and speech at Mount Vernon College. If she could do it over, she said she might approach her studies differently, but there’s one thing she wouldn’t change: the community she built at college.

In fact, three college friends who lived in Pelham Hall with her accompanied her to the event. The friendship they began at Mount Vernon College remains strong.

“When Nedenia comes to D.C., we always get together,” said Kristen Papademetriou, MVC ’92, who studied in the college’s signature interior design program. Now married, she lives in Arlington, Va., where she has two children in elementary school.

“We’ve been together and helped each other since the first day we met. What I got from Mount Vernon was this community,” Ms. Dye said, indicating her friends. “If I didn’t have the friends I met here, I don’t know what I’d do. They were there for me at the most difficult times, and they’re still there.”

She sparked raucous laughter with stories about hitching pre-dawn rides back to campus on the Washington Post delivery truck following parties and with her reference to being on the “seven-year plan” because of her indecision about what and where to study.

Freshman Amelia Williams, a member of the WLP’s international politics cohort and one of the four students selected to ask questions, said she was happily surprised by Ms. Dye’s sense of humor.

“I think you expect women who are business leaders to lead serious lives. It was nice to see she’s having fun,” said the native of Austin, Texas.

Ms. Dye’s great grandmother was only 27 when she inherited the cereal company that would eventually become General Foods Inc. She was known for her philanthropy and interest in art and architecture. In a multimedia presentation about Mount Vernon preceding Ms. Dye’s remarks, Robin Delaloye manager of strategic planning for GW Libraries, said Ms. Post’s financial support rescued Mount Vernon College on several occasions.