New University Chaplain Is Finding Creative Ways To Offer Religious And Spiritual Services During COVID-19

With the COVID-19 pandemic, a shaky economy, and an impending election, to say that 2020 has been a stressful year for many would likely be an understatement. Catina G. Martin, Hollins’ new chaplain and director of spiritual and religious life, certainly understands that. Having just started at the university on August 10, not only is Martin still adjusting to her first academic chaplaincy (she previously worked as a grief counselor and bereavement coordinator with Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care), but she’s also had to figure out how to provide religious/spiritual guidance to up to 600-plus students of all faiths and backgrounds in what has been arguably one of the most challenging semesters in recent memory.

“I feel for the students, especially the incoming first-years, who were hoping to have a more typical college experience this fall,” said Martin about some of the students she’s been chatting with on campus. “As a chaplain, my first call to service is to get to know the students along with the culture and the climate at Hollins, because when [the students] leave here, for most of them they’re going to enter the workforce. So it’s very important that I help them find all the spiritual and religious resources that they’re interested in while they’re here.”

Born and raised in nearby Fieldale, Virginia, and ordained through the Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Martin’s responsibilities as Hollins’ new chaplain include everything from providing religious and spiritual resources to advising a number of student-run, religious organizations and clubs (such as the Muslim Student Association, the Jewish Student Association, and Better Together, an interfaith group). Martin said that the underlying goal is caring for the students spiritually and religiously. “I especially want to help those who’ve left a specific religious community back at home that was really instrumental in their life. My job is to keep them connected to a community here on campus or by providing resources online.”

Although COVID has obviously limited events and activities on campus, Martin hasn’t let the pandemic get in the way (too much) of the in-person component of her mission. In fact, every Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Martin hosts a masked and distanced interfaith “Sanctuary” time in duPont Chapel. Martin described Sanctuary as “renewal for our spirits and rest for our souls,” and said that all students, even the nonreligious, are welcome. “It doesn’t have a main religious component,” she explained, “but it is rather spiritual as we are turning inside and letting go of things that are causing us great anxiety, [and] meditating and making space for gratefulness for things we’re able to share and enjoy.”

In addition to the Tuesday Sanctuary services, Martin along with the student group Better Together hosted on October 18 a socially distanced get-together called “Positive Vibes.” The event included free snacks and button making, as well as an hour starting at 4 p.m. for club presidents and other students to speak on the theme of positivity. Martin noted, “It was a time to put some positivity in the air for our Hollins community, for our new president, and for everything that is happening in our world.”

As for the online portion of her chaplaincy, Martin added a virtual component to the university’s guide to religious communities in the Roanoke Valley, providing clickable links to connect students to local faith-based communities that offer virtual services and other offerings. Martin’s also been periodically hosting live “mini” Sanctuary services—10-to-15-minute refreshers or inspirers— on the Facebook page for the Hollins University Chapel and Office of Spiritual and Religious Life. Martin plans to do more of these social media meditations and services during the upcoming J-Term, which has been suspended this year due to the ongoing pandemic.

Martin already has quite a bit of experience helping people through difficult times. She completed her first unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, while at the same time working as a volunteer coordinator for Carilion Hospice of Franklin County. In August of last year, Martin completed her two-year chaplaincy residency at The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital and Trauma Center in Greensboro, North Carolina. As for the recent move over to academia, Martin said that being a university chaplain has been “like a dream. I’m so grateful for life and to be here and to be a part of these students’ paths. I’ve learned so much already.”

Regarding the future of spiritual and religious life on campus (i.e. post-COVID), Martin wants to focus on inclusivity of all faiths and even non-faiths—that includes gathering outdoors and in places that are not thought of as traditional religious spaces. “I’ve had conversations with students who profess to be atheists or agnostic just so I can get close to them and see what they think about love and life and God,” said Martin. “I love having those conversations because it means we can find common ground, even if we have differences.”

Martin’s other big goal as Hollins’ new chaplain will be encouraging students to embrace and appreciate those differences and diversities. This, she believes, is key to creating a loving and healthy spiritual community on campus. “My heart is for us to know that we are one big family. We have a lot of similarities, but our differences are what make us so special and valuable both to the campus and [to] the bigger world. We want our students to appreciate those differences both in themselves and in each other.”


Jeff Dingler is a graduate assistant in Hollins’ marketing and communications department. He is pursuing his M.F.A. in creative writing at the university.

Moving “Carefully Onward,” Hollins Reopens for Fall Term

Continuing through August 29, Hollins University is welcoming new and returning students back to campus under the theme “Carefully Onward” as part of the school’s comprehensive plan to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation of this plan is a Culture of Care, in which students, faculty, and staff pledge to approach the challenges of this fall with a renewed focus on mutual accountability and collective responsibility to protect one another and mitigate the spread of the disease.

“Our Culture of Care is an explicit articulation of the ideals we have long valued: dwelling in community, caring for one another, and acting with integrity,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton.

Based on guidance from epidemiologists at the Virginia Department of Health, Hollins advised new and returning students to self-quarantine for 14 days before coming to campus. Upon arriving for move-in, all residential students will be tested, and test results will be received within 48 hours. The campus community will undergo randomized weekly testing within the population throughout the fall term.

“Given current COVID-19 trends in the region and our ability to develop a strong partnership with CoVerify Health, we will conduct ongoing, comprehensive COVID-19 testing as part of our Carefully Onward reopening plan,” Hinton said. “Providing this added measure will enable us to continue to be proactive in our efforts to support the health and well-being of the community and provide greater peace of mind to many of our students and their parents as well as faculty and staff.”

Hinton emphasized that the testing initiative in no way diminishes the significance of the  Culture of Care philosophy as the pillar of a successful fall semester at Hollins. “The university has implemented a phased move-in schedule and extended the number of days students may return in order to follow the recommended six-foot physical distancing in buildings,” she explained. “Moving forward, all community members are expected to complete a daily self-monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms, including a duty to report if you have symptoms, feel ill, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Proper hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing, and wearing face masks, both indoors and outside, are the most important steps in supporting campus health and well-being, while testing will enable us to identify disease transmission.”

Fall Term classes begin at Hollins on August 31. The university is making returning to campus fully optional for students and faculty; those who are not comfortable with an in-person learning environment can choose to learn remotely for the semester.

President Hinton Updates the Campus Community on Fall Reopening Plans

Dear Hollins community,

We hear you.

Thank you to the 659 members of our community who completed our recent survey about our reopening plan, and for sharing your feedback and ideas. Words such as “excited,” “anxious,” “hopeful,” and “concerned” resonated throughout your responses, and we are right there with you in experiencing these feelings.

We are also very grateful to those faculty, staff, administrators, and SGA leaders who took the time to talk with us about the plan. We shared the various scenarios we face and discussed two key questions:

  • How do we deliver the best Hollins experience we can given the current constraints and changing landscape?
  • What resources or support could be provided to enhance your comfort level with a face-to-face, on-campus semester?

What came through clearly in both the survey and in our conversations was that while a vast majority desires to be together in the fall, our community also wants greater individual flexibility in how they might receive their education and deliver their courses in the fall term.

To be clear, we remain fully committed to providing the best on-campus, in-person learning environment we can offer, given the conditions, for those who want it. That said, we are also exploring ways we can honor individual students’ and faculty members’ interest in greater flexibility and learning online, and to provide the best experience possible for them in that environment. Likewise, we aim to be responsive to the concerns of staff, and are exploring ways to accommodate the needs of our employees. Please understand that there will be inevitable and necessary trade-offs in our efforts to address the interest in expanded flexibility. You will receive additional information once changes made in this regard are finalized. We ask for your patience and grace as we navigate this space.

The desire for safety is one shared by all of us in the community. We want to be together and remain physically healthy, and we need to have our emotional and social needs met as well. A healthy campus can only be achieved if we ALL commit to doing it together. If, as our survey results suggest, 10 percent of us ignore these guidelines, this effort will fail.

No president, cabinet, faculty, student, or other individual or single group can assure everyone’s health and well-being without the support and effort of us all. In a sea of unknowns, what we do know is that we have to make our communal health our top priority. In order to be on campus, we have to prioritize mutual accountability and responsibility for our communal well-being. To that end, the Culture of Care commitment is forthcoming and will need to be signed by all within our campus community. Our togetherness depends on our ability and commitment to keep one another well. Every action counts and matters.

While we continue to move toward a more flexible reopening, the reopening plan continues to be dynamic and ever evolving in response to the pandemic. That is an essential part of our work. We were asked several times in our meetings to be as transparent as possible, and to communicate about these matters regularly. As such, you will receive weekly updates so that you are aware of our actions, and updates will continue being made regularly to our Carefully Onward reopening site.

We also heard a desire to understand not only the decisions we are making, but why we are making them. We have updated our FAQ at Carefully Onward to outline the rationale behind some of our decisions. We share this in order to be transparent and to help our community members make informed decisions.

I want to end by sharing the point made quite often in our conversations: We want our students back on campus. We want the campus enlivened with your energy and voices. We think it is especially important for our first-year students to come to campus and be engaged with the Hollins experience. We also want to honor the concerns of all in our community, even as it is clear how varied – and sometimes in respectful opposition – those concerns might be.

In this time of uncertainty, what I do know with absolute certainty is that we can only be together if we work together. With this pandemic, we are only as strong as the community member least interested in our collective health and safety. We heard as much from many of you – faculty, staff, administrators, and students – who mentioned “consequences” and “enforcement” as it relates to the Culture of Care. As such, we will be sharing next week our Culture of Care conduct expectations and outcomes for noncompliance.

We fully believe in this community and what it can be if we unite in committing to a Culture of Care to look out for and protect one another.


Mary Dana Hinton
Hollins University

Committed To “A Culture Of Care,” Hollins Announces Plans To Reopen This Fall

Hollins University has announced plans to reopen as a residential campus this fall, starting classes on August 31 and ending in-person instruction on November 20, the Friday before Thanksgiving.

After Thanksgiving, there will be one more week of remote instruction (November 30 – December 4), followed by Reading Day (December 5) and five days of virtual exams and projects (December 6 – 10). The last day of fall term will be December 10. The change in the calendar allows students to leave campus before Thanksgiving and not return until the university’s January Short Term begins.

Fall Break, originally scheduled for October 15 – 16, has been cancelled, and classes will take place during that period.

“Over the last several weeks, President-elect Mary Dana Hinton and I, along with members of our faculty, staff, and administration, have been assessing the evolving public health situation, studying guidance for higher education from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health, and planning for the coming year,” said Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray.

She stated that Hollins “will adapt our ways of learning, living, and working in order to protect the health and well-being for all. For example, in most cases, classes will be limited to 25 persons, and there will be changes to campus dining. Informed by guidance from the CDC and the Virginia Department of Health, students will be tested for COVID-19 by Student Health if they are symptomatic or have been in contact with someone who is confirmed to have tested positive. If the test is positive, the Virginia Department of Health will initiate contact tracing.”

Gray added that everyone on campus will be required to wear facial coverings when indoors in the presence of one or more people, and maintain a physical distance of six feet from others. “Further, we will introduce more rigorous building cleaning and sanitation protocols, reconfigure some offices, and adjust teaching spaces in order to abide by the six-foot physical distancing requirements.

“We are committed to a culture of care, and as members of the Hollins community, we share a mutual responsibility to adhere to health and wellness guidelines.”

Noting that the university will keep students, faculty, and staff informed throughout the summer as additional plans and guidelines are finalized, Gray said, “We are considering not only the present situation, but also the very real possibility that dramatic changes in the trajectory of the coronavirus may require changes in our plans. Even though we place a very high priority on learning in a residential community, we must remain flexible in response to changing public health conditions and local, state, and federal guidance.”

Additional information on Hollins’ plans to reopen this fall can be found at

President-Elect Hinton Joins Higher Ed. Leaders, New York Times Magazine to Discuss College This Fall

President-elect Mary Dana Hinton is among the higher education leaders brought together this week by The New York Times Magazine to consider “What Will College Be Like in the Fall?”

In her introduction to the discussion, Staff Writer Emily Bazelton notes the challenges colleges and universities face as the coronavirus remains a global threat this fall and winter. “On one side of the ledger are the health risks of density if students return to the dorms and classrooms and facilities….On the other side are disruption and derailment, concern about the isolation of online learning and economic loss for institutions, college towns and regions.”

Bazelton asks, “As colleges and universities make decisions now about their operations over the next academic year, what are the conditions for trying to reopen campuses? If students return, what changes to college life will be needed to contain and suppress the virus?”

Hinton and five other panelists explore “the new realities of life on campus in the midst of a pandemic,” and address specifically the following questions:

  • “If Schools Reopen, What Will Campus Life Look Like?”
  • “What About Working on Campus?”
  • “What Will Learning Be Like?”

Hinton believes reopening Hollins “will be a time of mutual accountability and collective responsibility for the well-being of one another. Healing and the safe re-establishment of community has to be the priority for student life on campus. The community has to collaborate.”

The president-elect goes on to highlight the distinction that “for students whom we want to have social and economic mobility, it’s not just the transactional part of education that matters. It’s the transformational component. And we hear from our students that the development of critical thinking, problem solving and leadership skills – skills that are so important in this search for equity and mobility – happen within and outside the classroom. Being together, being seen and heard, really matters. Also, for some of our students, they need the housing, they need food, they need safety, they need to be in community.”

Joining Hinton in the discussion are Carlos Aramayo, president of the Boston chapter (Local 26) of the union UNITE HERE, which represents dining hall staff members at colleges and universities; Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University and a physician; Richard Levin, former president of Yale University and an economist; David Wall Rice, a psychology professor and associate provost at Morehouse College; and Pardis Sabeti, a biology professor at Harvard University and a member of the Broad Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 

“I Found My Heart at Hollins”: President-Elect Hinton Shares How the Campus Community Is Already Inspiring Her

As she prepares to take office in August as Hollins University’s 13th president, Mary Dana Hinton declared that “the potential of Hollins feels unlimited” and that she is ready to “lock arms” with students, faculty, staff, and alumnae “and journey together into the future.”

The comments highlighted a wide-ranging video conversation between President-elect Hinton and Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray that was produced for Hollins’ annual Reunion celebration, May 29-31. Recognizing all classes ending in zero or five, and the class of 2018, “Virtual Reunion 2020” was held remotely this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the classes’ in-person reunion postponed until summer 2021. The virtual event welcomed all alumnae to view a variety of online videos at their own time or during remote watch parties. Alumnae were also encouraged to use this time to reconnect with classmates and their Hollins roots.

Hinton noted that her passion for women’s education began during her high school years when she attended Saint Mary’s School, an all-girls school in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I learned about the power of women’s voices and about the importance of women supporting women. Having experienced an all-women’s education helped make me a leader. That realization has only heightened over the past six years as I have led a college for women.” Hinton comes to Hollins after serving as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota.

Describing Hollins’ mission as “a perfect fit” for her, Hinton praised the university for being “steadfast over time in its commitment to women’s education. When I look at the fact that our undergraduate program is centered around developing women’s voices and leadership, that speaks to the deepest part of my personal and professional being. One of my favorite new phrases is, ‘I found my heart at Hollins.’ I love the fact that the women of Hollins are fiercely intelligent, unapologetically ambitious, and incredibly generous.”

Hinton identified several key priorities for her first year in office and said the most important goal for her as a leader will be to learn the university’s culture. “You do that by being present and getting to know all of the stakeholders and constituents. As I’m listening and learning, we need to make sure we are creating an environment of innovation where we explore new ideas and work toward becoming the institution we want to be. I view this first year as centered around building a shared, aspirational future, and recognizing that future will involve investments in new programs, sustaining or perhaps expanding existing programs, focusing on our financial sustainability, and working on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The president-elect emphasized her confidence that Hollins “will persevere through the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side. We cannot allow COVID to define who we are as an institution. We have to be even more creative, forward-looking, and determined. It will demand more of and more from each of us, and I think we are up to the challenge. We will stand up and proclaim the value of who we are and what we do.”

Gray lauded Hinton for her “bold, clear-headed, ambitious commitment to elevating Hollins,” and in turn, Hinton cited how honored she felt “to inherit the legacy” of Gray, who was the university’s 11th president from 2005 to 2017 and served as interim president during the 2019-20 academic year.

“The world needs the women we serve at Hollins: Women of consequence, women of passion and determination, women of influence.” Hinton said. “It is at this moment that we choose transformation over transaction, hope over hurt, future over fear. And, it is at this moment that we journey forth – sisters, leaders, and friends – as we lift our eyes and see all that is before us, and with gratitude to our past, we move forward.”

Watch the complete conversation with President-elect Hinton and Interim President Gray.




“We Journey Together with Purpose and Hope”: Hollins Welcomes President-Elect Hinton to Campus

Hollins University President-elect Mary Dana Hinton proclaimed, “I want to hear your hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions. I will hold them in my mind, and even more so, gently in my heart,” during her first address to the campus community on February 21.

Hinton, who currently serves as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota, was named the university’s 13th president on February 13. She was greeted with a standing ovation by an audience of students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and members of the Board of Trustees as she entered the Hollins Theatre, accompanied by Board of Trustees Chair Alexandra Trower ’86 and Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray.

“Mary is warm. She cares. She is interested in everything you have to say,” noted Trower during her introduction of Hinton. “She embodies the heart and soul of our beloved institution.”

Gray remembered meeting Hinton for the first time at a meeting of independent college presidents in January 2019. “I was so impressed with her depth, her insight, and her understanding….It became increasingly clear what a collaborative leader she is. It will be a huge honor for me to share the title ‘Hollins President’ with her.” Gray was Hollins’ 11th president from 2005 to 2017 and returned as the university’s interim leader for the 2019-20 academic year.

Mary Dana Hinton
“Together, we will create a collective vision.” President-elect Mary Dana Hinton spoke for the first time to the Hollins community on Feb. 21.

In her remarks, Hinton recalled growing up in the small, rural community of Kittrell, North Carolina, located approximately 150 miles southeast of the Hollins campus. Despite her family’s economic challenges, she said her mother always told her that “we had much more than other people. While that argument could not be made regarding material possessions, she always said, ‘Because you are able to think clearly, you have an obligation to give back to others.’ I didn’t know how that would unfold and I certainly never envisioned leadership at this level.”

Hinton said two factors changed her life. “I had a group of people who believed in me and told me I could be something. And, most importantly, I was able to access an education. A liberal arts education. I am not being hyperbolic when I say that the liberal arts saved my life. I have shared many times that there is not a single doubt in my mind that had I not been exposed to the liberal arts, I would not be here today. Yes, I learned how to think and how to deconstruct and reconstruct knowledge. But even more, a liberal arts education is about our relationships with learning and with people.”

Hinton credits a former teacher with giving her the confidence to “do anything. She saw beyond my poverty, my complete lack of social capital, and my insecurity. She was willing to see my humanity and insist that the great values of the liberal arts tradition could change the trajectory of my life.”

The transformative effect brought about by her education, and the ability to impact the lives of others, “are what drive my commitment to the mission of Hollins University,” Hinton stated.

The president-elect emphasized that it is essential for the campus community to work cooperatively in providing a distinctive experience for students in a way that is sustainable but also takes advantage of the university’s strengths. Referencing the opportunity for mission-driven growth first cited by Bessie Carter Randolph during her presidency from 1933 to 1950, Hinton said, “We will be unflinching in our faith to our long-run task as we seek new opportunities for our shared success. We will determine, as a community, what cannot be compromised. We will create space for that which may be new and invigorating.”

Hinton called for creating together a collective vision that “will transform and inspire us. In that ultimate vision, I won’t see my entire reflection. Likewise, when you look at it, you may or may not see your full reflection, either. But, if we look closely, if we look at the values articulated, the strategies indicated, and the ways in which we will measure ourselves, I feel confident that we will see one another.

“Developing this vision will require active engagement, the nurturing of trust and confidence, and working with a sense of urgency balanced with a sense of thoughtful deliberation. It will require us to be open and invite change, while maintaining the soul of who we are. It will require we journey together with purpose and hope.”

Hinton concluded her remarks by invoking the spirit of Levavi Oculos, the university motto, which is taken from Psalm 121.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills for you. I will lift up my eyes to the hills with you. I will lift up my eyes to the hills because of you.”

Hinton officially takes office as Hollins’ next president on August 1.


Watch President-elect Hinton’s address in its entirety.

In this interview with Roanoke’s News 7 (WDBJ-TV), President-elect Hinton talks about her eagerness to spend time with faculty, staff, and most of all, students. 








Hollins Names Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D., as New President

Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, announced the selection of Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D., as the school’s next president in this letter to students, faculty, staff, and alumnae on February 13, 2020.

Hollins University has announced that Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D.,  president of the College of Saint Benedict (Saint Ben’s) in St. Joseph, Minnesota, will become the school’s next president. She officially takes office on August 1.

“I am overjoyed to be named the 13th president of Hollins University,” said Hinton, a North Carolina native who has served as president of Saint Ben’s since July 2014. “Hollins’ steadfast commitment to the education of women, its grand ambitions for the future, and the strong desire to not only be an inclusive leader in women’s education but a higher education innovator reflects the incredible vision and enormous potential of the university.  I am grateful for the opportunity to, alongside the Hollins board, faculty, staff, alumnae, and, of course, the outstanding student body, envision and work toward an incredibly bright future.”

During Hinton’s tenure at Saint Ben’s, she was successful in elevating the national profile and voice of the college as a thought leader in higher education, specifically in the liberal arts and women’s leadership development. Saint Ben’s, which enrolls approximately 1,700 undergraduate women, is ranked in the top 100 liberal arts schools by U.S. News and World Report.

Hinton guided the collaborative development of a strategic plan, the first in the college’s history, which emphasized Saint Ben’s many strengths, such as the holistic and transformational advancement of women. Through a collective process, Hinton implemented Saint Ben’s vision to provide a liberal arts education preparing women to think critically, lead courageously, and advocate passionately, while working to increase and institutionalize diversity and inclusion efforts on campus. She  also led the process to implement a $43 million campus buildings update, enabling the college to provide premier facilities for teaching, learning, and promoting women’s leadership.

Another highlight of her presidency was the completion of a $100 million comprehensive fundraising campaign, raising $105.4 million as of January 2020. The campaign is the biggest in the school’s history and includes the two largest gifts ever to the college. Saint Ben’s endowment has increased by 46 percent under her leadership and its annual fund grew by 24 percent.

“President Hinton’s leadership experience prepares her perfectly to lead Hollins,” said Alexandra Trower, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees. “We hoped to find a candidate who was a sitting president, who was passionate about women’s education and the liberal arts, and who was excited about building the trust and collective effort needed to support new programs for Hollins’ future. We found all of that, and we also found a remarkable woman.”

“Evident throughout her tenure is President Hinton’s heart for educating women, and she has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to envision a future and motivate others toward that vision,” added Susan Rudolph, OSB, prioress of Saint Benedict’s Monastery. “Similar to Saint Ben’s, Hollins is a private women’s college whose mission is to nurture civility, integrity, and concern for others. Mary’s educational standards call others to be their best. We have been gifted by her presence and by the wonderful insights that have become guiding lights.”

Prior to her role with Saint Ben’s, Hinton served as vice president for academic affairs at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York, and previously was associate vice president of academic affairs at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. A recognized leader in higher education nationally, she is a member of the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges. She holds a Ph.D. in religion and religious education with high honors from Fordham University, a Master of Arts degree in clinical child psychology from the University of Kansas, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Williams College. Williams awarded Hinton its Bicentennial Medal, which honors members of the Williams community for distinguished achievement.

“President Hinton is simply a gem,” Trower said. “She exudes competency and strength, with a quiet dignity. She is eloquent and warm. She’s sophisticated and yet down-to-earth. She is so thoughtful about students and optimistic about the opportunities Hollins can seize. She is simply a person you want to be around.”

Hinton and her husband, Robert Williams, have three children. Her mother resides in Clarksville, Virginia.

Hollins will welcome Hinton to campus on Friday, February 21, to meet with students, faculty, and staff.

Founded in 1842 as Virginia’s first chartered women’s college, Hollins is an independent liberal arts university providing undergraduate education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. In addition to 29 undergraduate majors and eight coeducational graduate programs, including a nationally recognized creative writing program, the university offers extensive career preparation, study abroad, and undergraduate research opportunities as well as the innovative Batten Leadership Institute, which challenges both students and professionals to be better leaders.


Nancy Oliver Gray Returns to Hollins as Interim President

Hollins University has announced that President Emerita Nancy Oliver Gray has been named the school’s interim president for the 2019-20 academic year, beginning August 12.

Gray, who was president of Hollins from 2005 to 2017, will serve in that capacity while the University conducts the search for a new president to succeed Pareena Lawrence, who resigned as president effective June 30.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to benefit from Nancy’s leadership and institutional knowledge during this time of transition,” said Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins Board of Trustees. “She left an indelible mark on our campus as Hollins’ 11th president.”

Among her many achievements, Trower noted that Gray “facilitated innovations in our undergraduate and graduate programs, oversaw major campus renovations and improvements, masterfully managed the University’s budget, and spearheaded the largest fundraising campaign in Hollins’ history and doubled the size of the endowment.”

Since her retirement two years ago, Gray has been a senior consultant at Gonser Gerber, where she helps colleges, universities, secondary schools, and other non-profit organizations nationally with institutional leadership and advancement. She will continue this work while assuming her new role at Hollins.

“When the Board of Trustees approached me to serve as interim president, I knew I had a responsibility to return to this special place and community during this time of presidential transition,” Gray stated. “I will do all I can to help the University move forward as the search for the 13th president of Hollins is conducted.”

In a message to the Hollins community, Trower said that Gray’s responsibilities as interim president “will be focused on ensuring that we have a smooth and successful leadership transition,” and that Gray will also play an important role in the presidential search process.

“With Nancy’s help and with the support of Hollins’ strong bench of senior leaders,” Trower concluded, “I can say with confidence that Hollins will remain the university of choice for the leaders, decision makers, and cultural shapers of tomorrow.”

An Important Message from the Board of Trustees to the Hollins Community

Alexandra Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, has shared the following announcement with students, faculty, and staff:


Dear members of the Hollins Community,

I am writing on behalf of the Board of Trustees to share with you the news that President Pareena Lawrence has decided to step down from her position to pursue her long-standing interest in international education and development.

We offer our sincere thanks to President Lawrence for her dedicated service and contributions to the University. Over the past two years she spearheaded important innovations to our academic and co-curricular programs while championing new institutional partnerships. We are appreciative of her efforts to help develop a new strategic plan for the University and to launch the new Apartment Village that will serve generations of students. We also thank her for her enthusiasm for our mission of educating women to live lives of consequence.

Very shortly, the Board of Trustees will announce an interim president, and over the summer we will appoint the Presidential Search Committee. In the meantime, we are fortunate that Hollins has a strong bench of senior leaders who are well prepared to oversee the University during this transition.

I wanted to deliver this news to you directly and assure you that our dedicated leadership will make this a smooth and successful transition. While change is never easy, Hollins’ future is bright, and I am confident that we will grow even stronger during this process.


Alexandra Trower, Class of 1986
Chair of the Board of Trustees