“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

Gift To Wilson Museum’s Permanent Collection Honors Hollins Staff Member

An anonymous donor has made possible a gift to the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum in tribute to a longtime Hollins employee.

Alex Trower ’86, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, announced that two paintings would be added to the museum’s permanent collection “to honor the wonderful work and deep commitment of our own Brook Dickson.” Dickson, who serves as executive assistant to the president and secretary for the Board of Trustees, is retiring from Hollins on June 30.

“Recognizing Brook’s extraordinary contribution to Hollins,” Trower explained, “the donor worked with Jenine Culligan, director of the museum, to select artwork she believed Brook would admire.”

The first piece, by artist/naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian, is from Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suraname, printed in 1705. “Throughout her life, Merian observed, sketched, wrote about, and beautifully portrayed the life cycles of insects, especially caterpillars and butterflies,” Trower said. “Between Art and Science: Maria Sibylla Merian was an exhibit at the Wilson Museum in the fall of 2016, and Brook was very interested in this work.”

The second painting is “Siena” by Alison Hall, who graduated from Hollins in 2001. She served as visiting assistant professor of art, painting, and drawing at the university from 2005 – 2013 and also directed Hollins’ summer study abroad program in Todi, Italy.

“Hall’s practice is rooted in ritual, meditation, and repetition,” Trower noted. “Her works are captivating in their formal complexity and subtlety. From a distance, her paintings may appear like monochrome color-field works. On a closer look, the paintings reveal unfathomable intricate geometric patterns as light plays across the surface.”

Dickson graduated from Hollins in 1995 and joined the school’s staff that same year. “Over the years she has truly inspired all of us who have been fortunate to know her as a co-worker and a friend,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. Along with serving seven presidents and the Board of Trustees, and supporting the development of four strategic plans, Dickson oversaw planning for an array of campus events ranging from Hollins’ transition from a college to a university, presidential inaugurations, and the 175th anniversary celebration, to the restoration of Beale Garden, bringing distinguished speakers to campus, and organizing with Roanoke College the annual Perry F. Kendig Awards, which honor the quality and diversity of arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley. She has also helped advance the university’s environmental initiatives, grow connections within the Roanoke community, and steward major donors.

“Throughout her 24 years here, Brook has personified steady leadership in the president’s office,” Lawrence added. “Content to work behind the scenes, she exemplifies quiet dignity and unshakable perseverance. She will be deeply missed.”


Photo (left to right): Suzy Mink ’74, vice president for external relations; Kerry Edmonds, vice president for finance and administration; Brook Dickson ’95, executive assistant to the president and secretary for the Hollins University Board of Trustees; Kurt Navratil, Dickson’s husband; and Laura Jane Ramsburg, assistant director of the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum, with the two paintings given in Dickson’s honor to the Wilson Museum’s permanent collection.

Hollins Announces New Dean of Graduate Studies

Image of Julie DeLoiaHollins University has named Julie DeLoia, Ph.D., as dean of graduate studies at the university. She will oversee the university’s established graduate programs and be responsible for developing new programs.

DeLoia comes to Hollins from Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, where she had served as dean of the college and professor of arts and sciences since 2017. She also held a secondary appointment at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University School of Medicine, where she was a professor in the department of interprofessionalism. Previously, she held various academic appointments and leadership positions at the George Washington School of Public Health, Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

DeLoia holds a B.S. in biology from Westminster College and a Ph.D. in human genetics from Johns Hopkins University. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wistar Institute.

“We are excited to welcome DeLoia as a member of the Hollins leadership team,” said Hollins President Pareena Lawrence. “The university and our graduate programs will benefit greatly from her broad experience and expertise. She is a proven leader with a track record of innovation, including developing and launching successful distance education programs, creating flexible, hybrid course programming for working students, and tracking marketplace trends through alumni and employer engagement to inform curricular revisions.”

“I am honored to be joining Hollins University, which is one of our nation’s outstanding institutions and one that is committed to superb liberal arts education,” said DeLoia. “I have been impressed and inspired by President Lawrence’s energy and dedication to growing Hollins in alignment with its mission and values and look forward to being part of the Hollins community.”

Hollins offers coed Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees in children’s literature, liberal studies, screenwriting and film studies, teaching, and teaching and learning, and Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) degrees in children’s book writing and illustrating, children’s literature, creative writing, dance, playwriting, and screenwriting. For more information about the university’s graduate and certificate programs, visit https://www.hollins.edu/grad.

Hollins Names “Experienced, Successful, and Respected Leader” as Director of Athletics

Hollins University has appointed Myra Sims as the school’s new director of athletics. She will officially assume full-time oversight of the athletic department’s day-to-day operations in mid-May.

“I am pleased that Myra will be heading our athletic department and am excited that Hollins is able to have such an experienced, successful, and respected leader,” said Trish Hammer, the university’s vice president for academic affairs. “She’s the right person to take us into the future and guide Hollins Athletics to new heights.”

Sims comes to Hollins from Emory & Henry College, where she has been director of athletics since 2010. Sims led the strategic planning process at E&H that resulted in expanded and more competitive sports offerings, facility upgrades, and successful fundraising.

“It is a great honor to have been selected to lead the athletics program at Hollins University,” Sims said. “I was convinced during my interview that there is institutional commitment to having an athletics program where student-athletes feel empowered by competitive success on the field or court.  I am excited to begin work with President Pareena Lawrence and Vice President Hammer to help make the vision they have for athletics come to fruition.  I am especially excited to have the opportunity to work at a strong women’s college with a rich tradition of excellence in so many programs.  Hollins stands out in so many areas, and I am confident that athletics can become a stronger point of pride for the university.”

Sims is a graduate of the University of North Carolina – Asheville, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and was a member of several athletic teams. After graduation, she began her coaching career at her alma mater, serving as head volleyball coach and as an assistant women’s basketball coach. In the latter role, she was part of the UNC-Asheville team that won the NAIA National Championship in 1984.

In 1987, Sims moved to the NCAA Division III ranks and created and coached the women’s volleyball program at Atlanta’s Emory University. The following year she started the women’s basketball program at Emory and led the Eagles until 2003; highlights of her coaching tenure include two trips to the NCAA Division III National Tournament’s “Sweet 16” round.  Sims subsequently was Emory’s associate director of athletics and recreation and senior woman administrator before becoming senior associate director of athletics in 2007.

Sims has served on numerous committees in the NCAA and in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC), and also served for two years as president of the National Association of Division III Athletics Administrators. She completed a master’s degree in recreation administration in 1997 at Georgia State University.

“While I am sad to leave Emory & Henry because of the relationships I have with coaches, students, colleagues, and alumni, I very much look forward to engaging with the community at Hollins,” Sims stated. “Success comes only when people are working together with common purpose, and I look forward to building connections and developing a strategic path forward with the help of Hollins students, athletics staff, alumnae, and administration.  I am excited to start learning the culture and traditions of the institution, and getting to know the community.”

Hollins recognizes intercollegiate athletics as an avenue for the empowerment of women. Hollins Athletics is dedicated to the pursuit of academic achievement and athletic excellence, and is committed to the overall success of the student-athlete. Hollins is an NCAA Division III school and is a member of the ODAC, competing in nine varsity sports: basketball, cross country, equestrian, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, and volleyball.


Hollins Appoints Executive Director of Career Development

Hollins University has named Karen M. Cardozo executive director of career development. She will oversee Hollins’ Career Center and its programs and services, implementing the university’s strategic goal of collaborating with internal and external partners to create career development initiatives that will engage students throughout their undergraduate education and beyond.

Cardozo will serve as a consultant starting September 4 and will begin her full-time employment with Hollins on January 2, 2018.

Cardozo has worked as a career counselor at Harvard University and at Williams College, as a dean of student and academic affairs at Mount Holyoke College, and as a faculty member on all campuses of the Five College Consortium of Western Massachusetts (Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts). She comes to Hollins from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in the Berkshires, where she was a tenured associate professor of interdisciplinary studies. Her World of Work course provides substantive coaching by putting the question “Who am I and where am I going?” into cultural, historical, and philosophical context while introducing key principles of life design. Another of her courses, Leading Women, fosters a more inclusive understanding of leadership.

“I am well-equipped to translate career placement from the field back to the campus and vice versa: to educate families, employers, and the public about why a Hollins education is an excellent investment, and why hiring Hollins alumnae would be a smart move,” Cardozo said.

Cardozo holds a Ph.D. in literary American studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; a M.Ed. in higher education administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard University; and a B.A. in English from Haverford College. She has authored articles for scholarly publications such as American Studies, Critical Sociology, Journal of Asian American Studies, and Pedagogy, and has presented on career, diversity, and women’s issues at the American Political Science Association; the Modern Language Association; National Women’s Studies Association; New York Leadership Education Conference; and the Society for Cultural Anthropology, as well as on many campuses. Informed by her work as a Ph.D. career coach for the international consulting firm The Professor Is In, she is currently completing a book entitled Careering Toward Authenticity: A Guide for Academics Who Want to Get a Life.

Founded in 1842, Hollins is an independent liberal arts university offering undergraduate liberal arts education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. Hollins graduates contribute to and succeed in a vast array of fields because their experience has included not only a broad education in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, but also internships, study abroad, undergraduate research, and leadership training.


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Virginia Business Magazine: Celebrating Women’s Education, Hollins University Blends Liberal Arts and Job Preparation

President Nancy Gray and Board of Trustees Chair Judy Lambeth ’73 discuss Hollins’ 175th anniversary and how the university is ready fiscally and academically to meet the present and future challenges in higher learning in this profile from the February 2017 issue of Virginia Business magazine.

(Correction: The article states that Lambeth led the search for a new president. In fact, the presidential search committee was chaired by Linda Lorimer ’74 and Lambeth served on the committee.)


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Hollins Appoints Special Advisor on Inclusivity and Diversity

Hollins University has named Idella Goodson Glenn as Special Advisor on Inclusivity and Diversity. She will have oversight of and coordinate all inclusivity and diversity activities and programs at the university.

A collaborative leader with 25 years of higher education experience, the last 20 years focused on leading diversity and inclusion initiatives, Glenn comes to Hollins from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she was director for diversity education and retention initiatives. While at VCU, she created diversity and inclusion education sessions; facilitated relationships among 13 colleges/schools on two campuses to maximize diversity and inclusion efforts; and was part of the core leadership team for the Institute on Inclusive Teaching.

Prior to joining VCU, Glenn served in a number of roles during 18 years at Furman University, including assistant vice president for student development and director of diversity and inclusion; assistant dean for diversity and inclusion; and director of multicultural affairs. She was an effective liaison between multicultural and international students and the university’s faculty, staff, and administration, and developed an ongoing educational awareness program to sensitize the campus community regarding multicultural issues.

Glenn holds a B.S. from Furman and completed her M.Ed. in higher educational administration at the University of South Carolina. She earned her Ph.D. in educational leadership at Clemson University. In 2005, the Southern Association of College Student Affairs presented her the Bobby E. Leach Award for significant contribution to the development of multicultural relations on campus. The following year, Furman honored her with the Chiles-Harrill Award in recognition of exemplary concern and exceptional caring for undergraduate students. Last August, she received the James Curtis Harkness Foundation Community Award.

Glenn is a member of the board of directors at the National Coalition Building Institute and a senior leader for their campus programs. She also serves on the National Advisory Council for the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity.


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