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 Receives ‘Unprecedented and Extraordinary’ Challenge to Raise $10 Million

In recognition of Hollins University’s 175th anniversary this year, an anonymous donor has committed to give Hollins $5 million if, and only if, the university can raise $10 million in new gifts and pledges by June 30, 2017.

The challenge is inspired by the November announcement of the largest single gift assurance in school history: $20 million from Elizabeth Hall McDonnell, a member of Hollins’ class of 1962, and her husband, James S. McDonnell III, through the JSM Charitable Trust.

Hollins President Nancy Gray calls the challenge “unprecedented and extraordinary. Like the McDonnells’ gift commitment, this challenge is a wonderful testimony to Hollins. The donor challenges the Hollins community to rise to the occasion and support Hollins to the best of their ability.”

Gray notes that the challenge was officially made in mid-December, “but the donor was so impressed by the dedication shown by two alumnae earlier in the month, who each made a $1 million gift, that their gifts are being counted toward the $10 million goal, leaving only $8 million to be raised by June 30.

“We share the donor’s confidence and hope everyone is inspired to participate,” Gray adds. “No gift is too small and every single gift matters.”

To make your gift, please visit Make a Gift.


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Hollins Receives History-Making $20 Million Philanthropic Commitment to the University’s Unrestricted Endowment

Hollins University has received the largest single gift assurance in the school’s 175-year history: Elizabeth Hall McDonnell and her husband, James S. McDonnell III, have arranged a commitment through the JSM Charitable Trust of $20 million.

The pledge is intended for the university’s unrestricted endowment.

“We applaud Libby and James McDonnell for their vision and generosity, and the positive and lasting influence they are making on the history of Hollins,” said Judy Lambeth, chair of the Hollins University Board of Trustees. “We rejoice in this truly significant milestone as we celebrate this year our 175th anniversary of educating women who are leading, exploring, transforming, and inspiring our communities and the world.”

Elizabeth McDonnell is a member of Hollins’ class of 1962 and has served on the university’s Board of Trustees since 2008. She and her husband reside in St. Louis, and this gift commitment continues their legacy of giving to the university: In 2015, they committed $6.5 million through the St. Louis Community Foundation to fund renovations to the university’s Dana Science Building and Hollins Theatre and to support visiting faculty in the theatre and playwriting programs. They also gave $3 million through the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation in 2009 to transform and update the theatre space.

“I thank the McDonnells for their remarkable generosity and informed understanding of the importance of an unrestricted endowment,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray. “This designation will allow us to address priority needs or fund exceptional opportunities, wherever the impact for Hollins will be the most significant.”


Hollins Welcomes $6.5 Million Pledge to Support Science, Theatre, and Playwriting Programs

Hollins University has received a financial commitment of $6.5 million from Mr. and Mrs. James McDonnell III to fund renovations to the university’s Dana Science Building and Hollins Theatre, and expand the number of faculty in the theatre and playwriting programs.

Pledge payments will begin in fiscal year 2015-16.

Of the total gift commitment, $4 million is earmarked to upgrade classroom furniture, research equipment, projector systems, teaching laboratories, and technology in Dana, which is home to Hollins’ biology, chemistry, mathematics/statistics, physics, and psychology departments.

“This investment gives our outstanding faculty the tools they need to continue facilitating the serious study of the sciences in a comfortable and inviting environment,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray. “We are proud of our record of preparing women for graduate school and careers in this field. These funds help make certain we can offer quality education in the sciences for many years to come.”

The remaining $2.5 million is allocated to endow a faculty chair in the theatre program ($1,000,000); endow visiting professional artist positions in the theatre program and the graduate Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University ($600,000 and $500,000, respectively); and to make capital improvements to the Hollins Theatre facility ($400,000). The latter includes ADA compliance for the theatre’s annex and the installation of a new wooden floor for rehearsal space.

“The Hollins Theatre is already a jewel in the crown of the university and is poised to become a highly competitive player in the world of academic theatres,” Gray explained. “This funding will ensure our position and continued success for our undergraduate and graduate programs.”

Gray added that the Playwright’s Lab’s first visiting artist will be Bob Moss, whom she described as “a giant in American theatre. He has over 50 years of directing experience and founded Playwrights Horizons, which produced over 150 new plays during his tenure. He has served as the artistic director of Edward Albee’s Playwrights’ Unit and has served on the faculty of Syracuse University and Ithaca College. A theatre in New York was recently named in his honor.”

Gray said that in addition to teaching and directing in the Playwright’s Lab, Moss would introduce Hollins students to top literary managers and facilitate student play readings in New York.

The McDonnells’ gift commitment continues their legacy of generosity to Hollins. In 2009, they pledged $3 million to transform and update the theatre space. Three years later, the Hollins Theatre was dedicated in their honor.

Hollins Receives Grant from the NADA Foundation

Grant from NADA FoundationHollins University has received a $7,000 donation from the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation to be used for the emergency needs of students. The contribution was provided through the NADA Foundation’s Joseph J. Sanchez Memorial Fund.

“Hollins is deeply honored to receive this generous gift. It will be a tremendous resource for our university as we help those who face emergencies that could impede their educational pursuits,” said Hollins President Nancy Oliver Gray. “We applaud the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation for recognizing this vital need and establishing a fund that has a profound and lasting impact in the lives of college students throughout the nation.”

The fund was established to honor Sanchez, former vice president and general manager of General Motors’ Oldsmobile division and the first president of Saturn Corporation.

Since its inception in 1985, grants worth $528,000 have been presented by the NADA Foundation to private and independent colleges across the country.

“Joseph Sanchez strongly believed in the importance of higher education,” said Robert P. Mallon, chairman of the NADA Foundation. “It is our pleasure to honor his memory and support Hollins University’s contributions to its students.”

Hollins Gets $20,000 for Hill House Preservation

rathhausHollins University has received a $20,000 gift from the Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust to support the restoration of one of  its historic structures.

The funds will go toward a $550,000 project to refurbish and update Rath Haus, which currently houses Hollins’ information technology offices, to serve as a year-round residence for up to 13 students. Renovation of the two-story Colonial Revival building, which was built in 1907, will include converting the space for residential use (bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, and furniture), a new residential HVAC system, electrical upgrades, fire safety/sprinkler systems, a new roof, replacement of siding and windows, and making the building ADA accessible.

“These improvements will bring new life and vitality to this historic home,” said Hollins President Nancy Gray.

The restoration is the next step in Hollins’ initiative to preserve the nine so-called “Hill Houses” on campus. These buildings, constructed between 1885 and 1929, make up a charming neighborhood of late 19th and early 20th century residential architecture and have served a variety of purposes over the years, including student, faculty and staff residences, offices, classrooms, and even the home of Hollins’ presidents. Renovations to Rose Hill, built in 1911, were completed this summer, and the structure now houses ten students. The total cost of restoring the Hill Houses is $3 million.

The Helen S. and Charles G. Patterson, Jr. Charitable Foundation Trust was established in 1997. The Pattersons were lifelong residents of Virginia.

New Award Pays Homage to the Memory of Film Professor Klaus Phillips

phillipsTwo friends and colleagues of the founding director of Hollins University’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies are honoring his memory by establishing a monetary award in his name.

Hal Ackerman, co-chair of the graduate screenwriting program at UCLA, and Tim Albaugh, a member of the UCLA screenwriting faculty who was recently named the new director of Hollins’ master of arts (M.A.) and master of fine arts (M.F.A.) programs in screenwriting and film studies, have created The Klaus Phillips/UCLA Screenwriting Award in tribute to the professor of film and internationally recognized film scholar who passed away in October 2011.

“Each year, a $1,000 award will be made to a student participating in the summer M.A. or M.F.A program in screenwriting and film studies who writes a screenplay that best exemplifies the joyous, courageous, independent spirit that emanated from Klaus Phillips,” said Albaugh, who along with Ackerman has been a member of the screenwriting and film studies faculty at Hollins for several years.

“For nearly three decades, Klaus shared his passion for and vast knowledge of film with countless undergraduate and graduate students,” Albaugh added. “Thanks to his tireless dedication, the summer master’s programs continually feature noted scholars, filmmakers, and screenwriters from around the world.”

Born in Munich, Germany, Phillips joined the Hollins faculty in 1984 and started the university’s M.A. program in screenwriting and film studies in 1999. The M.F.A. program was launched in 2005. The programs offer courses of study in the writing of screenplays and the study of the history, aesthetics, and theory of the art of film.

Classes take place for six weeks each summer and students typically complete their graduate degree in three years.

Hollins Endowment Rises Despite Downward Swing Nationally

campusHollins University saw the value of its endowment grow over the past fiscal year in defiance of a declining trend overall among colleges and universities nationwide.

Hollins’ endowment rose 1.1 percent during the 2011-12 fiscal year from $152.7 million on July 1, 2011, to $154.4 million on June 30, 2012. As of December 31, 2012, Hollins’ endowment stood at $163.5 million.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) – Commonfund Study of Endowments gathered data from 831 U.S. colleges and universities and found that their endowments generated an average return of  -0.3 percent for FY2012.

Hollins’ endowment has enjoyed robust gains in recent years despite the challenges presented by the country’s economic downturn in 2008. The university’s endowment ranked among the nation’s strongest in weathering the recession, and was by far the most important priority of the Campaign for Women Who Are Going Places, the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Hollins’ history, which began in 2002 (when the endowment stood at $85 million) and concluded in 2010 (with the endowment valued at $145 million).