Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton is cited as one of the commonwealth’s top leaders in the third annual edition of the Virginia 500, published by Virginia Business magazine.
“We strive to inventory the most powerful and influential leaders and executives in Virginia across 20 major sectors, ranging from real estate and manufacturing to higher education and government,” said Virginia Business editor Richard Foster. Among the factors considered, he explained, are “the scope of their responsibilities, how newsworthy the executive is, and how prominent they are within their industry and/or community. We accept suggestions for the Virginia 500, but it is compiled based on research by our editorial staff, not through nominations.”
Virginia Business President and Publisher Bernard A. Niemeier added, “…you will find these are leaders who have done it right.”
In her Virginia 500 profile, Hinton noted what makes her passionate about her work: “Serving others to promote educational equity is my mission in life. I am privileged to get to live that mission every day.”
President Mary Dana Hinton invited the Hollins community to “believe that the essence of the liberal arts – the freeing of minds – demands the freeing and nurturing of imagination” during her installation as Hollins University’s 13th president on April 22.
With a theme of “Imagining a Community of Learning, Belonging, Love, and Justice,” Hinton, who took office in August 2020, was inaugurated before students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i, trustees, and special guests in Jessie Ball duPont Chapel.
In her address, Hinton described “the intense calling toward imagination that I have been feeling. A calling I have been aware of my whole life. A calling that is a rekindled flame in my soul.” She noted that “robust imagination is not just the territory of children; it is not the stuff of make-believe. Imagination is kindled in unsuspecting moments, quiet places, and deep rituals. Imagination is the innermost, profound work of thinking about life through an unexplored lens. Of looking at one’s circumstances and being able to conceive something different. Often something more.”
Speaking of how fortunate she feels to have had “an education that unleashed my imagination,” Hinton explained, “My will for that education was a result of imagining something different. I imagined freedom; I imagined opportunity; I imagined unconditional love. And it was a liberal arts education that unlocked those imaginings for me. To me, the examination and manifestation of imaginings is what education is all about. So let us imagine a community of learning.”
Hinton called liberal arts education “the work – the action if you will – of the moral imagination, the creative energy and effort to understand or visualize the struggle of another and to then harness the effort to bring to fruition the needs or imaginings of another. It is seeing, valuing, and supporting the human potential of another.”
She acknowledged that her concept of the liberal arts conflicts with the conventional wisdom “that the liberal arts are for those who breathe the most rarefied of air. That to examine the big questions of life should be left to those for whom it is their legacy.” Countering that approach, she argued that “limiting and circumscribing how we think about education and who has access to it is a failure of imagination. That to shroud oneself in exclusion in the name of the liberal arts is to fundamentally misunderstand and misappropriate that very thing we claim to love.
“The liberal arts are for those whose minds imagine freedom, who imagine something different, who imagine something more. A liberal arts education is a call to imagine for the sake of creating and transforming. Creating and transforming self, creating and transforming community, and creating and transforming the world around us.
“This notion of imagination is, in many ways, baked into the very fabric of Hollins. When I ask this community – the Hollins community – to imagine with me, I ask that we live into our institutional calling.”
Emphasizing the crucial role of justice and equity, Hinton talked about what was required for Hollins to continue thriving. “We must ensure every student has the opportunity to be successful. We must rebuke the perpetuation of inequity. This is the exhausting work of imagination; the justice work of imagination; the joyful work of imagination. If you choose to take up the mantle of imagination with me – the work of learning and crafting justice and joy – we need to find the peace, the courage, and the compassion to sustain ourselves through this work.”
Hinton concluded by asking the audience to envision “the dawn of a new day” and uphold three guiding principles for the future:
“Imagine: You belong.
“Imagine: You are enough.
“Imagine. You are loved.”
She added, “Imagine all these things because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. And may you come forth this day to embrace everything you imagine with hope, purpose, and joy.”
Dr. Marjorie Hass, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, delivered the inauguration’s keynote speech. Introduced by President Emerita Nancy Oliver Gray, Hass praised the event as “a momentous day for this campus and for all of higher education. Hollins has a storied history of devotion to the intellectual progress of women and a commitment to creativity, self-expression, and problem solving. Beyond degrees and career preparation, a Hollins education aims at the spirit. Here students are helped to see that their insights, their words, and their actions matter. Hollins cultivates habits of mind such as humility, consistency, compassion, and respect.”
Hass stated that leaders with courage and grace such as Hinton will be essential in addressing the challenges and pressures that liberal arts colleges face both today and in the future. “The graceful leader shines her light on the things that matter. She makes a space for others to shine, to make good, and to make a gift of themselves. Everyone has a place at her table. She finds the best in us and she inspires us to give each other the benefit of the doubt and to give others more than they are strictly due.
“How fortunate we are to have Mary as our model and our friend.”
Other highlights of the inauguration ceremony included:
A land acknowledgement by Cecelia Long ’70, the first African-American graduate of Hollins and a former member of the school’s Board of Trustees. Long recognized the Tutelo/Monacan people, as well as other Indigenous peoples, whose land on which Hollins now resides.
A reading by former U.S. Poet Laureate and current member of the Hollins Board of Trustees Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91.
Community greetings from Student Government Association President Leena Gurung ’22 (on behalf of students); Professor of Music and Chair of the Faculty Judith Cline (on behalf of faculty); Joe Vinson, custodian (on behalf of staff); Antoinette Hillian ’00, president of the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors and member of the Hollins Board of Trustees (on behalf of alumnae/i); Hollins Magisterial District Representative Phil C. North (on behalf of Roanoke County); Sherman P. Lea Sr., mayor of Roanoke, and Patricia White-Boyd, vice mayor of Roanoke (on behalf of the City of Roanoke); and Betsy B. Carr ’68, member of the Virginia House of Delegates (on behalf of the commonwealth of Virginia).
Music by Helena Brown ’12, soprano, of New York’s Metropolitan Opera; and the Hollins University Choirs.
Hinton became president of Hollins on August 1, 2020. Her achievements during her time in office include:
Welcoming a $75 million gift from an anonymous alumna donor, the largest in Hollins’ history and the largest donation ever received by a women’s college.
Securing almost $10 million in gifts to fund the Imagination Campaign, encompassing new programs that could be revenue-generating and sustainable. Among these initiatives is the Hollins Opportunity for Promise Through Education (HOPE) scholar program, which lifts the burden of private college tuition for area students with financial need.
Leading the creation of a new student affairs ecosystem by transitioning the area into the Office of Student Success, Well-being, and Belonging, which will provide the care, support, and experiences necessary for students to persist and thrive at Hollins.
Guiding the development and adaptation of a Culture of Care, which has enabled the campus to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic while moving carefully forward in community.
Hinton is chair of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and chairs the AAC&U’s Presidents’ Trust. She is a member of the board of directors for Interfaith Youth Core, Saint Mary’s School, and The Teagle Foundation. She is currently serving a three-year term as an at-large board member with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and is a member of the Lumina Foundation’s Quality Credentials Task Force.
Hinton speaks frequently in the U.S. and abroad on topics related to the liberal arts and inclusion. She teaches in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education doctoral program in higher education management and the CIC President’s Institute New President Program.
Prior to coming to Hollins, Hinton served as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota.
“Imagining a Community of Learning, Belonging, Love, and Justice” is the theme of the inauguration celebration, which will feature a keynote address by Dr. Marjorie Hass, president of the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC). Hass has devoted her career to strengthening independent higher education in various leadership roles. Before becoming president of the CIC in July 2021, she served as president of Rhodes College for four years and president of Austin College for eight years.
Other highlights of this week’s inauguration include a lecture by civil rights advocate and best-selling author Valarie Kaur on Wednesday, April 20; a Performing Arts Showcase and Student Open Mic on Thursday, April 21; an Undergraduate Research Showcase on Saturday, April 23; and a celebration on Sunday, April 24, of 180 years of preparing students for lives of active learning, fulfilling work, personal growth, achievement, and service to society.
“I’m so grateful to the extraordinary group of higher education leaders who serve on the AAC&U Board of Directors,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “I look forward to working with and learning from this year’s board members as we strive toward our shared objective of advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy.”
The AAC&U supports the educational mission of colleges and universities across the global landscape of higher education and partners with campus leaders and educators at all levels. Founded in 1915, its vision of educational excellence is focused on the learning all students need for success in an uncertain future and for addressing the compelling issues faced by democracies and global communities—regardless of where they study, what they major in, or what their career goals may be.
In October, Hollins University announced a new scholarship opportunity specifically developed for young women in the Roanoke Valley region hoping to earn a college education.
Hollins Opportunity for Promise through Education (HOPE) is a scholarship program that offers a pathway forward for these young women. It’s the chance to turn the hope of a college degree into reality, with scholarship recipients being granted the ability to attend Hollins full-time for four years — tuition free.
The HOPE scholarship program is intentionally named.
Hope is a powerful and motivating force in our individual lives and in our communities. For each and every life’s journey, there is first a sliver of hope for what’s to come. Hope for who we want to be and a hope for how we want to become our future selves.
In our “What Hope Means” series, we’re highlighting conversations with individuals from our Hollins community who discuss what hope personally means to them. We’re also spotlighting the powerful impact that this scholarship will have on the ambitious young women in the Roanoke Valley who are striving to better themselves through their education.
What ‘HOPE’ Means to Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D., President of Hollins University
Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton’s journey as a leader in higher education began with her own hope for a brighter future.
Growing up in rural North Carolina in a low-income household, Hinton’s ambition was to attend college. Achieving this goal would place her in the first generation of her family to do so.
“College was always a dream of mine, but I wasn’t entirely sure how I would bring that dream to reality,” she said. “I know what it feels like to hope and to wonder if an education is even possible.”
For Hinton, it was the generosity of both individuals and her community that helped her attend college. Having that support to ensure her hopes and dreams were realized has been the driving motivation for her career ever since.
“My single goal in this life is to strive toward ensuring that no other young woman has to worry about how she will overcome the barriers to earning her education. If she hopes to get an education to uplift herself, her family, and her community, I want to help make that possible.”
Hinton’s Hope for HOPE
Through her first-hand experiences, Hinton understands the critical importance of creating systems and processes that enable a young person who wants to achieve a college education the opportunity to do so.
She has built a career as an active and respected proponent of the liberal arts and inclusivity, and her leadership efforts reflect her deep and abiding commitment to educational equity, particularly supporting young women who may not be able to envision a pathway from high school to college.
“My hope is that this scholarship program will allow any young woman in the Roanoke Valley Region the opportunity to chase her dreams, to fulfill her grandest aspirations and to enable us here at Hollins University to help her envision, leverage, and grow into her fullest potential,” Hinton said.
“That was missing for me as a young adult, and so it is my privilege, my honor, and my responsibility to create these opportunities for others,” she added.
The Power of HOPE
Funded by the generosity of Hollins alumnae, friends, and donors, the Hollins Opportunity Promise through Education program is designed to remove some of the financial worry and burden for local families who seek to pursue an education for their daughters.
Hollins’ HOPE scholarship is a direct means for turning hope into action. The scholarship creates an opportunity for young women and their families to identify a pathway forward in achieving their dreams of attending college.
For Hinton, the effect of one educational experience is not limited to the young woman earning it. The actual impact is much more widespread.
“When an individual has the opportunity to receive or achieve an education, they then have the responsibility to help lift up their communities and all those around them,” she said. “Our HOPE scholarship will certainly give hope to the young women who receive it, but our expectation is that they will then become conveyors and conduits of hope in our local community.”
To learn more about Hollins Opportunity for Promise through Education scholarship, visit hope.hollins.edu.
Citing an uncertain future for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers, their employers, families, and communities after a Texas federal judge declared DACA unlawful and closed the DACA program to future applicants, more than 400 university presidents, CEOs, and civic leaders, including Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) advocating passage of the bipartisan Durbin-Graham DREAM Act of 2021.
According to the American Immigration Council, “The DREAM Act would permanently protect certain immigrants who came to the United States as children but are vulnerable to deportation….[It] would provide current, former, and future undocumented high-school graduates and GED recipients a pathway to U.S. citizenship through college, work, or the armed services.”
“We urge the Senate to come together and immediately provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals through the passage of the bipartisan DREAM Act, and if necessary, through budget reconciliation,” the letter states. “We understand no bill is perfect, but we believe this existing bipartisan bill is the best framework to protect Dreamers rather than starting over with new legislation.”
Read the letter here. See the full list of signatories here.
Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, an organization established in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others among the nation’s founders to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good.
Announcing this year’s new members, the Academy stated, “The 2021 election provides an opportunity to recognize extraordinary people who help solve the world’s most urgent challenges, create meaning through art, and contribute to the common good from every field, discipline, and profession.”
“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” added David Oxtoby, president of the Academy. “This is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge, and leadership that can make a better world.”
The Academy’s newest members are grouped in 30 sections within five classes. Hinton is among the seven elected in the Educational and Academic Leadership section from the Leadership, Policy, and Communications class. Other new members from this section are Joy Connolly, American Council of Learned Societies; Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University; John W. Etchemendy, Stanford University; Katherine E. Fleming, New York University; Kumble R. Subbaswamy, University of Massachusetts Amherst; and H. Holden Thorp, American Association for the Advancement of Science. They join other artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors elected this year including:
Economist Dirk Bergemann, Yale University
Civil rights lawyer and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, Columbia Law School; UCLA School of Law
Neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, CNN; Emory University
Civil rights activist and math literacy pioneer Robert Moses, The Algebra Project
Composer, songwriter, and performer Robbie Robertson
Journalist Kara Swisher, VOX Media Inc.; The New York Times
Atmospheric scientist Anne Thompson, NASA/Godard Space Flight Center
Media entrepreneur and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey
The Academy noted that 55% of the members elected in 2021 are women.
“While it is noteworthy that we continue to elect members more than 240 years after the Academy’s founding, this is about more than maintaining traditions,” said Academy Board of Directors Chair Nancy C. Andrews. “We recognize individuals who use their talents and their influence to confront today’s challenges, to lift our spirits through the arts, and to help shape our collective future.”
The new class joins Academy members elected before them, including Benjamin Franklin (1781), Alexander Hamilton (1791), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Martin Luther King Jr. (1966), Anthony Fauci (1991), Antonin Scalia (2003), John Legend (2017), and Anna Devere Smith (2019).
Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton shared the following message with students, faculty, and staff in response to the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021:
Dear Hollins community:
The past 24 hours have brought forth a rush of emotions. As I watched mob violence unfold at the U.S. Capitol, I found myself genuinely fearful about the democracy on which our country was founded. A democracy which – even with its flaws – represents a promise of hope to all people. The emotions I felt were visceral as I witnessed this terrible moment in history.
My fear was matched – and at times supplanted – by my anger. Anger that some people feel so entitled to their demands that they believe they can attack the very heart – literally and figuratively – of the nation they claim to love. Anger at the inexplicable injustice of how a federal insurrection was handled versus how protesters, the majority of whom were peaceful, were treated in 2020.
Yet, I awoke this morning with a heart filled with hope. Yes, I was relieved that Congress successfully fulfilled its Constitutional mandate. But, truthfully, my hope stemmed not from what occurred in Washington, DC, overnight but from what happens at Hollins every day. My hope was born out of our mission which explicitly calls us to nurture civility, integrity, and concern for others, and encourage and value diversity and social justice. Our mission – and the daily work of our faculty, staff, and students – stands in stark contrast to what we saw yesterday. Our mission and our work is the future as a community and as a nation.
Today, more than ever before, we must embrace the call of our mission. What we do each day counters fear mongering, hate-filled actions, injustice, and threats to democracy. With my whole heart I believe that when we learn, live, and love together, we are the counternarrative to what we saw unfold. We are called on this day to work harder, to be better, to do better, and to use our voice so that never again will we have to witness an insurgence wrought by misinformation and injustice.
Credo, a comprehensive higher education consulting firm specializing in working with independent colleges and universities, has named Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton as the recipient of its eighth annual Courageous Leadership Award.
Presented each year during the Council for Independent Colleges (CIC) Presidents Institute, the Courageous Leadership Award is given by Credo to recognize an innovative leader in independent higher education. Recipients demonstrate one, or many, of the following achievements as part of their institutional leadership:
Minimum five years in a leadership position at current or most recent institution.
Institutional growth across one or more key indicators: enrollment, fundraising, retention.
Visible champion and advocate for students and their success.
Proven champion of inclusive leadership.
Articulation and successful execution of a compelling and clear vision for their institution.
Proven track record of fostering collaborative relationships both inside and outside of their institution.
Acknowledgement by peers and/or within the field of higher education as an advocate and champion of independent higher education.
Proven innovation in operations, academics, net revenue, strategic planning, student success, or other critical areas.
Strategic, game-changing planning for and investments in campus spaces and places.
“Mary’s dynamic and inclusive leadership improves the student experience and lifts up leaders around her wherever she is,” said Tom Gavic, president and cofounder of Credo. “We have such a deep respect for Mary and know that the field of higher education is stronger with her in it.”
The award announcement from Credo stated:
“An active and respected proponent of the liberal arts, her leadership reflects a deep and abiding commitment to educational equity and the education of women.
“In a few short months [after becoming Hollins’ 13th president on August 1], Hinton’s forward thinking, team-oriented approach began coming to fruition. She engaged in dialogue with more than 200 campus community members to create a comprehensive strategy to facilitate and support diversity, equity, and inclusion. This important work was augmented by Hollins’ first annual Leading Equity, Diversity, and Justice (EDJ) Day, where more than 550 students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i, and trustees joined together to explore themes of race and racial justice.
“Hinton also helped champion a spirit of mutual accountability and collective responsibility, a Culture of Care, that is enabling Hollins to successfully navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. In this achievement, she embraced the transformational role of education; as a leader, she entrusted, empowered, and supported the campus community in every shared experience.
“For six years prior, Hinton served as president of the College of Saint Benedict (Saint Ben’s) in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, and was named President Emerita upon her departure. Under her leadership, Saint Ben’s put into action a collaborative strategic plan and dynamic vision to guide the institution through 2020. During her tenure, the college completed a $100 million comprehensive fundraising campaign, exceeding its goal. Hinton also led the process to implement a $43 million campus facilities update, enabling Saint Ben’s to provide premier facilities for teaching learning, and women’s leadership development.
“Hinton speaks frequently in the U.S. and abroad, and founded the Liberal Arts Illuminated Conference. Hinton’s scholarship focuses on higher education leadership, strategic planning, the role of education in peace building, African American religious history, and inclusion and equity in higher education. She is the author of The Commercial Church: Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America, and is a frequent op-ed contributor across higher education publications. Her TEDx talk, “Leading from the Margins,” reflects the thesis of her new book.”
To be considered for the Credo Courageous Leadership Award, a leader need not be a current or past Credo client.
Acclaimed author, civil rights lawyer and legal advocate Michelle Alexander understands that a lot of change can happen in just 10 years. A decade ago, Alexander had just published her first book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Some critics at the time considered the book’s subject dubious, especially since the nation had just elected its first Black president in Barack Obama. Still, The New Jim Crow would go on to spend almost 250 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list—transforming Alexander’s career as a legal scholar and author—and recently had a 10th-anniversary edition released with a new foreword by Alexander.
On Tuesday, September 22, Alexander “visited” Hollins (via Zoom) as part of the university’s Distinguished Speaker Series. The bestselling author had a virtual sit-down with Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton to discuss the 10th-anniversary edition of her book as well as a host of other issues including racial unrest in the U.S. and social activism both on and off-campus. “We’re grateful to have these timely and robust conversations,” said Hinton in welcoming Alexander to the videoconference, which was live-streamed exclusively to the Hollins community, with over 400 in attendance. “The text remains as relevant and resonant today, perhaps even more so, than when it was released.” (This video features highlights of their dialogue.)
“It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 10 years,” replied Alexander. “When I was researching this book, Obama hadn’t been elected president yet. Trayvon Martin hadn’t been killed. I felt desperate to sound an alarm about the crisis of mass incarceration, seeing up close [through my work] the victims of racial profiling and police violence. And now 10 years later, with all of the viral videos of brutal police killings and the uprisings, it feels in many that the whole world hasn’t changed. The [criminal justice] system continues to function in pretty much the same way as it functioned 10 years ago—or 15 years ago—or 30 years ago.”
However, Alexander was quick to add that she did find hope in the creation of new protest movements and increased social activism, in particular movements led by formerly incarcerated and convicted people. “There’s been an explosion of movement-building and organizing and leadership,” said Alexander. “And that’s enormously encouraging to me. Until we hear from the people who’ve been most harmed, transformational change is impossible. And as long as those voices are excluded from decision-making spaces and tables, transformational change is impossible.”
A graduate of Stanford Law and Vanderbilt University, Alexander has received numerous legal awards and fellowships, including a Soros Justice Fellowship, and clerked for legal luminaries such as Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Though just her debut book, The New Jim Crow has become so influential that it’s even been cited in some judicial decisions as well as read in countless book clubs and college classrooms across the country.
To that point, in advance of the Q&A on Tuesday, Hollins students were given access to free e-editions of the book (there was also a limited number of free hardcopies available). Students and faculty were then invited to meet virtually with Hinton to discuss and propose questions for the interview.
Following up on the book’s popularity on campus, Hinton said that colleges, universities, and, in particular, the liberal arts were good places where students could “rehearse what it means to have courage and have a voice and step up” before engaging politically in the bigger world off-campus.
“I don’t think it’s an overstatement that our democracy will not survive without robust liberal arts education,” Alexander replied when asked about the role of the liberal arts in relation to social justice. “That’s one of the main pillars of a successful, thriving, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-faith democracy. It can help us learn more about our past and present so we can respond to our present moment with wise action and with greater concern and care for our fellow citizens. Without it, we are stuck in patterns of reactivity. We can be misled by demagogues and be inspired to resort to fear-mongering.”
Near the end of the hour-long discussion, Hinton asked The New Jim Crow author about finding courage to speak the truth in the era of Fake News and constant misinformation. “How are we ‘midwives to this next generation?’” Hinton asked, borrowing Alexander’s language, “How are we midwives as we look at the [transformational] change that’s so important?”
Alexander acknowledged the difficulty in answering that question. “It can feel overwhelming at times,” she said. “We’re at a moment where I think our democracy literally hangs in the balance. I think what’s important is for us to pause and think: How can we use our skills and our talents to their highest use for this moment? And how do we educate ourselves about history, our racial history, about the present, about how to do democracy? What’s important is not just being aware and awake, but being willing to act with some courage. Because if we see what’s happening but lack the courage to speak up or step out, we can be as awake as we want to be, but if we act without courage, it’s all for naught.”
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.