Hollins, Roanoke College Welcome Nominations for the 2021 Perry F. Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the greater Roanoke region that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Thursday, July 1, at 4 p.m. EDT. The nomination form and other information can be found at https://kendigawards.com/.


Celebrating 36 years this year of honoring excellence in arts and culture, the Kendig Awards have been co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College since 2013. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an awards presentation gathering was not held last year. A celebration for the 2020 nominees/winners and 2021 nominees/winners will be held jointly this fall at Roanoke College on a date to be announced at a later time.

Kendig Awards are presented in each of the following categories:

  • Individual Artist (selected from all disciplines, including dance, literature, music, media arts, visual arts, and theatre)
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Arts Supporter

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the greater Roanoke region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985 – 2012. Programs and full-time employees of Hollins University and Roanoke College are eligible to be nominated as well.

“Hollins University and Roanoke College have actively sought ways for students to immerse themselves in the Roanoke Region’s vibrant arts and cultural community,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “Our students are often fortunate to find themselves working alongside a local visual artist in their studio or in the community, performing in a local theatrical production, or learning about arts administration during an internship at a non-profit organization.”

“Roanoke College is proud to join with Hollins University to support arts and culture in the Roanoke Valley,” added Roanoke College President Mike Maxey. “Our region has a vibrant arts community that enriches all of us. The Kendig Awards honor and highlight those who make that happen. The Kendig Awards are highlights for all to remember and observe.”

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.

Graduates Assured at 179th Commencement, “You Have Hollins and You Can Do Anything”

During a commencement unlike any other previously held at Hollins University, NASA’s Director of Talent Strategy and Engagement Elizabeth Kolmstetter declared to graduates, “Successful people never give up. Successful people learn from successes but even more so from hardships, failures, and paths redirected.

“So what do successful people have in common? They start with a dream – a vision of big goals for the future.”


Kolmstetter, a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who currently serves on the university’s Board of Trustees, was the guest speaker for the university’s 179th Commencement Exercises on May 19. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s ceremony was held on the university’s athletic practice fields to allow for a socially distanced setting that best and most safely accommodated all graduates and guests. Attendance was limited to up to three guests per graduate.

Hollins honored a total of 269 undergraduate and graduate students, including members of the class of 2021 receiving bachelor’s degrees and graduate students earning advanced degrees in 2020 and 2021.179th Commencement Graduate Undergraduates from the class of 2020, whose commencement was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, elected to have their celebration coincide with Hollins’ Reunion Weekend, May 27-29, 2022.

Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton paid tribute to the graduating students for how they learned and thrived despite what she described as “perhaps the most disruptive crisis in our history. You cared for yourselves, one another, and this community.”

Hinton continued, “Even more, you showed concern for those beyond this community. Long before the racial reckonings of the summer of 2020, this class called Hollins to be more just, more inclusive, more equitable. You demanded that we do better and become consistent advocates, allies, and activists. In our most challenging moments, in the face of injustice, violence, and hate, you lifted one another, your Hollins family, and our institution. We shared hurt and heartache. But we also shared hope. We shared the work. We called on one another to be our best selves and, when conditions made that difficult, we offered compassion and support. You were strong and courageous, vulnerable and caring.”

179th Commencement StudentKolmstetter, an industrial and organizational psychologist, has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. She conveyed to graduates that whatever they want in life is achievable “because you have Hollins,” and employed each letter in the university’s name, “H-O-L-L-I-N-S,” to cite the advantages of their Hollins experience. She devoted “H” to President Mary Dana Hinton, who is completing her first academic year at Hollins. Kolmstetter called her “an extraordinary leader and role model. She has engaged the entire Hollins community. She is authentic, a powerful and prolific communicator, and inspires all of us to be our best selves. As you go forth, lead as she does with grace and grit, smarts and heart.”

“O” represents the campus community’s optimism, which Kolmstetter said “has already gotten you through unexpected challenges and allowed you to innovate and create new opportunities. It is a great strength that will give you courage to adventure further.”

The first “L” stands for the liberal arts education offered at Hollins, which Kolmstetter said emphasizes “skills such as critical thinking, communication, self-expression, and the ability to view ideas from multiple perspectives. Show those off every chance you get.” The second “L” is laughter. “It really is the best medicine,” Kolmstetter explained. She cited research from Stanford Business School on the positive effects of laughter, especially during the pandemic, on “relieving stress, healing illnesses, and helping cope with difficult situations. You’ve had hours of laughter with your friends and faculty, so keep that going. The more you laugh, the better the journey will be.”

Ingenuity is the “I” in “H-O-L-L-I-N-S.” “Together, you and this entire campus have used ingenuity and perseverance…to navigate the challenges of the last 15 months,” said Kolmstetter. “These two qualities179th Commencement Mortarboard will serve you well as you go forward.”

“N” is for nimble. “I am pretty sure you have all learned that you can act faster and bounce back more nimbly that even you thought,” Kolmstetter stated. “Rigid and status quo is ‘out.’ Nimble and thriving in change is ‘in.’ Employers want to know you are nimble and adaptive to change. Use it to your great advantage as you pursue your dreams.”

And, “S” reflects sisterhood. “You are part of the Hollins sisterhood, women who celebrate each other’s wins and support each other through hard times – and always understand you,” Kolmstetter said. “There truly is no friend like a sister. Things in life seem a little less scary when you know your sisters are there for you.

“Welcome class of 2021 to the greatest sisterhood on Earth!”

Kolmstetter concluded by telling graduates to do one thing “before you leave the Hollins gates: Close your eyes and envision your one big, scary dream. Then, write down H-O-L-L-I-N-S and a word or phrase for each letter. Perhaps some of mine resonated with you, but I am sure you have your own, too. Tuck it in your diploma or a favorite Hollins picture…and from time to time, use it to remind yourself of all you have to fearlessly pursue your dreams. No matter where you go or what you do, you have Hollins and you can do anything.”

179th Commencement StageHinton urged graduates to “hold tight to your beliefs. You have proven your strength. You have proven your character. Most of all, you have proven you are enough. Who you are is enough. How you are is enough. Who you love is enough. How you love is enough. In your joy and sadness you are enough. In the face of criticism, lies, and pain, you are enough. On your very best day, on your very worst day, you are enough. Believe that. Rise with that.”

Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:

  • Ivana Esther Martinez, a Spanish major from Sterling, Virginia, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Megan Canfield, the university’s director of student activities and orientation, was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award, which is given to a person associated with Hollins who has shown in daily living and work those characteristics that exhibit the noblest of spiritual and human qualities.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Emma McAnirlin, a classical studies major from Newport, Maine. The award honors the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the junior or senior who is preeminent in character in addition to being a good student, was presented to Shravani Chitineni, a biology major from Cary, North Carolina.



Hollins Celebrates 179th Commencement May 19

Hollins University will honor members of the class of 2021 receiving bachelor’s degrees, and graduate students earning advanced degrees in both 2020 and 2021, during the school’s 179th Commencement Exercises, which will be held on Wednesday, May 19, at 10 a.m.

Undergraduates from the class of 2020, whose commencement was postponed last year due to the pandemic, have elected to have their celebration coincide with Hollins’ Reunion Weekend, May 27-29, 2022.

In order to best and most safely accommodate all graduates and guests, and to ensure Hollins is in full compliance with the commencement guidelines issued in March by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the ceremony will be held on the university’s athletic practice fields. Attendance is limited to up to three guests per graduate.

The event may be viewed virtually through the commencement livestream beginning that day at 9:50 a.m.

The 179th Commencement Exercises will recognize undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science degrees, as well as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degrees. The following awards will also be announced:

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, honoring a senior and a member of the Hollins community who have shown by daily living those qualities that demonstrate a love and helpfulness to others.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, presented to a senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during their days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, highlighting the junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is preeminent in character and leadership.

Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, will be the guest speaker. An industrial and organizational psychologist, Kolmstetter has excelled at leading organizational change across some of our nation’s most prominent agencies such as the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the CIA. After 9/11, she helped start the new Transportation Security Administration where she led the hiring of the largest civilian workforce in U.S. history in one year.

Kolmstetter currently serves as NASA’s director of talent strategy and engagement. Her efforts have contributed to NASA being named the Best Place to Work in government and she was recently recognized with NASA’s 2020 Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is a member of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, has served on several nonprofit boards, and is the recipient of Hollins’ Distinguished Alumnae Award and Hollins’ Honoris Causa. Her mother, Paula P. Brownlee, served as president of Hollins from 1981 – 1990. Her husband, Michael, earned his Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Hollins in 1990.

Visit the 179th Commencement Exercises webpage for more information on this year’s ceremony.


Honors Convocation Spotlights Student and Faculty Excellence


Hollins recognized students for high academic achievement during the university’s annual Honors Convocation on May 4.

Held each spring since 1978, Honors Convocation also highlights those faculty members whose exceptional work and dedication have earned them special academic designation.


Student and faculty awards announced at this year’s Honors Convocation include:

Alice Bull Biology Award
Shravani Chitineni ’21
Hanna Vance Schleupner ’21
Established in 1991 by students, alumnae, colleagues, and friends in honor of Professor Alice Bull, who taught biology at Hollins from 1964 until her retirement in 1990. The purpose of the award is to provide recognition to a deserving senior and/or junior student in biology.

American Chemical Society, Division of Analytical Chemistry, Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry
Uyen Nguyen Thanh ’23
Given to encourage and to recognize students who display an aptitude for a career in this field. The award consists of an eight-month subscription to the journal Analytical Chemistry and an eight-month honorary membership in the Division of Analytical Chemistry.

American Institute of Chemists Award
Maria Ibrahim Jdid ’21
Presented to the outstanding senior chemistry major.

Andrew James Purdy Merit Scholarship in Creative Writing
Isabel May Houck ’21
In memory of Andrew James Purdy, a member of the Hollins English faculty from 1968 to 1977, this scholarship is given to a senior English major pursuing an honors project in short fiction or a related literary

Andrew James Purdy Prize for Short Fiction
Winner – Laura Schmitt M.F.A. ’22
Runner-up – Griffin Plaag M.F.A. ’22
In memory of Andrew James Purdy, a member of the Hollins English faculty from 1968 to 1977, this award is given to a graduate student in the creative writing program who has written a body of fiction of outstanding quality.

ARETE Award in Classical Studies
Elizabeth Lindsay Lauderdale ’22
Established in 2006, this award is sponsored by the Classical Association of the Middle, West, and South (CAMWS) and is given to the junior and/or senior student(s) who have completed outstanding work in the field of classics in the past year. The awardee receives a certificate, a subscription to Classical Journal, and a free membership in CAMWS for the following academic year.

CRC Press Chemistry Achievement Award
Tram “Amy” Nguyen ’24
Keegan Leigh Clark ’24
Given to an outstanding first-year or sophomore student with interest in pursuing a career in chemistry.

Daniel M. Murphy Prize for Spanish
Ivana Esther Martinez ’21
This award, named for Dan Murphy, professor of Spanish at Hollins from 1993 until his death in 2012, is presented to a student of Spanish who, following Professor Murphy’s example, exhibits on a daily basis a profound love of the Spanish language and a dedication to learning about and teaching others about Hispanic cultures and literatures.

David L. Longfellow History Prize
Nathalie Jean Fortier ’23
This prize, established in 1982 in honor of David L. Longfellow, former assistant professor of history at Hollins, is awarded to the outstanding first-year student in history.

Elise Deyerle Lewis Award
Akshita “Akshi” Agarwal ’22
The late Elise Deyerle Lewis, class of 1927, donated a silver cup to honor the student in the junior class showing the greatest promise in mathematics. The award is in memory of Isabel Hancock, class of 1927, who was Mrs. Lewis’ roommate at Hollins, and later an outstanding teacher of mathematics at Abbot Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. The name of the student chosen is engraved on the cup, which remains on display at the university.

Elizabeth Alexander Thomas Award
Sara Ann Ficke ’23
This award, in memory of Elizabeth Alexander Thomas, class of 1968, recognizes and rewards one or more rising sophomore, junior, or senior art history majors whose academic work in art history shows exceptional depth and promise and to provide support for the art history department. Awarded funds may be used by the recipient(s) for any expenses related to academic work in art history, including museum admission fees and travel to collections and galleries.

Elizabeth Kennedy Chance Award
Summer Yvonne Jaime ’22
Shuvechchha Kunwar ’22
Established by John K. Chance in memory of his mother, class of 1922, this award is given for excellence in economics.

Evelyn Bradshaw Award for Excellence
Irina Conc ’21
This award, established in 1997 and given in honor of former Horizon Program Director Evelyn Bradshaw ’88, recognizes an outstanding Horizon student who inspires others through her perseverance, positive attitude, pursuit of knowledge, and love of Hollins. The chosen student will have her name engraved on a plaque that will remain at the university.

F.J. McGuigan Psychology Awards for Excellence
Hinza Batool Malik ’21
Established in 1974, this award, consisting of books and a certificate, is presented for excellence in undergraduate and graduate education and research.

Frances Niederer Scholars
Art History:
Madison Elizabeth Harr ’22
Amy “Faith” Herrington ’22
Studio Art:
Victoria “Tori” Queenette An’Jannique Cobbs ’22
Maddie Alexandra Zanie ’22
An anonymous donor established a scholarship fund in 1983 to honor Frances J. Niederer, professor of art history at Hollins from 1942 until her retirement in 1980. The art department selects two outstanding art majors, at least one of whom is specializing in art history, as recipients in their senior year of the Frances Niederer Scholarships.

Freya Award
Angela “Andi” Brown ’21
Paige Arianna Russell ’21
Caylin Hathaway Smith ’21
The purpose of this award is to recognize a student who throughout her time at Hollins has remained dedicated and committed to her activities on campus in a way that provides a quiet yet vital force in our community. It is for someone who has never reached out for the spotlight and has not been recognized for her efforts formally, but has still continued to work humbly and diligently in what she does to positively affect our campus.

Gertrude Claytor Poetry Prize
Winner – Tyler Starks, MFA ’21
Runner-up – Madeleine “Maddie” Gallo, MFA ’21
Runner-up – Makenzie “Kenzie” Hampton ’22
This prize of the Academy of American Poets is given to a graduate or undergraduate student for the best poem or group of poems.

Goethe Award
Victoria Taylor Anderson ’24
This award, in recognition of special accomplishments in the study of German language and literature, is presented by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Herta Freitag Award in Mathematics
Sarah Elizabeth Hayashi ’21
The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding senior student in mathematics at Hollins who plans either to teach mathematics or pursue a career field related to mathematics.

Hollins Fiction Prize
Virginia “Ginny” Lee Lucey ’24
Established by Sally Durham Mason, class of 1959, in honor of Louis D. Rubin Jr., a member of the Hollins English faculty from 1957 to 1967. This award is given to an undergraduate student who has done outstanding work in the writing of fiction.

International Studies Award for Academic Excellence
Claire Michaela Hintz ’21
This award is given to a student for outstanding work in international studies during the academic year.

James Lewis Howe Award in Chemistry
Jaclyn “Elizabeth” Ward ’21
This award is sponsored by the Virginia Blue Ridge Section of the American Chemical Society and is given each year to the outstanding chemistry major from each of the 14 colleges or universities within the section’s boundaries.

Jane Lyell Stephens Ayers Scholarship
Jonea “Joey” Alexa Mathis ’21
Hannah Nicole Marcum ’22
Given in memory of Jane Stephens Ayres, class of 1961, by members of her family, colleagues, fellow students, and friends, this scholarship was established in 1986. It is awarded to a rising junior or senior who has shown special ability as a writer and serious interest in publications or journalism.

J.F. Maddox Foundation Award for Excellence in French
Savanna Virginia Huffman Sewell ’21
Awarded annually to a student who has demonstrated superior achievement in French.

Judith Gregory Smith Award
Winner – Nupur Sehgal ’23
Winner – Uyen Nguyen Thanh ’23
Honorable Mention – Olivia Kathryn Sacci ’24
This award is given by Judith Riddick Reynolds, class of 1915, in memory of her granddaughter, Judith Gregory Smith, who would have been a fourth-generation alumna in the class of 1990. It recognizes excellence in the natural sciences.

Lisa Lindsey Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts
Tatiana Alexis Durant ’21
Anna Mitchell Johnson ’21
Lilyana Marie Miller ’21
Chloe Fiona Mahalek ’22
Established by Mary Varner Meryweather, class of 1941, as a memorial to her classmate and friend, Lisa Lindsey, this award, consisting of a cash prize and a certificate, is presented annually to a student who demonstrates outstanding achievement in theatre arts.

Mae Shelton Boger Award
Emma Valentine Fitzgerald ’21
Mae Shelton Boger, class of 1941, derived particular pleasure from her studies in French. This endowed award, given in her memory, is presented annually to an outstanding student of French who combines sound scholarship with pleasure in the pursuit of her studies.

Margaret Markley Smith Awards
Art History:
Shelby Lynn Barbee ’21
Studio Art:
Candice Marie Housden ’21
Winner – Joanna “Jay” Wright ’21
Runner-up – Averi Danielle Greenstreet ’21
Runner-up – Carly Pawlowska Lewis ’21
In memory of Margaret Markley Smith, class of 1938, these awards are given to a senior majoring in art and a senior majoring in English for outstanding work.

Marion Garrett Lunsford Music Award
Mary Elizabeth Simmons ’21
Established as a fund in memory of Marion Garrett Lunsford, class of 1926, this award is given annually to a member of the senior class for distinguished accomplishment in music.

Mary Houska Scholarship
Elizabeth Katy Brown ’22
The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding upperclass economics or business major who has demonstrated superior academic performance.

Mary-Barbara Zeldin Award
Julia “Jules” Jackson ’21
This award, established by students, colleagues, and friends in honor of Professor Mary-Barbara Zeldin, who taught philosophy at Hollins from 1953 until her death in 1981, is given to a rising junior, rising senior, or senior for excellence in philosophy.

Mary Vincent Long Award in English
Claire Michaela Hintz ’21
Renee Marie Roberts ’21
In memory of Mary Vincent Long, a member of the Hollins English faculty from 1938 to 1959, this award is given to a senior English major who exemplifies in the study of literature “a mind capable of going beyond concern with immediate facts to understanding and creation.”

Mary Williamson Award
Aysia Skye Brenner ’21
This award is given in memory of the late Professor Mary Williamson of the department of philosophy and religion for the best study submitted in the field of humanities.

Melanie Hook Rice Award in Creative Nonfiction
Winner – Jennifer “Jen” Lazar M.F.A. ’21
Runner-up – Meghana Mysore M.F.A. ’22
Runner-up – Sharon Christner, MFA ’21
In memory of Melanie Hook Rice, class of 1975, this award is given to a graduate or undergraduate student in the creative writing program who has demonstrated considerable writing skills and has either completed or made substantial progress toward writing a book-length work of nonfiction.

Melanie Hook Rice Award in the Novel
Winner – Cory Crouser M.F.A. ’21
Runner-up – Zoe Wright M.F.A. ’21
In memory of Melanie Hook Rice, class of 1975, this award is given to a graduate or undergraduate student in the creative writing program who has demonstrated considerable writing skills and has either completed or made substantial progress toward writing a novel.

Mildred Persinger ’39 – Shocky Pilafian Award in Gender and Women’s Studies
Te’ya Kaye Mitchell ’21
This award acknowledges excellence in academic achievement as well as significant contributions to social activism both within the Hollins community and beyond. The award seeks to recognize gender and women’s studies graduates who are working to effect social change and bring about social justice in a variety of arenas. This award is given to a graduating gender and women’s studies major.

Nancy Ellen Couper Ault Award in Ethics, Morals, and Values
Emily Michelle Bulifant ’22
Available to any student of the college and is accordingly an interdisciplinary honor, encourages students to think critically about important ethical questions affecting a broad range of endeavors.

Nancy Penn Holsenbeck Prize in English
Winner – Fanny “Isabel” Estrada Lugo ’22
Runner-up – Amity Jane Williams ’22
In memory of Nancy Penn Holsenbeck, class of 1938, this award is given to a rising sophomore, junior, or senior English major who has demonstrated both a love and a command of the English language.

Nancy Thorp Poetry Prize
Isabel May Houck ’21
In memory of Nancy Thorp, who attended Hollins from 1956 to 1958, this award is given to an undergraduate student who has written the best poem to appear in the student-produced literary magazine Cargoes.

Nicole Kohn Film Award
Anja Elizabeth Holland ’21
This award is given in memory of Nicole Kohn, class of 2002, to a filmmaking student of exceptional promise.

Patricia Dowd Overall Award
Mary Rose Christian ’21
Patricia Dowd Overall is a member of the class of 1954. In her honor a prize is given annually to the student who, in the judgment of the department of education, has demonstrated in the schoolroom the greatest mastery and promise in the art of teaching.

Pi Sigma Alpha Award
Saoirse Eire Healy ’21
This award is given to the senior with the highest grade point average in courses taken in political science.

Sarah McCutchen Cook International Studies Award
Christine Marie Emeric-Martinez ’22
The purpose of this award is to recognize an outstanding undergraduate student majoring in international studies.

Stephanie Mahan Hispanophile Award
Mary Elisabeth Cochran ’21
This award is given to a senior Spanish major or minor whose enthusiasm and outstanding interest in things Hispanic most closely mirror the example set by Stephanie Lynn Mahan, class of 1995. Specifically, this student must have sought out first-hand experience in the Spanish-speaking world, and must have generously shared her knowledge of that world with her peers.

Wyndham Robertson Library Undergraduate Research Award
Faith Jaqueline Clarkson ’22
Joanna “Jay” Wright ’21
Established in 2011 by the library for the recognition of exemplary undergraduate student research projects completed in Hollins courses. Two prizes are awarded, one to a first-year or sophomore and one to a junior or senior.


The Herta Freitag Faculty Legacy Award
Ángel Diaz, professor of Spanish
Awarded to a full-time teaching faculty member who has received external recognition of professional excellence from the last three years in the form of publications and papers, exhibits and performances, prizes, and other related expressions of their work.

Senior Class Faculty Award
Pauline Kaldas, professor of English
Given by the senior class  to a faculty member who has made a significant impact on their lives.

Hollins Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award
Initiated in 2021, recognizes two members of the faculty – one full-time tenure-track/tenured faculty member, and one non- tenure track faculty member – who motivate and inspire students through the demonstration of exemplary teaching practices, and who have made a positive impact on the teaching culture of the University through innovative and high-impact teaching methodologies, inclusive pedagogies, community engagement in teaching/learning, creative and/or interdisciplinary course development, instructional support, and/or campus leadership around pedagogy. Given that the inauguration of the award last year was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the award was presented to two tenured or tenure-track faculty and two non-tenure-track faculty members.
Tenured/tenure track category:
Renee Godard – professor of biology
Tina Salowey – professor of classical studies
Non-tenure-track category:
Ashleigh Breske – visiting assistant professor of global politics and societies
Jeanne Jegousso – visiting assistant professor of French

Roberta A. Stewart Service Award
Ernie Zulia, professor emerita of theatre
Granted to a Hollins employee who demonstrates long-term service, loyalty to the university, and deep caring for students and colleagues.



Art History Senior Symposium and Tribute to Professor Kathleen Nolan, April 24

Hollins will observe the 25th anniversary of the Art History Senior Symposium and pay tribute to retiring Professor of Art History Kathleen Nolan during two virtual events on Saturday, April 24.

The annual Art History Senior Symposium, the capstone experience for art history majors, will take place from 10 a.m. – noon EDT. Four members of the class of 2021 will present their original research through a series of 20-minute talks. Email knolan@hollins.edu for the Zoom link and more details.

From 1 – 3 p.m. EDT, art history alumnae will come together for a reunion to honor Nolan and her distinguished 35-year academic career at Hollins. Nolan shaped the art history department into a multi-faceted program and taught majors, minors, and non-majors the skills to perceptively and thoughtfully interpret images from the past and present alike. She has taught medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art history, and her scholarly interests include the history of women in the Middle Ages, and the works of art commissioned by women to tell their stories. She co-edited Arts of the Medieval Cathedrals: Studies on Architecture, Stained Glass and Sculpture in Honor of Anne Prache. Her book, Queens in Stone and Silver: The Creation of a Visual Identity of Queenship in Capetian France (Palgrave 2009), looked at queens’ personal seals and effigy tombs. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Art Bulletin, the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Studies in Iconography, and Gesta.

Christine Holt Fix ’97, Zirwat Chowdhury ’05, Gwen Fernandez ’06, Sarita Herman ’08, and Rory Keeley ’17 will deliver brief reflections on how their experiences studying with Nolan shaped their career paths. Through short videos, many other alumnae will also offer greetings and share their recollections. The celebration will also include opportunities to catch up with classmates, provide updates, and make new connections. Preregister for the Zoom link, or contact Amy Torbert ’05 at amy.torbert@gmail.com to learn more about the reunion event or to contribute your own memories.

With Safely Accommodating All Graduates and Guests the Priority, Hollins to Conduct Commencement Exercises May 19

Hollins University will honor the class of 2021 during commencement exercises on Wednesday, May 19, at 10 a.m. ET.

In order to best and most safely accommodate all graduates and guests, and to ensure the university is in full compliance with the commencement guidelines recently issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the ceremony will be held on the athletic practice fields across from the Batten Tennis Center on West Campus Drive.

The ceremony will recognize undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Arts and Fine Arts, and Bachelor of Science degrees, as well as the Master of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, and Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degrees. The following awards will also be announced:

  • The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, honoring a senior and a member of the Hollins community who have shown by daily living those qualities that demonstrate a love and helpfulness to others.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, presented to a senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during their days at Hollins.
  • The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, highlighting the junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is preeminent in character and leadership.
Elizabeth Kolmstetter '85
Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985, will deliver the commencement address.

Elizabeth Kolmstetter, Ph.D., a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 who has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across eight federal agencies, will be the guest speaker. An industrial and organizational psychologist, Kolmstetter has excelled at leading organizational change across some of our nation’s most prominent agencies such as the FBI, ODNI, and CIA. After 9/11, she helped start the new Transportation Security Administration where she led the hiring of the largest civilian workforce in U.S. history in one year.

Kolmstetter currently serves as NASA’s director of talent strategy and engagement. Her efforts have contributed to NASA being named the Best Place to Work in government and she was recently recognized with NASA’s 2020 Outstanding Leadership Medal. She is a member of the Hollins University Board of Trustees, has served on several nonprofit boards, and is the recipient of Hollins’ Distinguished Alumnae Award and Hollins’ Honoris Causa.

Kolmstetter is married to Michael (MALS ’90) and her mother is Paula P. Brownlee, who was president of Hollins from 1981 – 1990.

Presidential Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Talks About Reading For Hollins And His Latest Book “How to Love a Country”

It’s not every day that a presidential inaugural poet gives a reading for Hollins University. In fact, it’s a first. This Thursday, April 8, Cuban-American writer Richard Blanco, who read his poem “One Today” at the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2012, will offer a virtual reading for the Hollins community that’s open to the general public, becoming the first inaugural poet to do so in the university’s history. It’s a rare honor to be selected to read a poem at a presidential inauguration, even rarer than being president (45 individuals have served as U.S. President, but there have been just six inaugural poets, including literary titans such as Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration and Maya Angelou for Bill Clinton in 1993.) Blanco was the nation’s first Latino and first openly gay inaugural poet, and he wrote about the experience and his life leading up to that moment in his 2013 memoir For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. Blanco recently spoke about his latest collection How to Love a Country, writing during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his new friendship with fellow inaugural poet Amanda Gorman.


Thank you so much for taking the time, Richard. Let’s just start with the big game-changing moment: getting the call to read at then-President Obama’s second inauguration. What was that like?

That was a pretty crazy, alarming, wonderful, all-of-the-above moment. But I guess the most striking thing was that my initial reaction was not of fear or apprehension but really more of immense gratitude, not just for the opportunity that it represented, but more so gratitude for my parents and grandparents and all the sacrifices they made coming to this country. So you realize that your story is not just your story but that it’s a story that started being written a long time before. Gratitude for all of that was, in a way, a kind of closure as well as a new beginning. It closed one chapter of my life but opened up a whole new one.


It sounds like the inauguration was cathartic not just personally but artistically as well. Can you talk more about that?

Aesthetically and creatively, I’d never had to write a poem like that before. But I have to say, in an interesting and ironic way, I’d been writing it my entire life. In my very first graduate-level creative writing workshop, my first assignment was “write a poem about America.” [Laughs] My mentor and I joke that Obama gave me the same assignment ten years ago. But to be honest, after four books of writing about being Cuban-American and gay and Latino, I felt I had kind of exhausted the material. I didn’t know how to break out of the more purely autobiographical, and [the inauguration] was an invitation to do just that. I know what America means to me, but what does America mean to America? That was the question I had to ask. So the poem is a response to that and, in a way, it did open up a whole other approach to writing where the idea of the poetry of “We,” not just the poetry of “I,” became very important. And that’s obviously reflected in How to Love a Country as well.


Can we expect to hear some poems from that latest book during your Hollins reading?"How to Love a Country" Book Cover

Yes, I’ll read some poems from, How to Love a Country, [plus] some poems that lead up to that book as well. I usually like to tell somewhat of a narrative about my journey, both artistically and personally, and how that’s reflected in the poems. So thinking about growing up as an immigrant gay kid, becoming an inaugural poet, and how that changed my perspective on things in my art, resulting in How to Love a Country, which are poems that are much more socio-political.


I love that collection so much. For these poems, did you find yourself struggling to love this country, or struggling to re-evaluate that love?

The question of what is America, what does it mean to be an American, has always been a part of my question. Being selected as presidential inaugural poet was obviously an amazing experience in that it opened my eyes to the idea that my narrative is part of America. Before then, I wasn’t 100-percent convinced of that. [Laughs] But I also started seeing how many narratives weren’t being included although they were part of this country’s fabric, that so many people, like me, felt the same way. So I just started thinking about all the work we had to do still in this country. Our democracy is not a one-off—it’s not a check-and-done—it’s constant work and constant re-evaluation. So the inauguration was a pivotal moment, a positive moment, but it also sent me on a journey to keep investigating this idea of the American narrative.


And how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected that investigation? Has quarantine had a big impact on your writing process?

For the most part, no, in the sense that writers are used to working alone. But even I’m going a little stir crazy, and you know when the writers are going stir crazy that something is really bad. [laughs] But I really have a sense of empathy for people who have been working outside their house for years and years. I would say that this last year has instilled in me an appreciation for home and community like never before. There are so many things that we all take for granted, even the smallest things like going to your favorite neighborhood restaurant or just appreciating the people who allow us to have those experiences and understanding, much like the inaugural poem, that all of us matter. All our stories are really happening at once and they’re all interconnected.


Speaking of that interconnection, we just had another inauguration in January and another presidential inaugural poet. What did you think of Amanda Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb”?

I know Amanda. She speaks Spanish, which is really wonderful; we text in Spanish so she can practice. As my partner Mark says, more people have been to the moon than have been presidential inaugural poets, so it’s a very small club! [laughs]

But besides her poem and the strength of her poem, what she represents is so powerful. During these chaotic years, I’ve been concerned by what kind of story we’re telling to our children, to our youth. So the choice of this 22-year-old writing dynamo as inaugural poet says a lot: says that you have power, you have agency, you have to participate in this democracy, it’s your country as well. I think she has come at a moment when we need that the most, and I look forward to seeing how she can lead us, especially our youth, through what I think are still very tumultuous years ahead.


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.

Hollins Presents 63rd Annual Science Seminar, April 5 – 8



Hollins will highlight the dynamic research that has been conducted by the university’s science and mathematics students during the 2020-21 academic year at the 63rd Annual Science Seminar, April 5 – 8.



The four-day virtual meeting will celebrate scientific research and inquiry through:

  • Student research presentations in both oral and poster formats
  • Separate student/faculty panels exploring research in biology/environmental science, chemistry/physics, mathematics/statistics/computer science, and psychology
  • An alumnae panel exploring research in STEM fields
  • A keynote address

“Though we have been pressed by the pandemic, we have continued in our quest to expand our mathematical and scientific understanding of the world around us,” said Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Renee Godard.

The 63rd Annual Science Seminar begins on Monday, April 5, with two sessions considering the process and value of doing research in STEM fields. During “Conversations about Research with Students of Science and Math” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET), student panelists will discuss how they found research opportunities, describe what lessons they learned and skills they gained during their research, and explain how this has prepared them for their future. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

The evening session, “A Conversation with STEMinist Alumnae in Research” (6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET), will be led by recent Hollins alumnae who are actively pursuing careers in research in psychology, environmental science, biomedical technology, and chemistry. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

On Tuesday, April 6, the Science Seminar will explore research in biology/environmental science and mathematics/statistics. “Exploring Research in Biology and Environmental Science” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET) will feature biology and environmental science faculty and students, who will discuss their ongoing research at Hollins. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Also from 4:45 – 5:45 p.m., faculty and senior majors in the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science will talk about “Exploring Research in Math, Statistics, and Data Science.” Students will make short presentations about the current state of their research, and faculty will speak briefly about their own research areas. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

“Senior Research Presentations” (6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET) will highlight two Hollins seniors who are exploring research projects at the intersection of biology, environmental science, and mathematics/statistics. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Day Three of the Science Seminar, Wednesday, April 7, will be devoted to research in chemistry/physics and psychology. “Exploring Research in Chemistry and Physics” (4:45 – 5:45 p.m., ET) features chemistry and physics faculty in a conversation about their areas of research followed by separate discussions with students presenting research posters. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

Susan Campbell
Neurobiologist Susan Campbell of Virginia Tech is the keynote speaker for the 63rd Annual Science Seminar.

“Exploring Research in Psychology,” also from 4:45 – 5:45 p.m., spotlights faculty research, student research posters, and various research opportunities for students. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

That evening from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., ET, “Senior Research Presentations” will showcase two seniors who are conducting research projects in chemistry and psychology. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.

On Thursday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m., ET, the 63rd Annual Science Seminar will conclude with a keynote presentation by Susan Campbell, an assistant professor of animal and poultry sciences at Virginia Tech, entitled “Mechanism of Seizure Development: Switching Roles and Gut Feelings.” Campbell completed her Ph.D. in neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her scientific career has been focused on studying epilepsy and mechanisms involved in seizure development. Campbell’s research group is investigating novel mechanisms that lead to seizure development by combining electrophysiology and clinically relevant seizure models. Preregister for the Zoom meeting link.



“Decision Height” Revival Celebrates Ten Years of the Award-Winning Drama

“Oh my God, what am I going to write?”

This was the question nagging then-junior Meredith Dayna Levy ’12, M.F.A. ’18 while she was studying abroad in London during the spring of 2011. For her senior honors thesis, the theatre major knew she wanted to write a play, one with an all-female cast that would allow her “to practically use the actors I knew on campus and also speak to my experience as a college student.” What she didn’t know was, what exactly was the play going to be about?

“I was beating myself up about it,” Levy recalls.

All that changed when Levy learned that in 2009, President Barack Obama had signed into law a bill awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the group known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women ever to fly American military aircraft. Created in World War II to fly noncombat military missions in the United States so that male pilots could take on combat missions in Europe and Asia, the WASP program logged more than 60 million miles and flew virtually every kind of aircraft operated by the Army Air Force.

Levy was astounded. She had never heard of the WASP program and was determined to learn more. She found a newspaper article about one of the pilots after she had flown her first solo flight. “All of her friends had dumped her into this wishing well per tradition. I thought, ‘This is something Hollins students are going to understand. We’re all about wacky traditions.’” But on a more profound level, Levy’s initial research told her that “even though I knew nothing at all about planes, the military, or physics, I decided this was an environment and a community that I could understand, and more importantly, my audience of students could understand.”Decision Height Flyer

Thus began Levy’s work on what would become the play Decision Height. The drama would have its Hollins Theatre Main Stage premiere in the fall of 2012, subsequently capture honors from the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and go on to be produced at high schools, colleges, and community theatres around the country. Hollins Theatre is now giving Decision Height its first revival in a virtual staging April 1-3 at 7:30 p.m.; April 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and April 11 at 2 p.m. (Admission is free and open to the public, but tickets are required; visit Brown Paper Tickets to request the Zoom link.)

Decision Height follows six women upon their arrival at a base in Sweetwater, Texas, for nine months of training before moving on to active duty. “We witness how their relationships develop and the ways in which they learn new things about themselves and each other, what motivates them and what gives them purpose and strength,” Levy explains. “By the end of the play, every character is sort of on a different path, but we know they’re united forever in friendship.”

Artistic Director and Chair of the Hollins Theatre Department Ernie Zulia, who was Levy’s advisor when she was an undergraduate, remembers when she first approached him prior to the 2011-12 academic year about writing a play as her honors thesis. “An honors thesis is a yearlong process, and I figured, ‘Terrific, that’s enough to occupy any new playwright for a year.’ But then she added, ‘I would like to design, produce, and direct the play.’ And I thought, ‘Sure, if anyone can take on that kind of effort, Meredith can.’ Not only was it sitting down and creating characters and dialogue, it also required intense research in order to do it authentically.”

WASPs Awarded Congressional Gold Medal
Deanie Parrish accepts the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her fellow WASPs at the Capitol March 10, 2010. More than 200 WASPs attended the event, many of them wearing their World War II-era uniforms. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

Levy devoured every piece of background information she could find. A crucial discovery was an online collection of primary research materials compiled by Nancy Parrish, whose mother, Odean “Deanie” Bishop Parrish, was part of the WASP program. “Nancy has made it her life’s mission to document WASP, and I spent the entirety of the summer after I came back from London just eating this stuff up. I even got to talk to Nancy and Deanie. So many of the events in the play came out of that research and brought those stories to life. It can be intimidating when you’re faced with so many real people. How do you fictionalize it? You want to get every detail right and memorialize it perfectly.”

So, Levy devoted the fall of 2011 to “doing draft after draft after draft.” Friends took part in readings of the play “just trying to get the words out so that I could hear the play and determine what was missing or confusing. With each draft I was able to take a further step away from the history and lean more on my own lived experience, my friendships, and putting my own emotional truth into the play and amongst all the historical framework.”

Levy eventually invited Zulia and Todd Ristau, director of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins, to attend those readings and offer feedback. “It needed more work, but it was a beautiful script,” Zulia says. “When you get a play to that point, it’s important to get it up on its feet so the playwright can see the play they’ve written.”

In February 2012, Decision Height went into rehearsals for its production that spring in the Upstairs Studio Theatre at Hollins, a venue designed for trying out new works. The staging “was received with such enthusiasm,” Zulia says. “People were in tears and talking about what an impact this play had on them. I’d seen plays through many incarnations and I knew some of the problems she’d need to fix as she continued to work on it, but I heard it loud and clear from the audience that something in this play was profoundly moving.”

After graduating in the spring of 2012, Levy moved into Hollins’ M.F.A. in Playwriting program. Zulia offered her a deal: If she spent that summer working on rewrites, he would put Decision Height on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage. She continued adding new elements to the play with support from Zulia, Ristau, and Bob Moss, a member of the Playwright’s Lab faculty who has been called a “living legend of Off-Off Broadway.”

For Decision Height’s Main Stage production that October, Zulia invited representatives from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) Region IV, a program dedicated to improving the quality of college theatre in the United States. “The feedback we got was phenomenal,” Zulia notes, and in January 2013, KCACTF’s Region IV awarded its top playwriting honor to Levy.

A year later, Hollins and Roanoke’s Mill Mountain Theatre hosted the 2014 Region IV KCATCF and featured Decision Height as the opening event. “There were spontaneous standing ovations, people were so impressed by the work Meredith and the whole company had created,” Zulia says. “It definitely told us something good was happening. At this festival, national representatives from across the country for the Kennedy Center were in attendance. They selected Decision Height as the top new play of the year, and the top production of a play that season.”

Subsequently published by Samuel French, one of the world’s leading publishers and licensors of plays and musicals, Decision Height over the past seven years has reached broader audiences regionally and nationally. Levy got special satisfaction from seeing it staged at colleges and universities. “I’m always amazed when I go to a school and see students do the show. If it’s a single-sex environment, the actors are so excited – ‘This play feels like our school. This is me and my friends, this is our community.’ I expected that, but I’m also so delighted when I go to big state schools and the women say, ‘There are so few parts for us in so many of the main stage productions. I’ve never viewed any of my peers as friends when we’re competing for the same five parts. To do an all-female production, I feel like I’ve built a new family.’ Hearing these students talk about how they had discovered this whole new way of being in community with women, that it didn’t have to be adversarial or competitive, was huge. I didn’t set out to write a play that would do that, but it was gratifying to know the play was having such an impact.”

Decision Height Stage Scene
A scene from the original production of “Decision Height” on Hollins Theatre’s Main Stage in October 2012.

Zulia sees the Decision Height revival as a logical continuation of Hollins Theatre’s Legacy Series, which began a decade ago as a way to bring literary pieces by Hollins writers to the stage. Beginning with the classic children’s book Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown ‘32, the Legacy Series has included A Woman of Independent Means (Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey ’60), Belloq’s Ophelia (Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91), Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Annie Dillard ’67, M.A. ’68), and Good Ol’ Girls (Lee Smith ’67 and Jill McCorkle M.A. ’81).

“Along comes Decision Height, and we thought, ‘Our playwriting program is a big part of our legacy along with our creative writing program,’” Zulia explains. “Some students came to me last year and asked, ‘When do we get to perform Decision Height?’, and it seemed like a good idea – let’s bring this play back and give our current students the opportunity to be a part of it. Its historical setting and themes are timeless.”

Levy believes Decision Height is the perfect title for the play and underscores why it continues to resonate with audiences of all ages, particularly the college demographic. “‘Decision Height’ is the flight term that was used for the critical moment where you have to decide if you’re going to land the plane or keep going. I thought that was such a great metaphor for what it feels like to graduate college and be at this point where you have to decide, what path you’re going to take with your life.

“Looking back after ten years, there’s no decision that you can’t change. But as a senior, I thought whatever I do next is going to define my life. It felt so huge, and this metaphor was really helpful to me to put my hands around that feeling and fear.”



Support Hollins Athletics By Joining In The Hollins Hustle Virtual 5K

Whether you’re an expert marathoner, casual runner, walker, hiker, or just want to be outside, you can take part in the Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k, April 5 – 12.

The cost is $25, and all proceeds benefit the Hollins University Athletic Department. Each participant will receive a Hollins Hustle race bib and a certificate of completion.

The registration deadline has been extended to midnight on April 2. Enter a gift amount of at least $25 and select “One-Time Gift.” Then, select “Friends of Athletics 5k Registration” and complete the giving form. Please include your current email address.

Here’s how the Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k works: Any time between April 5 and 12, in any location around the world, the 5k can be run, jogged, or walked on the road, trail, or treadmill, at the gym or on the track. Be sure to document your distance and time on an app such as Strava, Charity Miles, Map My Run, or others. Then, take a screen shot of your results and email it to Sports Information Director Justin McIlwee at mcilweej@hollins.edu.

Be sure to use the hashtag #HollinsHustle during the event to let us know you’re hustling for Hollins Athletics!

Medals will be awarded to the top two individuals in each of the following categories:

  • Age group winners: Under 20, 20-39, 40-59, 60 & over
  • Most picturesque image taken during the Hustle
  • Best selfie taken during the Hustle
  • Best Hollins spirit picture taken during the Hustle

The Hollins Hustle Virtual 5k is an event for anyone and everyone.