“Stand Tall, Forge Ahead”: Hollins Celebrates Its 176th Commencement

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Alumna and Virginia House of Delegates member Jennifer Barton Boysko ’89 welcomed Hollins University’s class of 2018 to “the ranks of the strong, barrier-breaking women who have come before you” during the school’s 176th Commencement Exercises on May 20.

Boysko, who represents the commonwealth’s 86th District, was the guest speaker at this year’s event, which was held on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle. The university conferred 202 undergraduate and graduate degrees during the morning ceremony.

Reflecting on “what’s different between the time that I sat in your place 29 years ago and today,” Boysko noted that “most of my classmates were not as politically active or deeply civically engaged [as you are]. We realized society wasn’t perfect in 1989, but there wasn’t this sense of urgency like there is now. We all have to acknowledge that in today’s society, we cannot afford not to be engaged. During the time that you’ve been here at Hollins, we’ve seen a number of movements spark real political engagement, specifically around racial and social justice issues. You have taken a stand on many of them, making sure that we are working for a more inclusive society.”

176th Commencement - 4Boysko lauded this year’s graduates for having “grown and reached into yourselves academically, socially, and emotionally. I’m here to tell you that you should stand tall and forge ahead. You have the resources to face whatever comes your way. There are many ways for you to create a meaningful life for yourself and to make a difference. You don’t have to run for office or be the CEO of a major company. But what it does require is that you become invested in whatever you do.

“My message to you is, trust yourself as you move forward. Remain open to opportunities. Once you’ve set a long-term goal and things get difficult, reassess and regroup, knowing that you’re worth the effort. Give yourself permission to be who you are and use your life experience to make your world meaningful for you.”176th Commencement - 2

Hollins’ 176th Commencement was the first for President Pareena Lawrence, who took office as the university’s 12th president last July. She congratulated this year’s graduates on “finding and expressing your own voice. This authenticity and sense of purpose ensures that you will live a life of consequence as you define it,” and thanked them for making her feel at home at Hollins, proclaiming, “You welcomed me, you educated me, and as a result, I have personally grown in so many ways. I will be eternally grateful for your warmth, your patience, and your perspectives.”


176th Commencement - 3Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:

  • Raynitra Olds, a psychology major from Baltimore, Maryland, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan 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.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Antonia Nagle, an English major from Reston, Virginia. 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 given to Danielle “Dani” Raymond, an English and communication studies double-major from Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • The Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the students with the highest and second-highest academic standing in the class of 2018, was presented respectively to Erin Bragg, an English major from Richmond, Virginia, and Lan Nguyen, an economics and environmental science double-major from Hanoi, Vietnam.



Watch Hollins University’s 176th Commencement in its entirety here.

View a gallery of commencement photos here.