On a sunny if somewhat muggy Sunday morning at Hollins University, more than 200 graduates received their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, ready to go forth from the liberal arts school and take on the world.
Hollins President Nancy Oliver Gray welcomed students, parents, friends and faculty to the outdoor ceremony last weekend, reminding students that they might have been “unsure of what lay ahead of you,” when arriving as freshmen. They leave said Gray, as “more confident, independent women … and men.” All of the undergraduates at Hollins are female; men can enroll only in the master’s programs.
Former Hollins graduate student Natasha Trethewey was the keynote speaker; she represents the fourth Pulitizer Prize winner (2007, poetry) to matriculate at the small liberal arts school. “Better late than never,” said Trethewey about her arrival as a graduate student at the school. Her father Eric teaches English at Hollins.
“I’d begun to seriously think about the lives of women [while at Hollins],” said Trethewey, who studied there in 1990 and 1991. She read a poem that took her twenty years to write by her account, entitled “Illuminations.” “There is always something more to know…” it began.
Trethewey reminded the largely female group of graduates that women now receive more than half of all the college degrees conferred in the country, except at the Ph.D. level. “What will we make of what we have been given?” she asked the Class of 2010. Trethewey was given an honorary Doctorate of Laws after her address. Kathryn Fralin Walker, the wife of developer Ed Walker, was awarded the Hollins Medal for leadership.
Senior class president Tiffany Brown gave the student address, hailing Hollins for “a sense of community [that] is … most unique.” She also called Hollins University “the most accepting place on earth. It was the best time of my life.” Brown spent portions of her college time on missions to Jamaica and parts of Appalachia; she helped special needs students every Sunday for the past two years as well. Brown also has an unusual hobby; she likes to explore caves.
The Radford native vowed from the podium that “we are all going to do fantastic things,” armed with Hollins educations.
“You have found your voices,” Nancy Gray told the graduates before they came to the dais to collect their hard-earned diplomas.By Gene Marrano firstname.lastname@example.org