Home : About Hollins : History and Mission


Hollins is an independent liberal arts university dedicated to academic excellence and humane values. Hollins University offers undergraduate liberal arts education for women, selected graduate programs for men and women, and community outreach initiatives. The Hollins curriculum and cocurricular programs prepare students for lives of active learning, fulfilling work, personal growth, achievement, and service to society.

The Hollins community sustains talented students engaged in challenging study, and productive scholars and artists devoted to teaching and to the advancement of knowledge. Experiential learning, study abroad, and internships enhance the academic program. The hallmarks of a Hollins education are creativity and effective self-expression, problem solving and critical thinking skills, and independent inquiry and the free exchange of ideas.

Hollins nurtures civility, integrity, and concern for others, encourages and values diversity and social justice, and affirms the equal worth of women and men. Our university motto, Levavi Oculos, calls us to leadership and service in accord with the Hollins values and traditions.



Initially established in 1842 as Valley Union Seminary, a coeducational college, Hollins became an institution for women in 1852. Three years later, it was renamed Hollins in recognition of benefactors John and Ann Halsey Hollins who donated generously to the school. Hollins Institute became Hollins College in 1911 and Hollins University in 1998. The transition to Hollins University affirms the institution's long tradition of graduate programs, originating in 1958. Currently Hollins offers graduate programs in creative writing (M.F.A.), liberal studies, children's literature, teaching, screenwriting and film studies, dance, and playwriting.

The history of Hollins is synonymous with the history of Charles Lewis Cocke, a young mathematics professor from Richmond who, at the age of 19, had written that he wished to dedicate himself to the "higher education of women in the South." Within a few years Cocke fulfilled that dream by accepting the position offered him as principal of the institute which would become Hollins College. The motivating force behind the first women's college in Virginia and one of the first in the nation, Charles Lewis Cocke is properly known as the founder of Hollins.

Cocke was not only surprisingly single-minded at an early age, he was also ahead of his time. During an era when the education of women was thought to be a futile, even possibly dangerous business, Cocke wrote in 1857: "The plan and policy of this school recognizes the principle that in the present state of society in our country young women require the same thorough and rigid training as that afforded to young men." Thus it was that Hollins dedicated itself early in its history to academic excellence for women and high standards of achievement.

Throughout its history, Hollins has continued to be a leader in liberal arts education, has attracted to its campus distinguished faculty, and has produced graduates who successfully enter a wide range of professions. Learn more »