Vision and Revision: Distinguished Alumnae Look Back

on August 25 | in Alumnae Connections | by

Distinguished Alumnae Award recipients
From left: Patricia Barmeyer ’68, Neely Towe ’63, Julia Emmons ’63, and Brandy Culp ’98. Jane Vance ’63 was unable to attend reunion.

At reunion, the following received Distinguished Alumnae Awards for bringing “distinction to themselves and to Hollins through broad and inspiring personal or career achievements, volunteer service, or contributions to society.” Each recipient was invited to answer three thought-provoking questions about her life.

  1. What one thing that you learned at Hollins has served you best in your career or personal life?
  2. Which professor or class do you remember the best?
  3. What advice would you go back and give yourself as a new student at Hollins?

Julia Voorhees Emmons ’63

Emmons is the architect of the largest 10K road race in the world, the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, with 55,000 runners. After a 16-year career as associate professor of library and information science at Emory University, Emmons became the first woman executive director of a track club in the United States and served for 22 years as head of the 10,000-member Atlanta Track Club. She is in numerous sports halls of fame and has received many awards for her leadership, including being named Race Director of the Year by Road Race Management in 1988, the first woman so honored.

  1. For many, going away to college is the first time they are on their own, navigating life’s sometimes choppy waters by themselves. At Hollins, I learned the importance of selecting one’s close friends carefully: for the authenticity of character, moral compass, sense of joy, and dependability. With this foundation, even after 50 years, I remain close to these classmates.
  2. Literature professor Jesse Zeldin is the teacher I best remember. I was in his Great Books class (or whatever it was called) freshman year, and later took his class in Russian literature. A slight, rather unimposing figure, he conveyed a passion for knowledge, and the beauty and excitement of great literature, that still lingers.
  3. I would advise new students as my parents advised me: take advantage of every opportunity Hollins presents for honing your ability to write and reason, and seize every chance to broaden your horizons. For my part, alas, I blithely ignored this advice, and have spent the last 50 years regretting those unmet challenges and roads not explored.

Neely Paul Towe ’63

Upon graduating with a B.A. in economics and membership in Phi Beta Kappa, Towe found that many divinity schools would not admit women. When her youngest child started school, she started her journey at Yale Divinity School, earning her master of divinity degree in 1987. She served as pastor of Stanwich Congregational Church in Greenwich, Connecticut, from 1987 to 2007. In 1990 she became the first woman senior pastor for any denomination in Greenwich and surrounding Fairfield County.

  1. I believe that many of the strands that eventually wove through my life were either first stitched at Hollins or significantly added there. Surely the delight in learning and in the exploration of the mind deepened at Hollins, along with the unspoken code of honor in all things, not just classwork. Mr. Beardslee and the chapel program kept my faith alive in the challenging college years, and I graduated with “Lift Thine Eyes” being sung over my head from the chapel choir—as though from anointed angels—which became a mantra for me, even in the years that I forgot all about it. Most of all I rejoice in the atmosphere of grace during those vulnerable years at Hollins, where I felt just as safe and free to fail as I was challenged and inspired to succeed, and where kindness went hand in hand with excellence. Though God’s name was never verbally attached to that life, I believe that it is the paradigm that He designed for our lives, and the ethos at Hollins that made it all part of the air we breathed is something I will cherish forever.
  2. Miss Jackson stimulated my enthusiasm for searching out how things work—not just the economy, which she taught so brilliantly—and she prepared me for family business responsibilities in the early years after graduation and ultimately in the business of leading a church, none of which I had imagined when (because of Miss Jackson) I majored in economics.
  3. I would surely tell myself to take every ounce of the new Batten Leadership Institute program being offered at Hollins. What a treasure that is, and how invaluable to women in family life as well as professional and community life.

Jane Gentry Vance ’63

Since 1972 Vance has served on the faculty of the University of Kentucky and received the university’s alumni association’s Great Teacher Award. She has published two full-length collections of poetry, a chapbook, and a short history of her hometown of Athens, Kentucky. Her work has appeared widely in journals, literary magazines, and reviews. In 2007 she was appointed the state’s poet laureate, the highest honor bestowed upon a writer in the Bluegrass State.

  1. What has served me in my work and personal life is what I learned about writing, especially from Louis Rubin, Lex Allen, Howard Nemerov, and Julia Randall, and that is that writing is a process, not a performance. It is a process of vision and revision, of discovery of what you are thinking and feeling, and a refinement of the best language to express your thoughts.
  2. Among many classes that were crucial to what I learned at Hollins, the one I remember best is Louis Rubin’s creative writing class. We gathered in Louis’s basement and learned how to help ourselves and each other through the process of discovering our feelings, thoughts, and insights, and finding the best words to make them real.
  3. Open your mind and heart to all the experiences that the place, the community, and the academic work of Hollins offer you. Study hard, read as much as you can, but always leave space and time for the unexpected graces of companionship, knowledge, and beauty that Hollins offers.

Patricia Thrower Barmeyer ’68

Barmeyer is a leading environmental attorney. She earned her law degree from Harvard in 1971, cum laude. For 17 years she worked on environmental and natural resource cases as assistant attorney general for the State of Georgia, arguing in the United States Supreme Court a dispute over the boundary line between Georgia and South Carolina. In 1990, she joined the Atlanta office of King & Spalding. Today she is partner and head of the firm’s environmental practice and has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America for more than 10 years. She was named the 2010 Atlanta Environmental Lawyer of the Year and has served on area environmental organizations’ boards.

  1. The discipline of dance classes, and especially the challenge of performing, taught me invaluable lessons: train, prepare, study, and then, when the time comes, take a deep breath, get your balance, square your shoulders, and walk out onto the stage (or into the meeting, presentation, or courtroom) and perform, in spite of stage fright, nerves, sore feet, or abject fear.
  2. My senior year there was a Constitutional Law class taught (for only one year, I think) by a recent graduate of Harvard Law School. He was an excellent teacher, and I loved the course and did very well. He told me to apply to Harvard Law School, and I did.
  3. Recognize how privileged you are to be in this remarkably beautiful place. Take the time to enjoy and appreciate it.

Brandy S. Culp ’98: Distinguished Young Alumnae Award

Culp earned a master’s degree from the Bard Graduate Center in New York. As curator of the Historic Charleston Foundation’s collection of fine and decorative arts, she is responsible for obtaining and preserving the collection, which contains more than 4,000 items ranging from portraits to silverware to furniture. She co-authored and edited the book Grandeur Preserved: The House Museums of Historic Charleston. She has led tours of the Hollins campus during reunions and tours of Charleston for the Hollins 1842 Society weekend, and she has hosted Hollins interns at the Historic Charleston Foundation.

  1. I learned to walk with confidence in all aspects of my life, and at that time an outwardly shy person, I realized how much I genuinely loved to connect with others. I found my voice at Hollins. Today, I use that voice to ensure that the past has a future through preservation and material culture studies.
  2. Although all of my professors greatly contributed to my Hollins experience, I am particularly thankful to Peter Coogan (history), Ruth Doan (history), and Art Poskocil (sociology). I still remember the many thought-provoking discussions generated in their classes. The foundational knowledge that I gained from professors Coogan and Doan in American cultural, political, and social history was critical to my career path. Many of their assigned readings are still on my shelf.
  3. I would have taken advantage of the Hollins Abroad program!
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