|Saturday & Sunday, May 22 - 23, 2010
Natasha Trethewey's Commencement Address (PDF)
Pulitzer Prize winner Natasha Trethewey urged the Class of 2010 to embrace "a necessary occupation for all of us: the ongoing pursuit of knowledge, a commitment to lifelong inquiry and the blossoming of ideas" during Hollins University’s 168th Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 23.
Hollins conferred 159 bachelor’s degrees and 57 master’s degrees during the ceremony, which was held on the university’s historic Front Quadrangle.
Trethewey, who was awarded the Pulitzer in poetry in 2007 for her collection, Native Guard, received her master’s degree in English and creative writing from Hollins in 1991. She told the audience, "I consider it my good fortune to have come to Hollins better late than never. And I can say to you now, that while I did not begin my journey at Hollins, I know that I did not start going places until I got here."
The professor of English and the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry at Emory University noted, "It’s easy to think of graduation as an ending, like a closed book, the completion of a course of study. And yet, we are reminded that a commencement is a beginning, and yours is an auspicious one. You have a long and promising road ahead of you."
She explained that women today have unprecedented potential to affect the nation’s direction by virtue of being increasingly better educated and making up half of the work force. But, she also emphasized that great responsibility will accompany those opportunities.
"In your hands is the possibility of a better, more equitable society: you can choose it and usher it into being for posterity, for daughters and sons alike,” she said. “Our future, and the future of our nation, is dependent on you."
Following Trethewey’s address, Clark Hooper Baruch ’68, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, presented her with the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa in recognition of her career achievements.
Trethewey is the daughter of Eric Trethewey, professor of English at Hollins.
Two seniors were honored during the morning ceremony for their academic achievements. Brianna Elizabeth Kinney of Walworth, Wisconsin, and Kristin Elysse Stolpe of Gillette, Wyoming, each received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for having the highest and second-highest grade point averages among this year’s graduates, respectively. In addition, the following awards were presented:
- The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, recognizes members of the campus community who have shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. This year’s honorees are Tiffany Lynne Allen '10 of Panama City, Florida, and Margaret Airey, circulation coordinator at the Wyndham Robertson Library, who is retiring this spring after 22 years of service.
- The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award, established by the late Mrs. William A. Anderson in memory of her mother, is presented to the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins. Kelcy Leigh Mueller of New Braunfels, Texas, is the recipient this year.
- The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, honoring a member of the Class of 1911, recognizes a junior or senior who, in addition to being a good student, is pre-eminent in character. Kristin Elysse Stolpe ’10 was presented this year’s award.
- The Hollins University Teaching Award, supported by an endowment established by Mary Bernhardt Decker ’58 and James DeWitt Becker, honors secondary school teachers who have devoted their lives to preparing students to achieve and excel in a higher education setting. Each year, Hollins seniors are invited to nominate the teachers who inspired them or contributed significantly to their intellectual and personal growth. This year’s winner, nominated by Amber Hylton ’10, is Holly Wakeland, an English teacher at William Byrd High School in Vinton, Virginia. Wakeland received a $2,000 award and Hylton accepted a check in the amount of $1,000 on behalf of William Byrd.
- The Hollins Medal, one of the highest honors bestowed by the university, was presented to Katherine Fralin Walker of Roanoke, founding director of the Batten Leadership Institute. Walker was one of the catalysts in establishing the program and providing the essential vision and expertise to guide it. The Hollins Medal is awarded "for distinction, service to Hollins University and to women’s life and education in general."
Hollins also paid tribute to the memory of Shalynda Toney, a member of the Class of 2010 who died last October as the result of injuries she suffered while studying abroad in Italy. President Nancy Gray presented an honorary bachelor’s degree to the Toney family.