Hollins alumna Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter wished graduates “a life ahead full of continuous discovery” during the university’s 170th Commencement Exercises on Sunday, May 20.
Hollins conferred 182 bachelor’s degrees and 71 master’s degrees during the ceremony, which was held on the university’s historic Front Quadrangle.
Kolmstetter, a member of Hollins’ class of 1985 and this year’s guest speaker, is deputy associate director of national intelligence for human capital within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Previously, she served as the director for human capital development at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the Department of Homeland Security. An industrial-organizational psychologist, she was one of the first federal employees chosen in 2002 to be part of the creation of the TSA in the aftermath of 9-11. She was directly responsible for establishing and managing the new standards and hiring system that resulted in the largest civilian workforce mobilization in U.S. history – the hiring of over 55,000 security screeners at 430 airports across the nation in less than one year.
Kolmstetter focused on the importance of maintaining “your own journey of discovery that must never end” in her address. She shared four stories of what she personally has discovered in life:
- “Be grateful and show it.” (“We are all here together today because of the dreams and commitments of those who have come before us and we must give thanks….”)
- “Plan, prepare, work really hard, and be open to the unexpected in life.” (“…even those curve balls life will throw at you, that is when amazing things happen resulting in real discovery.”)
- “Know and keep your real friends…forever.” (“[They] only have your best interest in mind, no hidden agendas, no personal gains – they will encourage you and sometimes give you the courage you need to take your own leaps of faith.”)
- “Do what’s hardest…even something you don’t think you can do.” (“There is nothing like taking on the toughest task and surviving – indeed, thriving. It engages your mind and a sense of purpose fills your heart.”)
Following Kolmstetter’s address, Suzanne Smith Whitmore ’60, chair of Hollins’ Board of Trustees, awarded her with the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa in recognition of her personal and career achievements. “Since graduating from Hollins in 1985, you have ably served your nation and your alma mater with intelligence, perseverance, originality, and integrity,” Whitmore told Kolmstetter, who was joined on the commencement stage for the presentation by her mother, Paula Brownlee, who served as president of Hollins from 1981 to 1990.
Four graduating seniors were honored during the morning ceremony for their academic achievements. Chelsea Rose DeTorres, Laura Chelsea Woodrum, Melissa Susanna Hammond, and Eileen Michelle O’Connor each received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence. DeTorres and Woodrum tied for the highest grade point average among this year’s graduates, while Hammond and O’Connor tied for the second-highest grade point average.
The following awards were also presented at this year’s Commencement:
- 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 senior Kylie Louise McCormick and Professor of Psychology Randall Flory.
- 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. Elizabeth Price Dodd 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. Senior Jessica Maria Hall was presented this year’s award.
- The Hollins University Teaching Award, supported by an endowment established by Mary Bernhardt Decker ’58 and her late husband, 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 senior Nancy VanNoppen, is Jack W. Bonner IV, associate head of the Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina, where he is also the assistant head for academic affairs, chair of the curriculum committee, and on the English/Humanities faculty.