Great Teachers Inspire

on May 21 | in Featured | by

Great Teachers Inspire
From left: Professors Flory, Doan, Dahlstrom, and Markert.


“The mediocre teacher tells.
The good teacher explains.
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.”


Professor Nancy Dahlstrom

Professor Nancy Dahlstrom helped me find my voice as an artist. I have been her student for over seven years, first as a Horizon undergraduate, now in the M.A.L.S. program. Currently she is my thesis advisor.

When I began at Hollins I had taken private oil painting lessons and thought of myself as a painter. In the fall of 2007 I took Monotype, my first class with Professor Dahlstrom. I fell in love with printmaking, and at the end of the semester I remarked to her glumly, “Now I have to go back to oil painting.”

“Why?” she asked. When I didn’t respond she said, “You are an adult. You can do whatever you want to!” I changed my concentration to printmaking. It was obvious, to her before it was to me, that I was indeed a printmaker.

Professor Dahlstrom freely gives of her vast knowledge in the arts and does so with nurturing and love instead of ego. She is especially adept at working with those of us with possibly undiagnosed learning disabilities. If we are struggling with the math needed to cut mats, for example, she finds ways to help us figure it out. She uses humor and invented language to lighten the mood when we are frustrated. My favorite expression of hers is gloobered (meaning a gloppy mess), which makes good sense to printmakers, who have to be insanely tidy or risk getting the ink on the paper where it’s not intended. She is excited when we make a breakthrough and gently shows us the failings in each piece as well. She nurtures her students as carefully as she nurtures the seeds in her beloved garden. Just as every flower sings its own song, every artist finds her own voice.

Sharon Mirtaheri ’10, current M.A.L.S. student
Dahlstrom began her career at Hollins in 1973

Professor Ruth Alden Doan

Ruth Alden Doan is retiring from teaching history at Hollins in June. For 28 years, Ruth has been a scholar, mentor, friend, and enthusiastic supporter of her students and her faculty colleagues. Above all, she has been a teacher and developer of young minds. I remember vividly the thought-provoking assignment Ruth gave us in her Antebellum United States class. We were given a list of the enslaved people on an antebellum plantation and told to write a paper based on nothing but the list. At first, I was completely flummoxed by this assignment; I remember staring at the list, waiting for some kind of inspiration and thinking that perhaps I should not major in history after all. Slowly, I began to notice that the list had things to tell me; from the list, I could decipher clues and make logical connections about the nature of the slaves’ families, kinship groups, and their community life. I still remember the exhilaration I felt as one clue led me to the next and I pieced together the fabric of a community from this one ancient document.

That excitement is a feeling I still savor in my work as an attorney, handling global criminal investigations. Ruth’s assignment forced me to stretch my brain, trust my own judgment, and think critically—skills that are really at the heart of a liberal arts education. I know many alumnae and students have had similarly intellectually challenging experiences in Ruth’s classes over the years and that we also have benefitted from her wise counsel, good humor, and true friendship.

Lillian Howard Potter ’97, special counsel in the litigation/controversy department and a member of the investigations and criminal litigation practice group, WilmerHale LLP, Washington, D.C.

Professor Randy Flory

Hollins without Professor Randy Flory? Unimaginable. How lucky we are to have been taught, mentored, advised, and befriended by you. The following memories from alumnae reflect how much you have meant to us:

  • He was always so full of positive energy. He made you feel happier after each class.
  • His tests were tough, so I had to keep up with my class reading, but he was always willing to meet if I had questions.
  • He was such an enthusiastic teacher that I felt guilty if I didn’t do my work.
  • He was so cool. He gave me five extra points for training my lab rat so well that I never had to touch it.
  • He had lunch with us as freshmen, was a caring advisor, and supervised many honors theses. We appreciate all his hard work.
  • I had a crush on him.
  • I am a psychologist today because of Dr. Flory.
  • We appreciated his always gentle, insightful, and positive way of giving us the courage to reach the next level of personal, professional, and intellectual growth.
  • Memories of the Short Term 1985 European study tour—surviving the coldest winter in history, drinking beer at Hofbrauhaus, and trekking around all those animal labs.
  • He always had his door and his heart open. He challenged us in the classroom and supports us as alumnae.

Professor Flory was the best part of my Hollins experience. In the words of William Arthur Ward, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Thank you for inspiring Hollins women for more than four decades.

Elizabeth Brownlee Kolmstetter ’85, chief human capital officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Washington, D.C. Kolmstetter is the first civil service executive to hold the position.

Professor Wayne Markert

Wayne Markert came to us in 1997 as an administrator but always maintained the sensitivity of a teacher. No, not just a teacher: one impeccably educated (Oxford and Hopkins), well read (Sophocles to Symons), humane, judicious, and possessed of enviable equanimity. With humor, discretion, and a deft touch, he shouldered an administrator’s endless and often thankless charge of finding compromise in the better instincts of all parties. For years he played Solon to this sometimes difficult polis, holding his shield above all factions. Not for nothing was his dog named Sage.

After 11 years Wayne left the position of provost to resume full-time teaching, residing in Turner amidst humanities colleagues. Alongside dozens of students, I have enjoyed team teaching three classes and a J-Term trip to Ireland with him. I think that Wayne embodies the best sort of teacher of literature: gentle, humble, with broad perspective. While proficient in primary and secondary sources, and an avid Xeroxer of the Times Literary Supplement for students and colleagues, he chooses to explicate literature through literature rather than the more fashionable beacons of theory or personal exploration. No scholarly tome can more brutally and beautifully illuminate Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy than Yeats’ sonnet Leda and the Swan. Philology — the art of slow, careful reading — remains the love of the artist’s words. We shall miss this philologist’s San Marzanos. The rest I leave to silence: for an ox stands huge upon my tongue.

Professor of Classical Studies George Fredric Franko

Photo credit: Olivia Body ’08

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