Suzanne Hubbard O’Hatnick ’67 — 2017 Distinguished Alumnae Award Winner
When longtime peace advocate Suzanne Hubbard O’Hatnick ’67 received a letter congratulating her for being selected as a recipient of Hollins’ Distinguished Alumnae Award, she felt profoundly uncomfortable. “Anything I have accomplished has been with the work, collaboration, and devotion of others,” she wrote in an email. “I guess it seemed . . . presumptuous to single me out when so many are involved . . . .”
O’Hatnick studied the list of previous winners, which includes business leaders, prominent scientists, and writers, and wondered, genuinely, whether someone had made a mistake by including her.
But then she came to reunion. O’Hatnick had not kept in touch with her Hollins friends, but when she found herself on campus she sensed an instant connection with them. “Every single classmate who came back, I felt could be my best friend,” she says.
Little by little, O’Hatnick’s embarrassment dissipated at being acknowledged for what she describes as her “long, hard slog” toward social justice. “Ultimately, I thought it was kind of sweet,” she says of the award.
After graduating from Hollins with a degree in French and a minor in Spanish, O’Hatnick joined the Peace Corps and taught in a Peruvian fishing village. Back in the United States, O’Hatnick took a job directing the International Visitors Center of Maryland, a nonprofit that coordinated programs for international visitors. She so enjoyed seeing people from dramatically different cultures sit down together and find common ground that she kept the job for two decades.
Eventually, O’Hatnick found herself thinking more and more about the reasons people sometimes failed to resolve conflicts. She stepped down as director to take on a new adventure: international conflict resolution. O’Hatnick completed training with the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), an organization that promotes peace and equips small teams to work in conflict zones.
CPT asked O’Hatnick to go to Bosnia where she worked to help reintegrate refugees. She continued her efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina, off and on, from 1996 to 2000. “I discovered that listening was the greatest skill I practiced,” O’Hatnick later wrote about her experience.
When she returned to Baltimore, O’Hatnick continued her activism, working as the former Maryland Legislative Coordinator for Amnesty International USA, and as a member of the board of directors and treasurer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture Action Fund.
She found herself outraged at the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, which took place during the Iraq war, and that led to concern about how prisoners are treated in this country. O’Hatnick founded the Interfaith Action for Human Rights, which, among other endeavors, pushed the Maryland legislature to pass bills that required the state to publish data about the use of solitary confinement.
Back when she was just starting her career in Peru, O’Hatnick firmly believed she could save the world. “I’m a little more humbled now,” she says. “But I can do my part, and we all can.”
Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade ’72 — 2017 Distinguished Alumnae Award Winner
A lengthy 2015 profile on Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade in The Birmingham News makes the case that Granade’s legacy was on track to be “shattering glass ceilings.”
In 1977, Granade became the first female prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Alabama. In 2002, President George W. Bush appointed her as a lifetime U.S. District Judge, making Granade the first female federal judge in southwest Alabama.
No doubt, Granade will go down as a trailblazer but, as the article asserts, she’ll also be forever associated with her 2015 decision to strike down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. “I did what the constitution required me to do,” Granade says of that case.
It was a decision that prompted some to label Granade a “liberal judge,” a description Granade wholeheartedly refutes.
“When I was a prosecutor the Republicans thought I was a Democrat,” Granade says. “The Democrats thought I was a Republican. I’ve never been a political creature. It wasn’t surprising to me that people thought I think differently than I do. I just do my best to follow the law as I can interpret it.”
After graduating from Hollins with a degree in history, Granade received her law degree from the University of Texas. Her father was a lawyer. Her grandfather was a prominent judge.
“I really didn’t have any great ambition to be a lawyer,” she says. “It just seemed like the natural thing to do.”
Granade, who places herself firmly in the introvert camp, says she thought she’d take a job where she was hidden away in an office to research and write. “But the first case I ever tried, I loved it,” Granade says. “Litigation was it for me. It’s kind of like being in a play. You don’t have to ad-lib it all. You have a set of facts dictated by the case. You simply have to use your brain to produce the facts to the witnesses and explain the cases to the jury. It’s an intellectual exercise.”
Even now, having spent many years holding a gavel, Granade sometimes yearns for her attorney days.
“Being a prosecutor is a lot more fun,” she says. “There are many times when I have wanted to come down off the bench and show the lawyers, ‘Now this is how you do this.’”
Jill Wright Donaldson ’92 — 2017 Distinguished Alumnae Award Winner
Jill Wright Donaldson had already accepted a spot at the University of Florida, but she couldn’t stop thinking about the friend who told her Hollins would be a perfect school for an avid rider like her. Donaldson decided to make the trip from her central Florida home to Roanoke during the spring break of her senior year of high school. “I toured and really, really loved it,” she says.
Donaldson planned to become either a veterinarian, like her grandfather, or a doctor, like her father. “I just always really liked math and science,” she says.
Medicine won out at Hollins where Donaldson majored in chemistry. Her future solidified her senior year when she worked with Harriet Gray, now professor emerita of biology, mapping octopamine of insect ganglia. Donaldson remembers Professor Gray watching her work and saying, “You dissect well. Maybe you’ll be a neurosurgeon.”
Professor Gray’s words stuck. When Donaldson attended Indiana University School of Medicine, where her father had gone, she took a neurosurgery rotation as early as possible in her third year. She stayed at Indiana University School of Medicine for her neurosurgery residency.
Today, Donaldson practices with Indianapolis-based Community Health Network where she focuses on surgical management of complex spinal disorders, neoplasms of the brain and spine, trigeminal neuralgia, hydrocephalus and peripheral nerve entrapment. Her patients frequently praise Donaldson for not making them feel rushed during office visits.
“I take a very personal approach with each patient,” Donaldson remarks in a video about her practice. “Many times for a problem there’s a surgical option, but there may be nonsurgical options as well. I try to collaborate with patients, review all of the options for the particular problem, [and] try to get them the best treatment they can have.”
Donaldson is especially enthusiastic about the future of her profession. She talks enthusiastically of deep brain stimulation, a surgical procedure that treats several disabling neurological symptoms, such as the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. “That field is just really about to take off,” she says. “There are some other things that aren’t ready for prime time yet, but there is so much going on for paralysis and Alzheimer’s. The future is exciting.”
Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 — 2017 Distinguished Alumnae Award Winner
Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 felt proud as President Nancy Oliver Gray spoke about Graves’ law career before naming her as one of the winners of the Distinguished Alumnae Award during this summer’s reunion. The award recognizes an alumna who brings distinction to Hollins and to herself through outstanding career performance and/or participation in community, national, or world affairs. “It was affirming and motivating,” Graves says of the recognition.
A few days after Graves returned home to Mississippi, however, she read a report released by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). It found that low-income Americans will approach LSC—funded legal-aid organizations in 2017 with an estimated 1.7 million problems—issues such as domestic violence, disability access, and housing conditions—but will receive limited or no legal help for more than half of these because of a lack of resources. “That was a stunning statistic,” says Graves, who has dedicated the bulk of her legal career to expanding access to civil justice.
Both the acknowledgement from Hollins and that sobering report, she says, pushed her—in different ways—to work even harder in her post as executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, which was created by the Mississippi Supreme Court to achieve goals such as increasing funding for delivery of legal services to Mississippi’s poor and working to reduce barriers to the state’s justice system.
Marshall, who majored in political science and Spanish at Hollins, initially dreamed of a career in corporate law, but her career goals changed a few years after graduating from Hollins when she took a job as an academic counselor for Virginia Tech’s Upward Bound program. There, she worked to encourage at-risk high-school students to attend college.
In her third year at the University of Virginia School of Law, Graves received the Powell Fellowship in Legal Services. The honor provides an annual salary while the recipient works in public-interest law. Graves used the fellowship to work at the Mississippi Center for Justice in Jackson, Mississippi, where she represented children and families navigating the special education system. After then spending a few years practicing at private law firms, Marshall took a job as executive director and general counsel of the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project, which partners low-income individuals who need help with domestic matters with volunteer attorneys.
While her current position shares that same mission of helping poor Mississippians gain access to attorneys and courts, the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission operates more as a think tank and focuses on big-picture ideas, according to Graves.
When talking about her work, Graves is upfront about the fact that Mississippi came in last in a state ranking of the degree states use best practices to ensure access to justice. She immediately follows up that fact, however, with a discussion about solutions, about how to get her adopted state on the right track. She talks about efforts the commission is making to support people with limited English and people with disabilities who are accessing the justice system. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” she says.
Alexis Davis King ’02 — 2017 Distinguished Young Alumna Award Winner
As a political science major at Hollins, Alexis Davis King ’02 envisioned a career helping women and children.
After graduation, King took a position with TESSA of Colorado Springs, which works with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. There, King worked for a project that examined community responses to homes where domestic violence and child abuse occurred simultaneously. “We looked at all of the major systems and how they responded to that co-occurrence,” she says. “It became really clear to me that often the person with the most power in a situation was the prosecutor. . . I had been thinking about law school prior to that, but that really solidified it.”
During her third year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, King interned at the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Jefferson County, Colorado, and knew she wanted to start her career there. “It was a fairly competitive office to join,” she says. “It had a reputation as being well paid with a high quality of life.”
King spent a year clerking for a judge until a deputy district attorney position opened in the D.A.’s office. She began by prosecuting misdemeanors and later moved to felonies. In both cases, King took a special interest in cases involving women and children. “I was always very drawn to working on the sexual assault pieces and the domestic violence pieces that came through my docket,” she says.
King went on to work in the juvenile unit, a position she found rewarding because it allowed her more flexibility to be proactive, looking at ways to use community resources to keep children from behind bars. In the position, King met victims of sexual trafficking. “They were committing survival crimes,” she explains.
And so, when the founder of the newly formed human trafficking unit stepped down, King was given the job. During her yearlong tenure, King made a special push to examine housing and rehabilitative options for victims.
All along, she could feel the work taking an emotional toll. “I personally don’t believe anyone can turn it off,” King says. “Everyone has kind of a shelf life for how long they can be exposed to that and still be a high functioning partner/spouse/parent.”
Following reunion, King accepted a position as a part-time magistrate, which will allow her to spend more time with her two small children. “The type of cases I’ll be presiding over are serious, but they don’t really tip the horror scale in the same way,” she says.
As an ambitious person, King says she found it difficult to accept she wanted a life that looked different from the one she planned out at age 30. “It takes a lot of work sometimes to realize you can change things and survive and excel,” she says.
Alumnae profiles by Beth JoJack ’98
Job Well Done
Rev. Neely Towe ’63 was an honoree at the Greenwich Leadership Forum (GLF), an organization that provides a setting for men and women executives looking to explore how their faith can be used as a compass in decision-making, ethics, and leadership. Towe was a founding members of the organization. She served as pastor of Stanwich Congregational Church in Greenwich, Conn., from 1987 to 2007. In 1990, Towe became the first woman senior pastor for any denomination in Greenwich and surrounding Fairfield County.
Holly Hendrix, ’75 was named one of the top 200 Women Advisors by Forbes in 2017. Hendrix is a senior vice president for investments with UBS Financial Services Inc. She started her career as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch in 1977, and then joined PaineWebber in 1985. Her bicoastal practice, HSG Wealth Management Group, specializes in advising high net worth individuals, families, and small corporate clients in the areas of estate planning, liability management, asset management and retirement planning.
Leslie Blankin Lane ’79 (center, front) has been inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse National Hall of Fame. During her four-year career at Hollins, she led the program to its first Virginia State Division II Championship as a senior in 1979. That year’s team also finished as the national runner-up in the USWLA’s Collegiate Championship. Lane was also a member of the U.S. Women’s Program, playing on the 1981 U.S. Touring Team to Australia and the first World Cup team in 1982. Lane earned All-World honors as a midfielder in 1982 as Team U.S.A. claimed the gold medal in England. She has previously been inducted into four Halls of Fame, including the inaugural class for Hollins College, and most recently, the U.S. Lacrosse Philadelphia/Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter’s Hall of Fame in 2014. Lane was inducted into the Hollins Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Clark Morris ’92 (right) was appointed Acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama on March 11, 2017. Morris has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for 19 years and served as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the last three years. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Hollins and her law degree from the University of Alabama.
William Woolfitt M.A. ’03 had two fiction pieces selected for inclusion in “The Best of Small Fictions of 2017” anthology: What the Beech Tree Knows and Hatchlings. The Best Small Fictions, beginning in 2015, is the first contemporary anthology solely devoted to honoring the best short hybrid fiction published in a calendar year. Woolfitt currently teaches creative writing and literature at Lee University.
Marcia Thom Kaley M.A.L.S. ’14 has joined the board of directors for Sweet Briar College. Thom-Kaley has enjoyed a 25-year professional career on the operatic and musical theater stages. She is currently also an assistant professor of music at Sweet Briar.