By President Mary Dana Hinton
The beauty of Hollins beckons to me as I walk across campus on a July afternoon. I remain awed by the landscape, in part because of its unrelenting beauty and in part because it remains a new experience for my senses. I have not been able to spend much time on campus, and the newness of the sights and smells, the lovely surroundings, still call to me.
The beauty of the scene is matched only by the depth of the silence. This, too, is new for me. On my first official visit to Hollins in February, the campus was filled with the voices, laughter, questions, shrieks, and joyful tears of the students we are privileged to serve. When I think of Hollins, that’s the sound that comes to my mind: the sound of a hopeful community. Today, the silence is unnerving. It is as if the beautiful campus mourns the absence of the beating hearts of our students.
As I walk past Front Quad, I am reminded that as a steward of the campus, my job is both to highlight the beauty and to find and illuminate the many stories that dwell within the silence. While our students are not physically present, they, like our over 14,000 alumnae/i, are out in the world sharing the lessons and values learned at Hollins as they lead in this challenging moment.
In the silence, I think through the many stories our students bring with them to campus and how those stories make Hollins new each day and each year. Whether a student is a fifth-generation legacy or the first in their family to go to college, Hollins students bring with them stories they entrust to us and, in turn, Hollins has the meaningful opportunity to gently nurture, illuminate, and inform those stories as we live into our mission.
Hollins is a living epic poem. It is a space where stories are created, shared, and held dear. Hollins is a place where voices that have long been silent feel empowered to tell stories that need or deserve to be heard. At the heart of every Hollins story is the power of connection—to others, and to this place. The silence reminds me that the need for connection to and between our students, faculty, staff, and alumnae/i, and the power of their stories, especially when we are apart, is undeniable.
Hollins has persevered through many difficult moments, and written many stories, in its history. We must address those stories, both those that bring us glory and those that bring us pain. We must learn from our collective story even as we are writing a new one. The question before us today, the question this edition of the magazine will explore, is: what story will we tell as we emerge from this moment? Will the story that moves us forward be one of courage? One of inclusion? One of the freedom brought forth through the liberal arts? One of hope?
In the years to come, I look forward to sharing my story with you, and to collaborating with you as we write the chapters of these coming years and weave them into this centuries-old tale. Until then, know that I will be listening to and for your story in the beauty and in the silence of our beloved Hollins.
Mary Dana Hinton became Hollins’ 13th president on August 1, 2020.