“I Found My Heart at Hollins”: President-Elect Hinton Shares How the Campus Community Is Already Inspiring Her

Mary Dana Hinton

As she prepares to take office in August as Hollins University’s 13th president, Mary Dana Hinton declared that “the potential of Hollins feels unlimited” and that she is ready to “lock arms” with students, faculty, staff, and alumnae “and journey together into the future.”

The comments highlighted a wide-ranging video conversation between President-elect Hinton and Interim President Nancy Oliver Gray that was produced for Hollins’ annual Reunion celebration, May 29-31. Recognizing all classes ending in zero or five, and the class of 2018, “Virtual Reunion 2020” was held remotely this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the classes’ in-person reunion postponed until summer 2021. The virtual event welcomed all alumnae to view a variety of online videos at their own time or during remote watch parties. Alumnae were also encouraged to use this time to reconnect with classmates and their Hollins roots.

Hinton noted that her passion for women’s education began during her high school years when she attended Saint Mary’s School, an all-girls school in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I learned about the power of women’s voices and about the importance of women supporting women. Having experienced an all-women’s education helped make me a leader. That realization has only heightened over the past six years as I have led a college for women.” Hinton comes to Hollins after serving as president of the College of Saint Benedict in Minnesota.

Describing Hollins’ mission as “a perfect fit” for her, Hinton praised the university for being “steadfast over time in its commitment to women’s education. When I look at the fact that our undergraduate program is centered around developing women’s voices and leadership, that speaks to the deepest part of my personal and professional being. One of my favorite new phrases is, ‘I found my heart at Hollins.’ I love the fact that the women of Hollins are fiercely intelligent, unapologetically ambitious, and incredibly generous.”

Hinton identified several key priorities for her first year in office and said the most important goal for her as a leader will be to learn the university’s culture. “You do that by being present and getting to know all of the stakeholders and constituents. As I’m listening and learning, we need to make sure we are creating an environment of innovation where we explore new ideas and work toward becoming the institution we want to be. I view this first year as centered around building a shared, aspirational future, and recognizing that future will involve investments in new programs, sustaining or perhaps expanding existing programs, focusing on our financial sustainability, and working on diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The president-elect emphasized her confidence that Hollins “will persevere through the pandemic and come out stronger on the other side. We cannot allow COVID to define who we are as an institution. We have to be even more creative, forward-looking, and determined. It will demand more of and more from each of us, and I think we are up to the challenge. We will stand up and proclaim the value of who we are and what we do.”

Gray lauded Hinton for her “bold, clear-headed, ambitious commitment to elevating Hollins,” and in turn, Hinton cited how honored she felt “to inherit the legacy” of Gray, who was the university’s 11th president from 2005 to 2017 and served as interim president during the 2019-20 academic year.

“The world needs the women we serve at Hollins: Women of consequence, women of passion and determination, women of influence.” Hinton said. “It is at this moment that we choose transformation over transaction, hope over hurt, future over fear. And, it is at this moment that we journey forth – sisters, leaders, and friends – as we lift our eyes and see all that is before us, and with gratitude to our past, we move forward.”

Watch the complete conversation with President-elect Hinton and Interim President Gray.