EduSeed Executive Director Shireen K. Lewis encouraged Hollins University’s class of 2019 to take the power of sisterhood into the world and “create a truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive community for all women” at the school’s 177th Commencement Exercises on May 26.
Lewis was the guest speaker at the morning ceremony, which was held on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle. The university conferred 224 undergraduate and graduate degrees at this year’s event.
Lewis, who has devoted more than 20 years to mentoring and coaching women and girls, leads EduSeed’s efforts to promote education in historically disadvantaged and underserved communities. She also founded the organization’s SisterMentors program, which supports learning among women and girls of color.
A graduate of Douglass College, a women’s college at Rutgers University, Lewis cited the continuing importance and value of women’s colleges today and “their desire to create something new, something different, something that is more just.” Referencing Hollins’ beloved Tinker Day tradition and the scaling of nearby Tinker Mountain, she proclaimed, “Nobody can say that Hollins women don’t know how to defeat a mountain. So, keep on defeating those mountains, Hollins women! Let’s imagine and build together a world where we listen to all women when they speak the truth. Let’s imagine and build together a world where not just a few women are free, but all women are free – free from all kinds of harm.
“I believe the petri dish for this kind of world is women in communities, including women’s colleges, who are willing to take a critical look at themselves and challenge our assumptions about women’s lives.”
Lewis concluded by thanking the class of 2019 for putting in the “emotional labor” to enhance living and studying at Hollins. “Every one of you contributed in some way and worked to make this place much better than how you found it when you first arrived on campus.”
Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:
- Shalan Mitchell, an English major from Chesapeake, Virginia, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Rev. Jenny Call, who serves as university chaplain at Hollins, was presented the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Community Award, which is given to a person associated with Hollins who has shown in daily living and work those characteristics that exhibit the noblest of spiritual and human qualities.
- The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Hanna Strauss, a double-major in Spanish and political science from Keswick, Virginia. The award honors the senior who has evidenced the finest spirit of leadership during her days at Hollins.
- The Jane Cocke Funkhouser Award, recognizing the junior or senior who is preeminent in character in addition to being a good student, was given to Nina Keller, a double-major in history and sociology from South Jamesport, New York.
- The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2019, was presented to Shannen Kelly, a double-major in environmental science and Spanish from Tolland, Connecticut, and Bibhu Sapkota, a double-major in mathematics and economics from Mandan, Nepal. Maria Junco Rivera, a double-major in English and French from Cocoa, Florida, received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.
Watch Hollins University’s 177th Commencement in its entirety here.
View a gallery of commencement photos here.