Pareena Lawrence Inaugurated as Hollins University’s 12th President

Lawrence Inauguration

Proclaiming that the “search for authentic purpose is ultimately what a Hollins education is all about and why I wanted to be a part of this mission,” Pareena G. Lawrence was officially installed as Hollins University’s 12th president on February 24.

“Since I arrived at Hollins, I have witnessed first-hand our unwavering dedication to making society a better place for all,” said Lawrence, who took office last July. “I have seen the ways in which we are intentionally developing and equipping future leaders, creators, policymakers, and citizens who understand their social responsibility and serve the communities in which they live.”

Lawrence’s inauguration celebrated the theme, “Living a Life of Consequence: Hollins Students Changing the World.” It encompassed a full day of events beginning with a panel discussion featuring Hollins alumnae who are making an impact in the sciences, law, community partnerships overseas, and the arts.

The inaugural ceremony, held in duPont Chapel, featured contributions from Hollins students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, along with dignitaries from local government, international business, and higher education:

  • The Reverend Dr. Cynthia Hale ’75, founder and senior pastor of Georgia’s Ray of Hope Christian Church, delivered the invocation.
  • Official greetings were presented by Student Government Association President Antonia Nagle ’18; Associate Professor of History and Faculty Chair Rachel Nuñez; Groundskeeper Isaiah Sweetenberg; Hollins Alumnae Association Board of Directors President Sarah Holland ’64; and Roanoke Mayor Sherman P. Lea Sr.
  • Indra K. Nooyi, chairman and chief executive of PepsiCo, was the keynote speaker. In addition to leading PepsiCo’s global food and beverage portfolio including 22 brands, Nooyi is the chief architect of Performance with Purpose, PepsiCo’s commitment to delivering sustained growth with a focus on making healthier products, protecting the planet, and empowering people.
  • Paula L. O’Loughlin, provost and dean of the faculty at Coe College, shared stories from her years-long friendship with Lawrence and her family.

In her inaugural address, Lawrence reflected upon her training as an economist and admitted that her discipline’s preference for “equations, statistics, and numbers” and aversion to “the questions of spirit and soul” were misguided.

“We were late to the realization that we don’t move the demand curve by moving the supply curve,” she explained. “We move the demand curve by moving the hearts and minds, the dreams and aspirations, of the people around us.”

Lawrence praised Hollins and other institutions that are grounded in the liberal arts for having “never lost sight of what is truly important. Together we have the responsibility to help challenge and educate our students so that they can understand their role in our larger society and become drivers of positive change within their sphere of influence.”

Lawrence concluded by reminding the audience, “We are called to a different sort of life, a life of noisy exuberance, a life of joy and a life of consequence, and life worth celebrating not because of financial success but because we can make a difference.

“I want you to join me to build the Hollins of tomorrow so that we can continue the noble purpose of educating women who lead lives of consequence.”

Prior to the inaugural ceremony, members of the class of 2018 placed a wreath on Front Quad to honor all who worked to establish Hollins in its early years.

“Today is not only the presidential inauguration but also the day that commemorates our founders,” Lawrence stated. She acknowledged Charles Lewis Cocke, whose 55 years of leadership ensured the institution’s survival, and the men and women of what was once known as the Oldfields Community, “some of whom worked as enslaved people until the end of the Civil War in 1865, built and maintained our campus facilities, and took care of Hollins students and faculty during her early days. Most did not choose this work of their own volition and their contributions remained unrecognized for far too long.” Lawrence welcomed the ceremony attendees who “descended from those who provided foundational contributions to our campus in her infancy.”

Another inauguration highlight was the awarding of an honorary degree to Elizabeth Hall McDonnell ’62. “With an enduring quality of quiet yet effective leadership and service, you have made an indelible impression on your alma mater and so many other educational and cultural institutions,” her citation read, noting “her extraordinary generosity in support of such initiatives as the restoration of the Hollins Theatre physical space, growing the theatre and playwriting programs, and renovating the Dana Science Building.”


View the inauguration ceremony in its entirety here