Hollins Graduate Natasha Trethewey Named U.S. Poet Laureate

tretheweyHollins University alumna and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Natasha Trethewey was named Poet Laureate for 2012-13 by the Library of Congress on Thursday.

Trethewey, the daughter of Hollins English professor Eric Trethewey, is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University in Atlanta and served as the 2012 Louis D. Rubin Writer-in-Residence at Hollins. The Hollins Theatre staged an  adaptation of her book of poems, “Bellocq’s Ophelia,”earlier this year.

Trethewey is a native of Gulfport, MS and earned her Master of Arts degree in English and creative writing from Hollins in 1991. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2007 for her collection, “Native Guard,” which pays tribute to African American soldiers who were stationed near the city during the Civil War. She has garnered numerous other prestigious writing awards and was named Mississippi’s Poet Laureate in January, a four-year appointment she will continue to hold.

Trethewey, the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, will take up her duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season with a reading of her work on Thursday, September 13.

In announcing the appointment, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, said, “Natasha Trethewey is an outstanding poet/historian in the mold of Robert Penn Warren, our first Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. Her poems dig beneath the surface of history—personal or communal, from childhood or from a century ago—to explore the human struggles that we all face.”

Trethewey succeeds Philip Levine as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position including W. S. Merwin, Kay Ryan, Charles Simic, Donald Hall, Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove.

She is the author of three poetry collections, including “Native Guard,” (2006), winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry; “Bellocq’s Ophelia” (2002); and “Domestic Work” (2000). Her newest collection of poems, “Thrall,” is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2012. Trethewey is the author of a nonfiction book, “Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast” (2010).

The Poet Laureate is selected for a one-year term by the Librarian of Congress. The choice is based on poetic merit alone and has included a wide variety of poetic styles.

Photo by Jon Rou


“Goodnight Moon” Among Library of Congress’ “Books that Shaped America”

goodnightmoonA classic children’s book by a Hollins-educated author has been named one of the 88 “Books that Shaped America” by the Library of Congress.

Goodnight Moon by 1932 Hollins graduate Margaret Wise Brown is among the books ”reflecting America’s unique and extraordinary literary heritage,” according to the Library. An exhibition showcasing the list is kicking off the Library’s multiyear “Celebration of the Book.”

Published in 1947, Goodnight Moon has become the quintessential bedtime story, selling more than 11 million copies worldwide (the book has been translated into French, Spanish, Hebrew, Swedish, and Hmong). The New York Public Library named Goodnight Moon one of its “Books of the Century” in 1996.

Hollins celebrated Brown’s life and work with a yearlong festival that began in June 2011. It included the Hollins Theatre’s production of the musical stage adaptation of Goodnight Moon and a performance of the classical lullaby based on the book by the Hollins University Concert Choir and the Valley Chamber Orchestra. Hollins’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum is featuring original illustrations from Goodnight Moon in its exhibition, “Goodnight, Hush: Classic Children’s Book Illustrations,” which continues through September 15.

The Library of Congress’ ”Books That Shaped America” exhibition will be on view through September 29 in the Southwest Gallery, located on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This exhibition is made possible through the support of the National Book Festival Fund.


Playwright’s Lab Grad is Kendeda Award Finalist

gossettNeeley Gossett, a graduate of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University, has been named a finalist in the Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition.

The competition solicits plays from the leading MFA/graduate programs in the country and this year received approximately 90 submissions. Following a rigorous selection process, Gossett was among the four finalists chosen. Her play, Roman Candle Summer, will receive readings at New York’s Lark Play Development Center  in October and Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in February 2013. An article on her Kendeda experience will be featured in the November/December issue of The Dramatist.

Gossett received her MFA in playwriting from Hollins this spring. Her works have been produced or read at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre, the Coastal Empire New Play Festival, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Mill Mountain Theater, Studio Roanoke, and Atlanta’s One Minute Play Festival. She currently is a teaching artist at the Alliance Theatre, an English instructor at Georgia Perimeter College, and a contributing editor for The Chattahoochee Review.


Hollins Honors Riding Program Benefactor Mary K. Shaughnessy ’72

shaughnessyHollins University has presented its Distinguished Alumnae Award to Mary K. Shaughnessy, a 1972 graduate and accomplished equestrian who has made important and lasting contributions to Hollins’ nationally recognized riding program.

The award was established in 2006 to honor individual alumnae who have brought distinction to themselves and to Hollins through broad and inspiring personal or career achievements; local, national or international volunteer service; or playing a significant role in society.

Shaughnessy graduated first in her class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She earned a law degree from Yale University Law School in 1975, clerked for two years for a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland, and then practiced law for five years in Baltimore. She stopped practicing law in 1982 and taught part time at the University of Maryland Law School.

Shaughnessy’s daughter, Mary Helen, was born in 1984 and went on to become one of the top amateur equestrians in the country. Her daughter’s success inspired Shaughnessy to begin riding again. In just a few short years, Mary K. Shaughnessy was a championship rider, winning many ribbons, trophies, and prizes, including the 2012 Reserve Championship of the Winter Equestrian Festival circuit in Adult Hunter over 51. In addition, she is a member of the board of directors of the Hampton Classic Foundation, supporting one of the largest outdoor horse shows in the United States, and is a volunteer with the FTI Great Charity Challenge.

Shaughnessy has also generously given monetary gifts and seven outstanding horses to the Hollins riding program. One of the favorites is Oyster Pond, the first horse she gave to Hollins in 2003. According to Nancy Peterson, director of the riding program, Oyster Pond was a legendary show horse. As age crept up on him, he was put into the novice classes and now is assigned to the beginners. He is “absolutely the best all-around horse we’ve had in years,” said Peterson.

In conjunction with the Distinguished Alumnae Award presentation, Hollins announced it is renaming the campus pond “Oyster Pond” to further honor Shaughnessy and this beloved horse.

“What Mary K. has done for this school through her equine gifts is amazing,” Peterson said.


Playwright’s Lab Graduate’s Drama to be Produced in Los Angeles

macherThe SkyPilot Theatre Company is introducing  Los Angeles theatre-goers to a compelling new drama by a recent graduate of the Playwright’s Lab at Hollins University.

The world premiere of Samantha Macher’s  (M.F.A. ’12) play War Bride will be staged at T.U. Studios in North Hollywood, August 11 through September 16.

War Bride takes place in the fall of 1945. With the end of World War II, Private Alvin Rhodes is returning home to California with an injury he doesn’t want to discuss and a new wife, a Japanese nurse. Yumi is greeted with suspicion, fear, and even hatred. She is shy and withdrawn, but with the help of an old friend of Alvin’s mother, a Japanese/English dictionary, and 1,000 paper cranes, her story is slowly revealed.

SkyPilot says War Bride “combines sharp, witty dialogue with Japanese Butoh-influenced contemporary dance to create a completely new play that will tear at your heart while challenging your ideas of right and wrong.”

A non-profit organization, SkyPilot Theatre Company is a member of the LA Stage Alliance and is dedicated to fostering relationships with playwrights to develop the most compelling, challenging and humorous new plays. War Bride is the fourth production of the 2012 season, the company’s second full year of exclusively producing world premiere plays.


Hollins Touted by Fiske Guide to Colleges

fiskeHollins University is among “the best and most interesting colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain” according to the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2013.

Compiled by former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske, the guide is described as “a selective, subjective, and systematic look at 300-plus colleges and universities.”

The Fiske Guide‘s profile of Hollins features a number of student testimonials in addition to overviews of student life and the university’s academic program. One senior describes Hollins as “a close-knit community that fosters creative minds and ambitious spirits,” another says the university “has continually pushed me to be better, to achieve more, and to experience more,” and a third states, “Hollins is a great school that empowers women.”

In addition, the guide includes Hollins in the following categories: “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Art or Design,” “Small Colleges Strong in Film/Television,” and “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Dance.”


Hollins Theatre Takes Natasha Trethewey’s “Bellocq’s Ophelia” to The Kennedy Center

bellocq'sHollins Theatre has been invited to present a concert reading of its acclaimed production of Natasha Trethewey’s Bellocq’s Ophelia at the 11th annual Page to Stage Festival of New Play Readings, which will be held September 1 – 3  at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The festival showcases the works in progress of professional theatre companies from throughout the Washington, D.C., region. Admission to festival events is free, no tickets are required, and limited seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Bellocq’s Ophelia is based on the book of poetry by Trethewey, a 1991 graduate of Hollins’ master of arts program in English and creative writing, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, and newly appointed Poet Laureate of the United States.  The performance, which takes place Monday, September 3 (Labor Day) at 1 p.m. on The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, will be a partially staged reading with music, samples of the original choreography, and audio-visual projections reflecting the elaborate theatrical imagery of the original production, which features 25 of Trethewey’s poems.

Bellocq’s Ophelia follows the journey of a young biracial woman in 1911 who leaves the cotton fields of her home in southern Mississippi to pursue her dream in the cosmopolitan center of New Orleans. Confronted by the roadblocks of racial and gender discrimination, her only opportunity for survival is found in an octoroon brothel, where “women with white skin offer the promise of the wild African continent.” She meets photographer Ernest Bellocq, first becoming his model, later his muse, then finally his apprentice. Through the artistic lens of a camera, and with the unique perspective of a woman who is both African American and white, Ophelia begins to see the world more clearly as she steps out of the picture frame and into her life.

Adapted by Associate Professor of Theatre Ernest Zulia, Associate Professor of English T.J. Anderson III, and Lexie Martin Mondot ’12, Bellocq’s Ophelia premiered at the Hollins Theatre in February 2012 during the highly successful Legacy Series, “Five Stars and a Moon,” which featured the works of six of Hollins’ acclaimed alumnae authors, including Annie Dillard, Lee Smith, and Margaret Wise Brown.


Hollins Among The Princeton Review’s “Best 377 Colleges”

best377Hollins University has been named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the 2013 edition of The Princeton Review’s The Best 377 Colleges.

Only about 15% of the nation’s 2,500 four-year colleges are profiled in the book, which is the educational service company’s flagship college guide.

“We commend Hollins for its outstanding academics, which is the primary criteria for our selection of schools for the book,” said Robert Franek, senior vice president at The Princeton Review and publisher and author of The Best 377 Colleges. “Our choices are based on institutional data we collect about schools, our visits to schools over the years, feedback we gather from students attending the schools, and the opinions of our staff and our 30-member National College Counselor Advisory Board.”

Hollins students note in the university’s profile that the school “feels like a community or family, not an institution,” and that “a Hollins education is nothing short of life-changing.” According to The Best 377 Colleges, “The women of Hollins describe themselves as ‘empowered, enthusiastic,’ ‘worldly, aware,’ ‘strong, and confident.’”

Hollins is also one of 135 colleges and universities The Princeton Review commends in the “Best in the Southeast” section of its Web site feature, “2013 Best Colleges: Region by Region.” The 12-state Southeast Region includes colleges in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.


Hollins Student Hopes to Blend Dance and Physical Therapy to Help Others

chaniceAnyone who tears two of the four major knee ligaments can face a long and often painful road to recovery. But for an aspiring dancer, such an injury is especially devastating because it calls into question when, if ever, they will be able to fully recapture their ability to perform.

Chanice Holmes ’15 faced this dilemma during the summer before her senior year in high school. The Hollins University sophomore and life-long dancer from New Orleans tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in June 2010 while playing basketball, just as she was preparing to choreograph and join three other performers in staging a dance piece as her senior thesis.

“The doctors told me I would need six to 12 months to heal and return to dancing, and I said ‘No, I need to be back dancing so I can be in my piece.’ I was so determined to do that,” Holmes recalls. Remarkably, after having surgery that July, she returned to dancing in November.

Holmes credits her experience rehabilitating her knee not only with getting her on her feet and performing by her self-imposed deadline, but also with influencing her education and career path.

“The physical therapist who treated me kept saying, ‘You can do this, you can do this.’ She motivated me so much. After that, I decided I wanted to combine dance with physical therapy to help others. The two go hand-in-hand as far as learning different muscles and how they work and how they can stop functioning if you do a certain move the wrong way or if you don’t stretch as much as you should.”

A Hollins admission counselor’s visit to her high school was critical in Holmes’ decision to enroll at the university in the fall of 2011 to pursue a double major in biology and dance. “She told me about the dance program, which of course interested me. But the  options Hollins offers during January Short Term (J-Term) and the chance to travel anywhere I wanted to go through the study abroad program also caught my attention, as did the Batten Leadership Institute. I never visited the campus until I got here, but I fell in love with it as soon as I arrived.”

In her first year at Hollins, Holmes took immediate advantage of J-Term opportunities. Associate Professor of Dance Jeffery Bullock helped arrange for her to dance with the renowned American Dance Festival at the Alvin Ailey dance studio in New York City during the first two weeks of January 2012. She then spent the last half of the month interning at a physical therapy clinic in New Orleans. Last spring, she also got to travel and pursue another of her passions, volunteer service, by participating in Hollins’ Jamaica Service Project, which takes place each year during Spring Recess.

Another milestone for Holmes last spring was winning the first scholarship pageants she had ever entered, both sponsored by the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. By excelling in  the interview and talent competitions, she won the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise state contest in Louisiana in April, and then went on in June to capture the Miss Teenage Daughters of the Promise International title in Atlanta, where she was also selected as Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants and voted Most Elegant and Most Influential.

During her reign, Holmes says she is promoting her youth outreach platform as often as possible, beginning by talking to Sunday School classes at her home church, Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“I am speaking to my peers and those younger than me about avoiding the distractions from the media and other sources that divert us from what we need to doing as far as going to college, getting a degree, and prospering,” she explains. “No matter what, you can do all things you set your mind to do.”

Holmes is hoping again this academic year to devote half of her J-Term to dance and half to something related to her biology major, and she already has at least one specific goal in mind for herself after graduation.

“I want to start a non-profit organization for kids to get them interested in science through dance. A lot of kids say they don’t like science because it’s boring, but if you approach it with them from a different perspective, maybe that will open their minds.”


Hollins Honors Catherine Moore Wannamaker ’96 with Distinguished Young Alumna Award

wannamakerHollins University has presented Catherine Moore Wannamaker ‘96 with its Distinguished Young Alumna Award, recognizing her extraordinary accomplishments since graduation in the fields of law and environmental advocacy.

Wannamaker majored in biology at Hollins and studied under Professors Renee Godard and F. Harriet Gray. She went on to earn her master’s degree in biology from North Carolina State University and in 2003 received her law degree from Stanford University. After clerking for the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, she drew upon her background in biology and served three years as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, where she was a member of the professional staff of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans and Fisheries.

Since 2008, Wannamaker has been a senior attorney and lead litigator at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Atlanta. She has been a principal spokesperson on behalf of environmental groups seeking to sue the energy company BP under the Endangered Species Act for the unlawful harm or killing of endangered and threatened wildlife caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010. In addition, she has led litigation on a number of nationally prominent cases, including challenging the U.S. Navy’s creation of a training range in right whale breeding grounds, saving wetlands along Georgia’s fragile coastal region, and leading efforts to end unfettered industry control of offshore drilling.

Wannamaker’s award citation calls her “a force of and for nature” and describes her legal expertise and commitment to the environment as “a perfect combination.”

The citation concludes, “You have devoted your professional life to fiercely protecting and preserving the ‘rich web of life upon which so many depend.’”

Wannamaker was honored during Hollins’ annual 1842 Society Weekend, which this year was held November 9-11 in Atlanta.