Hollins Professor’s Novel Wins Kafka Prize

As Close to Us as Breathing, a novel by Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner, has captured the 2017 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize.

Established in 1976 and presented by the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the Department of English at the University of Rochester, the Kafka Prize is given annually to a woman who is a U.S. citizen and has written the best book-length work of prose fiction, be it a novel, short story, or experimental writing.  Previous winners include such distinguished authors as Toni Morrison, Ursula Le Guin, and Anne Tyler.

According to the Kafka Prize webpage, the award honors its namesake, “a young editor who was killed in a car accident just as her career was beginning. Those who knew her believed she would do much to further the causes of literature and women. Her family, friends, and professional associates created the endowment from which the prize is bestowed, in memory of Janet Heidinger Kafka and the literary standards and personal ideals for which she stood.”

Poliner will participate in a reading, award ceremony, and book signing at the University of Rochester on November 2.

As Close to Us as Breathing is the story of a close-knit Jewish family that strives to cope following a tragedy. The novel is “vivid, complex, and beautifully written,” said Edward P. Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known World. “[It] brims with characters who leave an indelible impression on the mind and heart. Elizabeth Poliner is a wonderful talent and she should be read widely, and again and again.”

The Kafka Prize is the latest of several honors the novel has received. In May, the book was named a finalist for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award. Last November, As Close to Us as Breathing was selected as one of Amazon’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016 and an Amazon Best Book for March of that year.

 

Stay up-to-date on university news. Sign up for the bi-monthly Hollins News email.


Princeton Review Ranks Hollins Among the Nation’s Top 20 Colleges in Four Categories

The Princeton Review places Hollins University among the nation’s top institutions for undergraduate education in the new edition of its college guide, The Best 382 Colleges.

Only about 15 percent of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges and two colleges outside the U.S. are profiled in the book, which has been published annually since 1992. The Best 382 Colleges features detailed profiles of each school with rating scores in eight categories.

“We chose Hollins for this book because it offers outstanding academics,” said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief at The Princeton Review and author of The Best 382 Colleges. “Our selections are primarily based on our surveys of administrators at several hundred four-year colleges. We also visit dozens of colleges each year and give considerable weight to opinions of our staff and our 24-member National College Counselor Advisory Board. Most importantly, we look at valuable feedback from each school’s customers – our surveys of students attending them.”

The Princeton Review’s surveys of students attending these colleges are the basis for the book’s ranking lists of top 20 schools in 62 categories. Hollins is on the following ranking lists:

#5   Most Active Student Government
#6   Most Politically Active Students
#10 Best College Theater
#11  Best Career Services

In its profile, The Princeton Review praises Hollins as “a place for unique individuals to thrive, empowering each other and forming a supportive community for women. The alumn[ae] network is similarly solid, and many students land jobs and internships through previous graduates.” The Best 382 Colleges also quotes extensively from Hollins students the educational services company surveyed for the book. Among their comments:

“…a great place for people who want life experience….”

“…a lot of incredible opportunities for anyone willing to take them.”

“[Hollins professors are] amazing, talented, dedicated, and compassionate.”

“Every day I am surrounded by mountains. It’s a vacation view in every direction.”

 

The 2018 edition of The Best 382 Colleges was published August 1.

 

 


Adam Rex Receives 2017 Margaret Wise Brown Prize

Hollins University honored author/illustrator Adam Rex with the second annual Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature during the 2017 Francelia Butler Conference on July 22.

The award showcases the most distinguished picture book manuscript as selected by a panel of judges. Rex received an engraved medal and a $1,000 cash prize for his book School’s First Day of School, illustrated by Christian Robinson and published by Roaring Book Press.

Hollins established the prize in tribute to one of its best-known alumnae and one of America’s most beloved children’s authors. Brown graduated from Hollins in 1932 and went on to write Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, and other children’s classics before she died in 1952.

In his remarks at the medal ceremony, Rex called School’s First Day of School “my favorite book of mine.” He recounted how the idea for it came to him during a gathering of children’s picture book authors and agents. “We were talking about picture book clichés, books that never needed to be written again. And somebody said, ‘A kid is nervous about his first of school.’ As we were talking about this, I guess the way my mind works I always flip things around, so I [jokingly suggested] ‘A school is nervous about his first day of children.’ The next day as I was having breakfast with my agent I told him my funny joke and he responded, ‘Oh, that’s your next book.'”

In its starred review, Booklist describes School’s First Day of School as a “charming reversal of first-day-of-school nerves [that] will delight little ones and help put their own anxieties at bay, while School Library Journal calls it “an essential purchase that is simultaneously funny, frank, and soothing. A perfect first day read-aloud.”

The study of children’s literature as a scholarly experience was initiated at Hollins in 1973. In 1992, the graduate program in children’s literature was founded. Today, Hollins offers summer M.A. and M.F.A. programs exclusively in the study and writing of children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustrating, and a graduate-level certificate in children’s book illustration.

 

Photo: Hollins President Pareena Lawrence with Adam Rex, winner of the 2017 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature


Distinguished Alumnae Award Recipients Are Honored

Hollins has recognized Suzanne Hubbard O’Hatnick ’67, Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade ’72, Jill Wright Donaldson ’92, and Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 with the university’s Distinguished Alumnae Award, and Alexis Davis King ’02 with its Distinguished Young Alumna Award.

Established in 2006, the Distinguished Alumnae Award pays tribute to individual alumnae who have brought distinction to themselves and to Hollins through broad and inspiring personal career achievements, volunteer service, or contributions to society. The Distinguished Young Alumna Award honors a member of Hollins’ fifth, tenth, of fifteenth reunion year class who has earned extraordinary accomplishments after graduation.

O’Hatnick founded Interfaith Action for Human Rights, an organization that advocates for improving prison practices in Maryland. Previously she served with peace and human rights groups around the world, including work with the Peace Corps in Peru, Christian Peacemaker Teams in Central Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the United States Agency for International Development in Sarajevo.

Granade achieved several firsts for women in law in Alabama. She was the first female prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Alabama; Alabama’s first female fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers; and the first female federal judge in southwest Alabama.

Donaldson’s work as a neurosurgeon focuses on the treatment of complex disorders and neoplasms of the brain and spine, trigeminal neuralgia, hydrocephalus, and peripheral nerve entrapment. She was named a Top Doctor in a listing of leading physicians in Indianapolis, and is a member of the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Graves is the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, advancing  access to civil justice for roughly 700,000 Mississippians living below the poverty line. She is also an adjunct professor and the interim director for the Pro Bono Initiative at the University of Mississippi School of Law, providing law students with an awareness of the legal needs of the area’s underserved.

King is Magistrate on the Denver County, Colorado, Court bench and former Deputy District Attorney of the First Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Jefferson County, Colorado. For more than ten years as deputy DA, she was a member of the Special Victims Unit, focusing on human trafficking, crimes against children, and family violence.

Photo (from left to right): Hollins Alumnae Association President Trisha Rawls ’74; Hollins University President Nancy Gray; Suzanne Hubbard O’Hatnick ’67; Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade ’72; Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97; Jill Wright Donaldson ’92; Alexis Davis King ’02; and Hollins Board of Trustees Chair Judy Lambeth ’73.

Photo credit: Michael Sink

 


Cecili Weber ’17 Is Crowned Miss Virginia

A Hollins University graduate is on her way to compete in the Miss America Pageant this September as the new Miss Virginia.

Cecili Weber ’17 captured the title June 24 at Roanoke’s Berglund Performing Arts Center. She graduated this spring from Hollins with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and plans to pursue a career in public relations with a top fashion or beauty brand. The native of Ironton, Ohio, who competed as Miss Arlington, will receive a $20,000 scholarship.

Weber’s platform was “Born Leaders.” She won the swimsuit and evening wear category on June 22 and also performed a contemporary dance piece to Donna Summer’s “Last Dance” in the talent competition.

Roanoke’s WDBJ-TV (News 7) talked to Weber on the morning of her first full day at Miss Virginia 2017. Watch the interview here.

 


Hollins Wins CASE Circle of Excellence Award

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has presented Hollins University a bronze award in its 2017 Circle of Excellence awards program.

A panel of experts recognized “Women Who Are Going Places Start at Hollins,” the university’s entry in the Short Video category. The video was produced by Capstrat, a strategic communications firm based in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This year, more than 715 higher education institutions, independent schools, and nonprofits worldwide submitted 3,364 entries for consideration in nearly 100 categories. Judges gave 366 awards: 118 bronze, 125 silver, 107 gold, and 16 grand gold.

Sue Cunningham, president and CEO of CASE, said 2017 was the most competitive year ever for the awards program that recognizes outstanding achievement in educational advancement.

“Honorees come from all institution types and sizes, reflecting the depth of talent and ingenuity throughout CASE member institutions,” Cunningham explained. “These awards acknowledge superior accomplishments that have lasting impact, demonstrate the highest level of professionalism, and deliver exceptional results. We salute the winners and thank everyone for their vital contributions to advancing education that transforms lives and society.”

CASE is one of the largest international associations of education institutions, serving more than 3,670 universities, colleges, schools, and related organizations in more than 80 countries. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the council is a leading resource for professional development, information, and standards in the fields of education fundraising, communications, marketing, and alumni relations.


Hollins, Roanoke College Welcome Nominations for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2017 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the Roanoke Valley that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, July 28. Nomination forms and other information are available at https://kendig.press.hollins.edu/.

Hollins University and Roanoke College have cosponsored the awards since 2013. Roanoke College will host the 2017 Kendig Awards presentation on Thursday, September 28, 5:30 p.m. in Olin Hall Galleries.

Three Kendig Awards will be presented this year, one in each of the following categories:

  • Individual Artist (in all disciplines – dance, literature, music, media arts, visual arts, and theatre)
  • Arts and/or Cultural Organization
  • Individual or Business Supporter

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the Roanoke region (which includes the counties of Botetourt, Franklin, and Roanoke, the cities of Roanoke and Salem, and the town of Vinton) are eligible, as are past Kendig Award recipients from 1985 – 2012.

Named for the late Perry F. Kendig, who served as president of Roanoke College and was an avid supporter and patron of the arts, the awards were presented by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge for 27 years.


Roanoke County Recognizes President Gray

The Roanoke County Board of Supervisors honored retiring Hollins University President Nancy Gray during its regular meeting on May 23.

The board paid tribute to Gray for her 12 years of service with a Resolution of Appreciation.

“President Gray has been a true partner to Roanoke County,” said Board Chairman Joe McNamara. “We wish her success in her future endeavors.”

Read the entire Resolution of Appreciation here.

Pictured (left to right): Board Chairman Joe McNamara, President Gray, County Administrator Thomas Gates


Growing Hollins’ Interfaith Community Leads Grad to Harvard Divinity School

Since her arrival at Hollins four years ago, Nora Williams ’17 has taken an array of life-changing journeys that have included internships at Elon University and the Rescue Mission of Roanoke and a semester studying abroad in Argentina.

But Williams’ spiritual quest as a Hollins student is perhaps her most enduring voyage, one that this fall will take her to Harvard Divinity School and its master of divinity program.

A double-major in religious studies and Spanish from Denver, Colorado, Williams helped teach an adult art class at the Rescue Mission, a Christian crisis intervention center for men, women, and children, during the January Short Term of her first year. She says the experience “led me to explore ways to be more inclusive when ministering to the needs of others.”

Her interest in interfaith issues was further piqued during the summer of her sophomore year. She spent a month working at Elon University’s Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life under the tutelage of the Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller, Elon’s university chaplain and former chaplain at Hollins. Williams says she “learned a lot about interfaith, connecting with different resources, working with different communities, and incorporating different religious voices.”

Williams produced two projects at Elon. First, “I created this document of religious monologues. I interviewed at lot of Elon students over the summer and had them talk about their religious experiences, how they have developed in their spirituality, their interactions with other people at the school, and how those interactions affect how they practice their faith.”

Williams brought the concept behind her second project back to Hollins that fall. “I researched and found 54 religious holidays from around the world and created short blurbs about each one, which I printed out and either placed them on tables or hung them up in various public spaces.” She noticed that many religious traditions occurred during the months of November and December, and that inspired her once she returned to Hollins to work with University Chaplain Jenny Call to present the first-ever Winter Light Gathering on campus.

The event was nondenominational and Williams invited people of different faiths “to share their favorite traditions during that time of year. From Hanukkah to Winter Solstice, they all center around this theme of light.”

Call believes Williams is herself “a brilliant light on our campus, although she never seeks the spotlight and instead shies away from attention.  She has a generous heart and spirit, and a deep passion for social justice that motivates her work and care for others.  She delights me with her thoughtfulness and sense of humor and inspires hope about what she and her generation will accomplish.”

Adds Professor of Spanish Alison Ridley, “She is a lovely and kind human being who deserves to be recognized for all the good she does in such a quiet and unassuming way.”

At Hollins’ 175th Commencement Exercises on May 21, Williams was presented with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes the senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that display love and helpfulness to other men and women.

Williams will complete her master of divinity in three years. The program includes a semester or a year of field work in the ministry – real-world experience for which Williams feels she has already set the foundation at Hollins. She worked with new students from underrepresented groups as an Early Transition Program mentor, and served with the Diversity Monologue Troupe, a team of student leaders that promotes understanding of the university’s diversity while helping to broaden perspectives on the various stereotypes common in society.

“I feel like that’s also a form of ministry,” Williams explains. “I’m figuring out what the idea of ministry means to me.”


Three Hollins Authors Are People’s Choice Award Finalists

Books written by a Hollins University faculty member and two Hollins alumnae have been named finalists for the 2017 Library of Virginia People’s Choice Award.

As Close to Us as Breathing by Associate Professor of English Elizabeth Poliner was nominated for the People’s Choice Fiction Award, while Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South by Beth Macy M.A. ’93, and Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith ’67, are finalists in the People’s Choice Nonfiction category.

“These awards, which are part of the Library’s annual Literary Awards celebration, recognize the finest among Virginia authors and works about our great Commonwealth,” said Amy Bridge, executive director of the Library of Virginia Foundation.

Truevine

Anyone can participate in the voting for the People’s Choice Award by visiting this link. Voting is open until July 15. There is also a ballot on the site that can be printed and mailed to the Library (it must be received by July 15 to be counted).

Dimestore

The People’s Choice Award winners will be announced at the 20th Annual Library of Virginia Literary Awards Celebration in Richmond on  October 14. Winners of the People’s Choice Fiction and Nonfiction prizes will each win a cash prize of $2,500.

In November, As Close to Us as Breathing, Truevine, and Dimestore were selected among Amazon.com’s Top 100 Editors’ Picks for 2016.