Academy of American Poets Honors Hollins Alumna

Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 has been awarded the 2016 Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement from the Academy of American Poets.

The Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University and former U.S. poet laureate will receive a $25,000 prize.

The fellowship has been presented annually since 1946 to a single poet, and was the first award of its kind in the United States. Previous winners include Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound.

“Natasha Trethewey’s poems plumb personal and national history to meditate on the conundrum of American racial identities,” said Marilyn Nelson, chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. “Whether writing of her complex family torn by tragic loss, or in diverse imagined voices from the more distant past, Trethewey encourages us to reflect, learn, and experience delight. The wide scope of her interests and her adept handling of form have created an opus of classics both elegant and necessary.”

Trethewey’s works include Native Guard (2006), winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, and three other poetry collections: Thrall (2012), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), and Domestic Work (2000). Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a book of creative nonfiction, was published in 2010.

Trethewey was inducted in 2013 into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2012 was named the state poet laureate of Mississippi. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Study Center, and the Bunting Fellowship Program of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.

New Book by Beth Macy M.A. ’93 Named to Kirkus Prize Shortlist

Truevine, the upcoming book by acclaimed author Beth Macy M.A. ’93, is one of six books that have been selected in the Nonfiction category for the Kirkus Prize shortlist.

With a prize of $50,000, the Kirkus Prize is one of the richest literary awards in the world. It is given each year to authors of fiction, nonfiction, and young readers’ literature.

Truevine, which will be published by Little, Brown on October 18, is the story of two African American brothers named George and Willie Muse from a tobacco community in Franklin County, Virginia. At the turn of the 20th century, the Muse brothers were kidnapped and exhibited as circus freaks, while their mother sought valiantly for years to bring them home.

Macy’s previous book, Factory Man, was a national bestseller.

Joining Truevine on the Kirkus Prize nonfiction shortlist are works by Sarah Bakewell, Matthew Desmond, Michael Eric Dyson, Susan Faludi, and J.D. Vance.

Winners of the 2016 Kirkus Prize will be selected on November 3 by a panel of judges made up of writers, booksellers, librarians, and Kirkus critics.

A Hollins Student Wins Miss Roanoke Valley for the Second Consecutive Year

Congratulations to Dominga Murray ’20, who was named Miss Roanoke Valley 2017 at the Miss Roanoke Valley Scholarship Pageant, held Saturday, September 17, at Cave Spring Middle School.

She was crowned by Andolyn Medina ’16, who served as Miss Roanoke Valley 2016.

Murray, who hails from North Chesterfield, Virginia, will compete in the Miss Virginia Pageant, June 22-24, 2017.

Hollins Recognized by Major National College Guides

More than ever, prospective college students and their families have a variety of tools at their disposal to help them make the big decision of choosing an institution of higher learning.  Print and online college guides and rankings offer some of the most important and useful resources, and this year Hollins has been featured prominently in several of the nation’s best-known publications:

    • USA Today and the education technology company College Factual have named Hollins as the number one college in the nation in the category, “English Language and Literature, General – Most Focused.” Their 2017 college rankings also place Hollins among the top five percent of the “Most Focused” colleges and universities nationwide in biology and history.


    • The 2017 edition of U.S. News Best Colleges lists Hollins at number 11 in the category “Best Colleges for Veterans” and the number 27 “Best Value School” among National Liberal Arts Colleges. Overall, Hollins is ranked number 105 in the National Liberal Arts Colleges classification, up from number 108 last year.


    • Hollins’ financial health has received an “A” rating from Forbes magazine. “The grades measure financial fitness as determined by nine components broken into three categories: balance sheet strength, operational soundness, and other higher education specific health indicators,” the magazine reports.


    • In its profile of Hollins, The Princeton Review’s The Best 381 Colleges: 2017 Edition says students at Hollins “adore the school,” that life on this “gorgeous” and “peaceful” campus is “a unique amalgam of individualistic zaniness and required academic hustle and bustle,” and that “Hollins really embodies the concept of sisterhood.”


    • The Fiske Guide to Colleges 2017 places Hollins among the 25 “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Art and Design,” the 18 “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Film/Television,” and the 17 “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Dance.”


    • The ranking and review website has named Hollins one of the 100 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the country, and lists it among the five Best Liberal Arts Colleges in Virginia and one of the ten Best Colleges in Virginia overall. Niche says it “takes into account key factors such as the strength of the academic program, the aptitude of professors, the quality of campus amenities, the general character of student life, as well as student reviews in an attempt to measure the overall excellence of the college experience.”


    • Hollins is one of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the nation, according to Washington Monthly’s annual College Guide and Rankings. Hollins is one of only five Virginia colleges to earn a spot in the top 100. “We rate schools based on their contribution to the public good in three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country),” the guide explains.


    • Hollins is one of only four Virginia colleges to be featured in Peterson’s Cool Colleges 101.

“Marvelous Cornelius” Author Phil Bildner Receives the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature

Hollins University honored the winner of the inaugural Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature with a medal ceremony during the 2016 Francelia Butler Conference on July 23.

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.

Phil Bildner, a former New York City public school teacher who has written more than 20 children’s books, is the award’s first recipient. The author of Marvelous Cornelius received a $1,000 cash prize, which comes from an endowed fund created by James Rockefeller, Brown’s fiancé at the time of her death. Bildner was also presented an engraved medal conceived by award-winning sculptor, painter, and Hollins alumna Betty Branch of Roanoke.

“Margaret Wise Brown said, ‘A good picture book can almost be whistled….All have their own melodies behind the storytelling,’” said judges Elissa Haden Guest and Judy Schachner in a statement. “In that spirit, we award the Margaret Wise Brown Prize to Phil Bildner for Marvelous Cornelius, a book about a simple, musical man who inspired the cleanup of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.” Illustrated by John Parra and published by Chronicle Books, Marvelous Cornelius is geared toward children ages 4 – 7.

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: Phil Bildner receives the Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children’s Literature medal from Hollins President Nancy Gray.

Hollins Alumna Among the Most Influential Women in Tampa Bay Sports

Tampa Bay Downs President and Treasurer Stella Thayer ’62 has been named one of the most influential women in Tampa Bay sports by the Tampa Bay Times.

Thayer, who began riding horses when she was five years old, has been involved with Tampa Bay Downs for more than 50 years. In 1986 she outbid New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner to purchase the horse racing facility. “Soon after,” the Times reports, “Thayer named controller Lorraine M. King as Tampa Bay Downs’ general manager. It marked the first time in turf history a thoroughbred track had separate female ownership and management.”

The Times adds, “Thayer has been a pioneer for bay area women in the business world, too. She was the first woman to preside over the Tampa Chamber of Commerce and has served on a number of boards.”

Read more about Thayer’s remarkable career here.


USA TODAY COLLEGE: Hollins Is One of Virginia’s Top 10 Colleges

USA TODAY COLLEGE reports that the education technology company College Factual has placed Hollins University among the top ten colleges in Virginia.

Ranked number nine, Hollins joins Washington and Lee University, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond, Virginia Tech, Virginia Military Institute, James Madison University, George Mason University, and the University of Mary Washington on the list.

“At this small university, students are encouraged to keep learning beyond the classroom with an abundant number of opportunities for studying abroad, internships and undergraduate research,” College Factual says of Hollins. “With small class sizes and a 8-to-1 student to faculty ratio, students are able to work closely with faculty and develop an individualized plan for their academic pursuits.”

In 2015, USA TODAY selected College Factual to provide data and insights for its annual College Guide. The company explains that its “ranking methodology is highly focused on data related to outcomes, such as loan default rates, graduation rates and average starting salaries of graduates.”

Forbes Awards Hollins an “A” Grade for Financial Fitness

Hollins University’s financial health has earned an “A” rating from Forbes magazine.

Hollins is included in the Forbes Financial Grades for 2016, which each year “measure the fiscal soundness of nearly 900 four-year, private, not-for-profit colleges with at least 500 students.”

To determine the grades, Forbes analyzes data provided by the U.S. Department of Education. “The grades measure financial fitness as determined by nine components broken into three categories: balance sheet strength (40%), operational soundness (35%), and other higher education specific health indicators (25%),” the magazine reports.




Conference’s New Award Recognizes Founding Director of Children’s Literature Studies at Hollins

Amy Deligdisch (left) and Jessi Cole Jackson (right), co-chairs of the 2016 Francelia Butler Conference, with Amanda Cockrell, founding director of the graduate programs in children’s literature at Hollins.

Hollins University’s Francelia Butler Conference (FBC), a one-day, student-run conference dedicated to celebrating children’s literature, is presenting a new prize this year in honor of the founding director of Hollins’ graduate programs in children’s literature.

The Amanda Cockrell Award joins already established $100 prizes that highlight the creativity, diversity of talent, and drive of Hollins’ children’s literature graduate students.

“When considering all that Amanda has poured into this program from the beginning and all she has done for its students, naming the award after her was the obvious choice,” said Amy Deligdisch, a children’s literature graduate student and co-chair of FBC for 2016. “Over the years she has counseled us, taught us, guided us, answered a million questions, sent a thousand emails, and kept track of dozens of students at once. We salute her for creating a program that has become a safe haven to so many of us, a home away from home.”

With R.H.W. Dillard, Cockrell founded the program in 1992, one of the first of its kind in the country devoted exclusively to the study and writing of children’s and young adult literature. Today, students may pursue an M.A. or M.F.A. in children’s literature, an M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustration, or a certificate in children’s book illustration.

The FBC offers graduate students the opportunity to submit creative and critical papers for critique by a panel of distinguished judges. The Shirley Henn Award is given to the top piece in the categories Critical Writing and Creative Writing: Long Form. Students may also submit original artwork to the conference’s art show and compete for the Margaret Kates Award in the Illustration category. The Cockrell Award honors students in a fourth category, Creative Writing: Short Form, which encompasses works such as picture books and poetry.

Another FBC tradition, a silent auction, helps raise funds for future conferences. According to Deligdisch’s fellow conference co-chair, Jessi Cole Jackson, who is also a children’s literature graduate student, “Last year’s silent auction was so successful that it will not only fund the 2016 conference, but also support ten years of a new award category. By dividing the Creative Writing award into Long Form and Short Form, novel excerpts and short stories no longer have to be judged beside shorter works. Authors will now have the chance to have their work considered in comparison to siblings instead of cousins.”

This year’s FBC takes place on Saturday, July 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Niederer Auditorium, Wetherill Visual Arts Center. Admission is free and open to the public. The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Marah Gubar, who teaches and writes about children’s literature from a variety of periods, but is especially interested in 19th– and 20th-century representations of childhood and the history of children’s theatre. Her book Artful Dodgers: Reconceiving the Golden Age of Children’s Literature won the Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award. She is associate professor of English at MIT and previously directed the children’s literature program at the University of Pittsburgh.