Senior United States District Judge Callie Virginia “Ginny” Smith Granade ’72 wished the class of 2023 “a journey filled with endless possibilities and remarkable achievements” at Hollins University’s 181st Commencement Exercises, held May 21 on the school’s historic Front Quadrangle.
“My Hollins liberal arts education was bedrock,” she told the 179 undergraduate and graduate students who received degrees during the morning ceremony, “and because of your success and persistence at Hollins, you have that firm foundation to support whatever you choose to do in the future.”
Granade, who was born in Lexington, Virginia, and completed a juris doctor degree at the University of Texas after graduating from Hollins, was nominated to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama by President George W. Bush in 2001 and sworn in the following year. From 2003 to 2010, she served as the district’s chief judge, and in 2016 she chose to take senior status as a federal judge.
Describing herself as “a sister Hollins graduate who is forever grateful for what Hollins has given me,” Granade cited the class of 2023 as “the only Hollins class to have experienced all four years of a global pandemic. And yet, you have persisted to graduation, conquering every roadblock thrown in your path by COVID-19. That persistence may be invaluable to your future success.”
Granade encouraged the graduates to recognize and embrace the gifts that their pandemic experience may have given them:
Adaptability and resilience. “The pandemic forced almost all of us to adapt to a new way of life, whether it be remote work or virtual learning. Those who endured and adjusted to these changes have developed valuable skills in adaptability, resilience, and problem-solving, all of which can prove useful in pursuing a graduate degree or a challenging career path.”
Independence and self-motivation. “The remote learning environment required you to take more initiative and be self-motivated in your studies, encouraging you to take ownership of your personal growth. This provides the drive to set goals, pursue new skills or knowledge, and push yourself to achieve your full potential.”
Empathy and understanding. “You have had the opportunity to develop a deeper appreciation for the struggles and experiences of your peers and communities. Empathy allows you to understand and connect with others on a deeper level. By recognizing and validating their emotions, you build trust and rapport, which is essential for successful relationships in both personal and professional settings. Empathy is also a key component of emotional intelligence, which helps you manage your own emotions, navigate social situations, and make sound decisions based on an understanding of others’ perspectives and feelings.”
Granade urged the class of 2023 to “be comfortable with whatever style is your own. Be kind to everyone. Cultivate positive relations with both friend and foe. As you make your way into your future, please do so with the confidence that, with your Hollins education as your foundation, you are ready to tackle whatever comes your way.”
Fall Term 2022 Senior Class President Chamolis Mout and Morgan DeWitt, senior class president for Spring Term 2023, also addressed their fellow graduates. Mout thanked her parents for allowing her “to experience the joy of growing up and cherishing their love while going through all the obstacles life threw my way. They taught me how to be hopeful and work toward my dreams. I still am a dreamer and a doer.”
DeWitt praised her classmates for persevering through the pandemic and expressed her confidence that “the class of 2023 is prepared for anything. There truly is nothing we can’t overcome. I am grateful to have gotten this opportunity to experience this university, and all it has to offer throughout the past four years.”
Other highlights of this year’s commencement included the presentation of the following honors:
The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2023, was presented to Megan Kevinique Brown (B.S. in chemistry). Zoe Madeline Brooks (B.A. in history) received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.
Egypt Tierra Matthews (B.A. in business, B.A. in English) received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award, which recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women. Vice President for Student Success, Well-being, and Belonging Nakeshia Williams 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 Prize was given to Jaiya B McMillan (B.A. in Spanish). 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 senior who is preeminent in character and leadership in addition to being a good student, was presented to Leah Felice Wilkins (B.A. in political science).
Gwyneth Miranda Strope (M.F.A. in playwriting) received the Annual Excellence in Academic Performance Award, which honors a graduate student whose career at Hollins best exemplifies scholarly excellence.
The Tracy Frist Farm at Sinking Creek Prize for Excellence in Imagining Nature, recognizing a graduate student whose final project, new play, screenplay, dance project, children’s book, short story, novel, poem collection, lesson plans, or thesis envisions new and creative orientations to natural habitats, permaculture and regenerative agriculture, land management, wildlife management, environmental justice, and sustainability, was given to Sullivan Ren Badger (M.F.A. in children’s book writing and illustration).
Congratulating the class of 2023, Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton concluded the university’s 181st academic session with the words of the late Professor of English R.H.W. Dillard, who served Hollins for 59 years:
Goodbye, ring the chapel bells, loud in the evening.
Goodbye, blink the light poles, startled and new.
Goodbye, say the library books, they rustle their leaves.
Echoes: goodbye, goodbye.
Goodbye, say the dormitories, the pillars and porches.
Goodbye, say the bushes; goodbye the walkways.
Then around the campus. Goodbye, says the putting green.
Goodbye, says the science building with a jingle of beakers;
Goodbye, says the new building, moody and shy.
Goodbye, say the tennis courts, the thrumming of rackets.
Goodbye, say the cars, forlorn in Siberia.
Goodbye, ring the alarm bells; goodbye hoot the firehorns.
Goodbye, thump the bumps on the road up the hill.
Goodbye, neigh the horses; goodbye hum the horseflies.
Goodbye, goodbye. The dead in the graveyard
Roll up their elbows; goodbye, goodbye.
Goodbye, says the new house, high on the hilltop.
Goodbye, says the old house and the house in between.
Goodbye, says the greenhouse, a light splatter of blooms.
Goodbye, says the theatre and the sound of a sax.
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
181st Commencement Exercises Photo Gallery