Alexander/Heath Contemporary Features New Exhibition of Works by Art Professor Mary Zompetti

Roanoke’s Alexander/Heath Contemporary is presenting “The Lost Garden,” an exhibition of works by photographic artist and Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti, December 2 – 30.

Located at 109 Campbell Avenue, SW, the art gallery is hosting an opening reception for the show in conjunction with downtown Roanoke’s “Art-by-Night” on Friday, December 2, from 5 – 9 p.m.

Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent cameraless photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration.

“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished, and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti says. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”

Zompetti notes that in “The Lost Garden” exhibition, the cameraless photographs “are created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. The physical remains of wildlife and other remnants of the natural world are placed on the film’s surface. The film becomes an imprint of the fragile body, a witnessing of transformation through loss, and a map-like record of time and place during this moment when our natural environment is on the precipice of irreversible change.”

Zompetti holds a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University and an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, from Hollins’ Eleanor D. Wilson Museum to galleries in Boston, Brooklyn, and Iceland.

“The Lost Garden” is partially funded by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.



Hollins Named “Overall Distinguished Delegation” at Regional Model Arab League Conference

Hollins University earned multiple honors at the annual Appalachia Regional Model Arab League (MAL) conference, held at Hollins November 4-6.

Eight delegations comprised of student representatives from George Mason University, Georgia Southern University, Georgia State University, Hollins, Roanoke College, Virginia Military Institute, and Roanoke’s Community High School participated in the event, now in its eighth year.

MAL is the flagship Youth Leadership Development Program of the National Council on U.S. – Arab Relations (NCUSAR). According to NCUSAR, MAL’s goal is “allowing emerging leaders to learn firsthand what it is like to put themselves in the shoes of real-life Arab diplomats and other foreign affairs practitioners. In the process, students deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Arab world and its peoples. They also strengthen their ability to engage in the art of reasoned argument and spirited debate, and become better prepared to be knowledgeable, well-trained, and effective citizens as well as civic and public affairs leaders.”

John P. Wheeler Professor of Political Science Edward Lynch and Assistant Professor of Political Science Courtney Chenette jointly organized the 2022 conference. Lynch is teaching Hollins’ Model United Nations/Model Arab League course this academic year, and Chenette will lead the course beginning in Fall 2023.

“Hollins again held a successful and stimulating Model Arab League conference,” Lynch said. “This is an important element of Hollins’ emphasis on experiential learning, and I am happy that so many students took leading roles in the Councils.” He noted that Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton welcomed the delegates at the outset of the conference, which “sends an unmistakable signal to our visitors that Model Arab League is important here. Professor Chenette and I greatly appreciate the support we receive from the Hollins administration.”

The conference opening also featured a talk on Islamic art by Michelle Moseley, associate professor and chair of art history and visual culture at Virginia Tech.

Hollins students served in key leadership roles at the conference, including Bianca Vallebrignoni ’23, secretary general; Chanmolis Mout ’23, assistant secretary general; and Jenna Johnston ’25, chief justice of the Arab Court of Justice simulation.

Hollins was named the conference’s Overall Distinguished Delegation. Students also came away with several group and individual awards:

  • Distinguished Delegation in the Council on Palestinian Affairs: Ava Kegler ’25 and Sammy Stuhlmiller ‘25
  • Outstanding Delegation in the Summit of the Arab Heads of State: Kayla Richardson ’24 and Phil Anh
  • Outstanding Chair: Harper Dillon ‘25
  • Distinguished Chair: Sofia Olivares ’25 and Claire Ross ‘23


2022 Career Connection Conference (C3) Helps Students Navigate “The Winding Path”

Hollins University students were provided with some of the important tools they’ll need to find their way along “The Winding Path” at the university’s 2022 Career Connection Conference (C3), held September 30.

As this year’s conference theme, “The Winding Path” reflected the reality that a career track is no longer linear but rather an accumulation of skills and life experiences. In virtual sessions (C3 transitioned to an online conference this year due to the threat of inclement weather from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ian), more than 50 Hollins alumnae/i demonstrated the lifelong power of a liberal arts education, sharing their insights on life and work and helping students connect with others in their networks.

For 2022, each C3 session encompassed one of three themes:

  • Insights from the Field: Industry-based discussions featuring various roles within a given field.
  • Driven by Mission: Conversations around mission, personal values, and purpose.
  • Navigating the Process: How-to guides for career exploration and transition.

The curriculum was designed to showcase the versatility of the liberal arts with a cross-sector, interdisciplinary approach to each session topic. Program dialogues were expansive in scope and offered points of access for all students, including those who are still developing their career or academic goals.

C3 covered a range of career fields, including environment and sustainability; film; galleries, libraries, archives, and museums; government and public policy; health care; international affairs; performing arts; pre-veterinary; psychology; publishing; and technology and innovation/government contracting. The conference also featured issue-oriented sessions covering purpose-based work and how one can create change and maintain coherency between work, life, and beyond. Among these sessions were “Leading EDJ: Careers in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”; “Work and Life Balance”; and “Creating Impact: Working in Nonprofits.”

Sarina Saturn, a scientist, educator, and activist, was the keynote speaker for C3 2022. A community scientist at Program Design and Evaluation Services, which is a part of the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division and the Multnomah County (Oregon) Health Department, Saturn focuses on addressing health inequities and disparities in marginalized communities.

Sarina Saturn
C3 keynote speaker Sarina Saturn: “All of your experiences contribute to your professional development, no matter where you go in life.”

Saturn’s address, “Resisting Straight and Narrow Paths: Embracing a Future of Winding Career Journeys,” offered students five ways to successfully handle the many challenges that might come their way in the years ahead.

“I think it’s really important to understand that nothing is wasted. Even if you make what seems to be a bad decision, every single experience you have – your career choices, your academic choices, even things relational – can contribute to your development no matter where you go in life. There are so many lessons to be learned.”

Saturn cited the importance of celebrating winding paths. “You should definitely feel empowered to be your best advocate for yourself, Even if you end up in a position or path that is not serving you, there are many, many gifts that can come from that.”

These include what Saturn described as “foul-weather gifts. I come from a background of neuroscience and trauma, and now I try to convey to all my audiences the power of harnessing post-traumatic growth and the psychology of wisdom, compassion, and self-care, so that even in the midst of coping with really difficult experiences, there are some wonderful things to be had, even from the most painful and difficult things we might encounter.”

Saturn also told students to “seek connection wherever you go. By being relational, you will be able to have lots of people looking out for you during your career journey.” She urged them to establish a basis for networking through Hollins’ Career Development and Life Design Center (CDLD). “I think the career center you have is extraordinary, so take advantage of all they offer.”

Reminding students to always take care of their own well-being and others was Saturn’s fifth tip. “You simply cannot go wrong if you lead with kindness and compassion and advocate for yourself and for others who are the most vulnerable among us.”

Throughout their career journeys, Saturn encouraged students to continually ask themselves one key question. “What really matters to you? Distilling your values really contributes to a growth mindset. I think oftentimes we do what we can…just to make more money or become famous. We now know through all of the data that being rich and famous is not the path to happiness and contentment. It’s really about finding your joy and discovering what is impactful. It’s honoring your gifts instead of trying to shoehorn in what you might not be so good at. That can also be a humbling experience when you’re in a job or even in a relationship that isn’t serving you. Harness those gifts – ‘What am I good at? What makes me happy?’ – rather than force yourself into something that might not be aligned with your values, your skill set, or your talents.”

Saturn emphasized that even in less-than-ideal career or relational situations, anyone can identify benefits “that you can apply to wherever you want to go. If where you are is not quite feeling good, there are ways to make it magical, or ways to learn about what you don’t like. This allows you to pick another path that might be great.”

Now in its 11th year, C3 is intended to provide advice and guidance to all Hollins students. “Whether you are a first year or a senior, a double major or undecided, career-ambitious or career-confused, there is a place for you at C3,” said Jeffrey White, director of the university’s CDLD.

Wilson Museum Presents “Seeds from the East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project”

The Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University is featuring the exhibition “Seeds from the East: The Korean Adoptee Portrait Project,” September 29 – December 11.

“Seeds from the East” showcases the work of A.D. Herzel, an internationally recognized artist, educator, designer, and writer who lives in Blue Ridge, Virginia. She is also a Korean adoptee who explores her identity and creates community through her art.

“This exhibit presents graphite portraits of Korean adoptees accompanied by silhouettes executed in gold ink and drawings of flowers, seeds, spirals, and other imagery specific to each portrait,” explained Wilson Museum Director Jenine Culligan. “Herzel offers her art as a way to help process grief and trauma, as well as to join the larger conversation about place and belonging in immigrant communities across the globe.”

In 1970, Herzel was among three Korean children (two girls and a boy) who were adopted by the Holt family, who also sponsored about 50 other children for adoption. She noted, “It has taken me 50 years to give light to the shadow of my adoption story. This current flowering moment, rooted and wrapped in the tendrils of history, is seeded by the currents of global, religious, and political history. My story, though textured with facets, divets, and spikes, is just one story in the Korean diaspora and one of the many American immigration stories worth telling.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Herzel will deliver an artist lecture at the Wilson Museum on Saturday, October 1, at 2:30 p.m. A reception will follow. In addition, she will present a youth workshop entitled “Identity Development through Writing and Art Making” on Saturday, November 12, from 2 – 5 p.m., also at the museum. The workshop is intended for young adults ages 12-22 and delves into concepts of self-discovery through art and writing. Herzel will guide participants through investigative processes to help understand and clarify questions of belonging and becoming, especially for youth in adoptive or foster families. Registration for the workshop is required; contact Kyra Schmidt at or 540-362-6496.

The Wilson Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Admission is always free.

“Compassion, Grace, Gratitude, Care”: Hollins Embarks on the 2022-23 Academic Year

Praising “an incredible community of people…united by time, traditions, and this place we call home,” Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton officially launched the 2022-23 academic year at the university’s Opening Convocation on August 30 in duPont Chapel.

The welcoming of new students into the campus community and the procession of seniors in their graduation robes for the first time are among the highlights of the annual ceremony. Hinton cited Hollins’ class of 2023 for having “proven themselves to be resilient, engaged, supportive, brilliant learners. As we begin to find our way through this academic year, I encourage all of us to have that same spirit as our seniors.”

In her address, Hinton reiterated to students, faculty, and staff, “Our hearts and minds are tethered. I ask that as we get to know our newest members and embrace familiar relationships with others, that we seek to see the individual complexities and beauty we each bring. That, in fact, we recognize Hollins would not be the same without each and every one of us. That we choose to extend compassion, grace, gratitude, and care to each person we encounter. That when we are faced with a variety of ways to reach out and engage one to the other, that we choose to do so with love.”

Student Government Association President Jaiya McMillan ’23 shared how the Hollins motto, Levavi Oculos (“I will lift up my eyes,” taken from Psalm 121), will always resonate with her. “I want to carry those words for the rest of my life, for with them I feel that I can lift my eyes and see the wisdom I have yet to gain. I can look up and see my professors, my friends, my family, and the people I admire around me. I ask all of you to lift your eyes and look into yourselves. What do you see? Can you look back into the person you once were, and are parts of that person still existing within you today? Can you see that you are an amalgamation of experiences you’ve had with people you’ve met and the changes you’ve undergone? I hope you cherish, treasure, and love what you find there.”

Congratulating her fellow seniors, McMillan concluded, “We sit here today together, ready to take on the world in leaps and bounds. Let today be the first of many steps to knowing ourselves, knowing each other, and knowing our world.”

Following the event, the class of 2023 took part in the traditional First Step ceremony on the university’s historic Front Quad. Each year, seniors line the sidewalks of Front Quad dressed in robes they creatively design themselves. Bearing bottles of cider specially decorated for the occasion, they take their symbolic first steps onto the grass.


Photo: Hollins seniors processing in their graduation robes for the first time is one of the highlights of Opening Convocation.

Hollins Professor’s Photographic Work Is Showcased in Bridgewater College Exhibition

Assistant Professor of Art Mary Zompetti will exhibit “The Lost Garden” at Bridgewater College’s Beverly Perdue Art Gallery from August 22 through September 27.

An opening reception will be held on Monday, August 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. with a talk at 5:30 p.m.

A photographic artist, Zompetti utilizes traditional and experimental analog photographic methods to investigate land, home, and environment. Her recent camera-less photographic work explores the delicate and resilient nature of film emulsion exposed to environmental conditions where she collaborates with light, weather, and time to create unique photographs that embrace chance, mistake, and deterioration. “The Lost Garden” series is created by exposing large-format film to environmental conditions over extended periods of time. Wind, rain, ice, and snow alter the film, leaving time- and place-specific impressions.

“My creative process is driven by curious experimentation with analog photographic materials – not in the quest for the perfect, captured moment, but rather for the possibilities that exist when control is relinquished and chance helps guide both the process and questions being asked by the work,” Zompetti said. “This curiosity excites and drives me to push the medium further, seeing what is possible outside the parameters of traditional photographic processes.”

Zompetti received an M.F.A. in visual arts from the Lesley University College of Art and Design in Cambridge, Mass., and a B.F.A. in visual arts from Northern Vermont University. She is a recipient of the 2020 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant in support of new analog, camera-less photographic work, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., the Mjólkurbúðin Gallery in Akureyri, Iceland, and the A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y. Zompetti has attended artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and at the Gil Residency in Akureyri, Iceland, and her work is also held in several collections, including the artist book libraries at Yale University and the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity.

The exhibition, opening reception, and artist’s talk are free and open to the public. The gallery, located on the main floor of the John Kenny Forrer Learning Commons, is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and noon to midnight on Sunday.

Zompetti appeared on “The Mike Schikman Show” on WSVA Radio in Harrisonburg to talk about the exhibition.


Save Money, Find the Right Fit: Visit Hollins During Virginia Private College Week, July 25-30

Hollins University is among the 23 colleges and universities across the commonwealth taking part in Virginia Private College Week (VPCW), July 25-30.

Hollins will offer campus tours and information sessions about academic programs, admissions, financial aid, and student life, and also address some of the common myths about the cost of a private college education.

“Visiting campuses in person is one of the most important steps in the college search process,” said Robert Lambeth, president of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), which is hosting Virginia Private College Week. “I encourage parents to explore which college will be the best fit for their son or daughter, and I want to reassure them that a quality education at a Virginia private college is affordable and within reach.”

Students who visit at least three institutions during the week will receive three application fee waivers. Students may use these waivers to apply to any three participating CICV colleges for free. In addition, those who visit at least three colleges will be entered in a drawing to win one of five $100 Amazon gift cards.

Sessions at Hollins and most other participating colleges will begin at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, and at 9 a.m. on Saturday. To sign up for a session at Hollins, go to our VPCW registration page. For more information about CICV and VPCW, visit the Virginia Private Colleges website.

Legendary Actor Robert Duvall Discusses Moving “From Ink to Behavior” with Hollins Screenwriters

Robert Duvall has appeared in some of the greatest movies ever made and played an array of iconic film and television roles. So, what has been the key to his success during a distinguished career spanning more than 60 years in which he has won an Academy Award, four Golden Globe Awards, a BAFTA Award, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award?

“Leave me alone,” the 91-year-old actor said bluntly but endearingly of what he has always sought from his directors. “See what I bring rather than superimposing your perceptions and concept. [Francis Ford] Coppola (who directed Duvall in 1972’s The Godfather, 1974’s The Conversation, and 1979’s Apocalypse Now) was very good at that. He wanted to see what you would bring to the table, which is a sign of a more than competent and outstanding director. I loved working with Coppola.”

Duvall recently shared his insights on acting, directing, and screenwriting during a conversation with students from Hollins University’s graduate programs in screenwriting and film studies. The event was made possible by writer/producer Colleen Hahn, a screenwriting student who first met Duvall on the set of Tender Mercies, the 1983 film that earned him a Best Actor Oscar.

“Colleen came to me and said, ‘Do you think we have any room in our schedule to talk to Robert Duvall?’” said Brian Price, director of the screenwriting and film studies programs. “I think my reaction was something like, ‘We’ll reschedule everything we have to bring Tom Hagen (Duvall’s unforgettable role in The Godfather) to talk to us in person.’”

In paying tribute to Coppola, Duvall recalled arriving in the Philippines to work on Apocalypse Now. “The name of the character was Colonel Carnage, and it was ridiculous the way it was written. So, I said to Coppola, ‘Let me do some research.’ I got with a guy who’d been a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and he told me about the air cavalry. That helped me craft a part that made sense. Colonel Carnage was a joke, really.” Influenced as well by his own time in the service and his father’s military career, Colonel Carnage became Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore. The character would proclaim what Duvall said is one of his favorite lines of dialogue from his roles, and one of the most memorable from any film: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory.”

Robert Duvall on Zoom
Robert Duvall, who has appeared in some of the greatest movies ever made and played some of the most memorable roles of all time, spoke with Hollins screenwriting students via Zoom on June 27.

Duvall used the anecdote in part to emphasize his firm belief that “research, research, research” is essential to crafting an impactful script. “Immerse yourself in the subject matter and then put forth something that you love. I haven’t written that many screenplays, but sometimes I just sit down and start writing and just see where it goes. I go from A to B to C to D and just follow the logic of the script.”

As an actor, Duvall noted that when he reads a script, “I look for whether I can take what’s in ink and turn it into organized behavior. ‘From ink to behavior’ is what I call it. You let your imagination take over and encompass you and propel your ideas into results.”

One of Duvall’s triumphs as an actor, director, producer, and screenwriter was 1997’s The Apostle, in which he played a Pentecostal preacher. “I was doing an off-Broadway play where I played a guy from Hughes, Arkansas. I was coming back from California and I got off the plane and thought maybe I’d like to go to Hughes to see what it’s really like there.”

While walking down the street he came upon a Pentecostal church and decided to go in. “A woman was preaching. It was the first time I had ever seen something like it. I never forgot it and that was my guide in writing The Apostle.”

Duvall said he chose to avoid going “the Hollywood route” to get The Apostle made because he feared “they wouldn’t have taken this real sense of the subject matter.” As a result, “it was quite a few years before I could actually get it done. I also put up my own money.”

The Apostle earned critical acclaim (Roger Ebert said it was “a lesson in how movies can escape from convention and penetrate the hearts of rare characters”), but the reaction from two people particularly resonated with Duvall.

“I understand that Billy Graham liked it and I know for a fact that Marlon Brando liked it. So, I got it from the religious and the secular. We tried to present this aspect of a truly American art form, the American preacher, and tried to show him without any ‘Hollywood’ around him. We made it a personal film about that clapboard church I’d seen maybe 18 or 20 years before.”

Brando’s approval was especially gratifying to Duvall. As young actors starting out years ago, “Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, and I used to meet at Cromwell’s Drugstore in New York City once a week. If we mentioned Brando’s name once, we mentioned it 25 times. He was our guy, a hero to us.” Later when he first worked with him, Duvall said Brando told him, “Screw the director. Do what you want to do.”

When asked about the roles he’s enjoyed the most, Duvall cited Walter, the retired Cuban barber he played opposite Richard Harris’s Irish seaman in 1993’s Wrestling Ernest Hemingway and the title role in the 1992 HBO film Stalin. But his all-time favorite role is that of Augustus “Gus” McCrae, the former Texas Ranger turned cattle driver in the 1989 TV miniseries Lonesome Dove.

“When I was doing The Godfather, I knew we were doing something important,” Duvall said. “The only time I got that feeling again in a strong way was when I did Augustus McCrae. One day when I was playing Gus I walked into the dressing room and said, ‘We’re making The Godfather of Westerns.’”

In recent years, Duvall said he has focused mainly on small parts instead of lead roles. In terms of retirement, “There always comes a day where you say, ‘That’s it, no more.’ I haven’t quite come to that, but almost.” He believes that “there will always be good actors. But it’s all the same, it’s always ‘action’ and ‘cut.’ To live between an imaginary set of circumstances, between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’ is what you do. You try to be in touch with yourself and make that live from yourself.”



Hollins, Roanoke College Welcome Nominations for the 2022 Perry F. Kendig Awards

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2022 Perry F. Kendig Arts and Culture Awards, which recognize individuals, businesses, and organizations in the greater Roanoke region that provide exemplary leadership in or support for the arts.

The deadline for nominations is Monday, August 15, at 4 p.m. EDT. The nomination form and other information can be found at


Celebrating 37 years of honoring excellence in arts and culture, the Kendig Awards have been co-sponsored by Hollins University and Roanoke College since 2013. This year, the awards presentation and celebration will be held at Hollins in October; more details about the event will be announced at a later date.

Kendig Awards are presented in each of the following categories:

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

Individuals, businesses, and organizations from the greater 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. Programs and full-time employees of Hollins University and Roanoke College are eligible to be nominated as well.

“Hollins University and Roanoke College have actively sought ways for students to immerse themselves in the Roanoke Region’s vibrant arts and cultural community,” said Hollins President Mary Dana Hinton. “Our students are often fortunate to find themselves working alongside a local visual artist in their studio or in the community, performing in a local theatrical production, or learning about arts administration during an internship at a non-profit organization.”

“When the Perry F. Kendig Awards found itself without a home in 2013, Hollins and Roanoke came together to keep the tradition alive in appreciation to the Roanoke region’s cultural community resources,” added Roanoke College President Mike Maxey. “In addition, Hollins and Roanoke hope that in presenting this annual program it will build an even stronger arts and culture bridge between the campus environment and community at large.”

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.

“You Persevered, You Summoned Your Inner Strength”: Hollins Welcomes Home the Class of 2020 to Celebrate Commencement

The graduates waited an unprecedented two years for the ceremony, but the class of 2020 finally and deservedly received their moment in the morning sun as Hollins held its 178th Commencement Exercises on May 29.

The event on Hollins’ historic Front Quadrangle, which was postponed in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, honored members of the class who earned bachelor’s degrees that year (graduate students who earned advanced degrees in 2020 were recognized in May 2021).

Tiffany Marshall Graves '97
Guest speaker Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97: “You have honored me in more ways than you could ever imagine by inviting me to speak to you today.”

Tiffany Marshall Graves ’97 was the guest speaker, fulfilling the invitation she originally received two years ago to deliver the 178th Commencement address. Since 2018, Graves has worked as pro bono counsel for Bradley Arant Boult & Cummings LLP in Jackson, Mississippi. She oversees the development and administration of the firm’s pro bono programs, which help address the unmet legal needs of indigent individuals and charitable institutions across the firm’s footprint. Prior to joining Bradley, Graves was the executive director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, where she led and promoted initiatives to improve and expand access to civil justice to the nearly 700,000 Mississippians living in poverty.

The Hollins honors graduate with degrees in political science and Spanish as well as membership in Phi Beta Kappa went on to earn her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. She focused her remarks “on three Rs – no, not reading, writing, and arithmetic – but resilience, reflection, and rest.”

Graves emphasized that “being resilient does not mean that you don’t experience stress, emotional upheaval, and suffering. Rather, demonstrating resilience includes emotional pain and suffering.

“We all know resilient people,” she continued. “I am looking at a crowd full of them now. You persevered, you overcame, and you summoned your inner strength using the tools and people around you to keep pressing forward.”

Class of 2020 MortarboardGraves stated that she did not believe that “we can ever over-reflect. Self-reflection is the process of bringing your attention to what’s happening in your life in a mindful and open-minded way. Self-reflection helps us make sense of things. To continue to learn and grow, you have to take significant steps toward loving and accepting yourself – you – in all your beauty – and it starts with making self-reflection an everyday practice.”

Resilience and reflection require a lot of work, Graves said, and she cautioned the class of 2020 that “you are going to get tired – and I want to encourage you to rest. We greatly undervalue rest. Studies have shown that in addition to improving our health, rest can make us less stressed, it can deepen our relationships, it can present opportunities for reflection, it can make us more balanced, increase our productivity, and it can allow us to build up a reserve for when unexpected emergencies happen and rest is not an option.”

Graves shared her aspirations for the class of 2020 by quoting the children’s book, I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenfield:

             I wish you more ups than downs178th Commencement Processional

            I wish you more give than take

            I wish you more tippy-toes than deep

            I wish you more we than me

            I wish you more hugs than ughs

            I wish you more woohoo than woah

            I wish you more can than knot178th Commencement Smiles

            I wish you more snowflakes than tongue

            I wish you more pause than fast-forward

            I wish you more umbrella than rain

            I wish you more bubbles than bath

            I wish you more treasures than pockets

            I wish you stories than stars

“I wish all of this for you, because you are everything I could wish for and more,” she concluded.

Following Graves’ remarks, Hollins University Trustee Sandra Kiely Kolb ’70 presented her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa for her commitment to “the fight to secure justice for all.”

Alex Lesniak '20
Class of 2020 Senior Class President Alex Lesniak: “We will certainly have a unique story to tell about our senior year.”

In her address, Class of 2020 Senior Class President Alex Lesniak noted, “We have the unique perspective of ‘graduating’ with two years of post-undergraduate life experience, which allows us to view our time at Hollins with a different lens.” She encouraged the class to “let this graduation ceremony highlight the things we’ve gained and accomplished,” adding, “We’ve all learned things in the wake of COVID-19, we’ve learned that life is precious, to forgive easily and show grace. We’ve learned to step outside ourselves and try to be as global and community-minded as possible, because you’ll never know when you will need something to be paid forward for you. We’ve learned how to show up for each other even when it’s hard and know that the siblinghood we have inherited by graduating from Hollins University will never dissipate.”

Lesniak reminded her classmates that “completing your undergraduate degree in the midst of a global pandemic is a milestone achievement. Not only will our senior year be memorable, but our time at Hollins as a whole. We were the largest class in many years, we experienced political upset and social and racial unrest, and finally, COVID-19. If anything, continuing to roll with the punches through these intense life events, one right after the other, should serve as a positive predictor about our class’s ability to withstand and thrive in swiftly changing environments.”

Other highlights of the 178th Commencement included the presentation of the following honors:178th Commencement Teddy Bear

The First Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the student or students with the highest academic standing in the class of 2020, was presented to April Little (French/creative writing). Madeline Clevenstine (gender and women’s studies) received the Second Faculty Award for Academic Excellence for earning the second-highest academic standing.

Megan Caldwell (international studies/history) received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Student Award. Given by the New York Southern Society in memory of the founder, this award recognizes a senior who has shown by daily living those qualities that evidence a spirit of love and helpfulness to other men and women.

178th Commencement RecessionalThe Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Reilly Swennes (political science). 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 Leemu Jackson (biology).


Watch Hollins University’s 178th Commencement Exercises in their entirety.

Visit the 178th Commencement photo gallery.