At Commencement, Ann Compton ’69 Urges the Class of 2016 to “Stay Engaged”

Students at Commencement

During Hollins University’s 174th Commencement Exercises on May 22, Ann Compton, a trailblazer for women in broadcast journalism, asked graduates to “make a difference as you move forward.”

A member of Hollins’ class of 1969, Compton was the guest speaker for the windy but sunny morning ceremony on the university’s historic Front Quadrangle, where 176 undergraduate and graduate degrees were conferred. (View Compton’s address in its entirety here. See highlights of the complete ceremony here.)

Compton joined ABC News in 1973. Just one year later she became the first female assigned by a network television news organization to report from the White House on a full-time basis. She covered seven presidents during her distinguished 41-year career.

The Journalism Hall of Fame inductee told graduates, “Your generation needs to stay engaged,” and offered three ways in which they could be an agent for positive change:

  • “Bundle up all your energy and invest it in restoring trust in America.” Even if the graduates were reluctant to become active in the political arena, Compton said their involvement in civic issues “will make our society strong.”
  • “Look up to the horizon.” Just as the presidents she covered all faced unforeseeable crises during their administrations, “abrupt challenges” will happen to the graduates, too. “The path you set from this campus into the world is yours to choose,” Compton explained. “But at some point, you will also be defined by how you react to the unexpected in life. Do not fear it. Persevere. Protect your core aspirations but know that you have the strength of character to handle any adversity.”
  • “Please don’t forget to look inward.” Compton noted that “women have had lots of recent advice about leaning forward and to be bold. But please don’t lean forward at the expense of those closest to you, family and dearest friends.” She recalled an address by then-First Lady Barbara Bush to a graduating class at Wellesley College “that has stayed with me every day since. Barbara Bush said, ‘At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, not closing one more deal. You’ll regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not only on what happens in the White House, but what happens inside your house.'”

Compton was introduced by classmate and close friend Suzanne Allen Redpath ’69, who was also a pioneer for women in television news and recently retired after spending more than four decades with CBS News. Most recently, she served as the senior coordinating producer for 48 Hours, and was recognized during her career with three Emmy Awards. Compton joked that she and Redpath were “among the first women to climb the network news ladder in high heels,” but on a more serious note she stated, “Both of us worked hard, had a little bit of good luck, and build careers and families on the strong foundation of a liberal arts education at a women’s college. I believe that is still the key to success in the 21st century.”

Other highlights of the 174th Commencement Exercises included the presentation of the following honors:

  • Hailey Hendrix, an English major from High Point, North Carolina, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan 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.
  • The Annie Terrill Bushnell Award was given to Sarah Pillow, a communication studies major from Orange, Virginia. 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 junior or senior who is pre-eminent in character in addition to being a good student, was given to Emani Richmond, a communication studies major from Mebane, North Carolina.
  • The Faculty Award for Academic Excellence, recognizing the students with the highest and second-highest academic standing in the class of 2016, was presented respectively to Mandy Moore, an English major from Maurertown, Virginia, and Mikaela Murphy, an international studies major from High Point, North Carolina.