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Donation breaks records, enables Hollins University endowment

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Hollins University

Hollins University received one of the largest single donations ever given to any college or university by a sole female donor.

An anonymous alumna donated $75 million to Hollins University, officials announced Thursday morning.

It’s the largest donation ever received by a United States women’s college, let alone by a small liberal arts school like Hollins University, and is one of the largest single donations ever given to any college or university by a sole female donor, according to a news release.

“Hollins’ mission and the value of its enduring presence and direction as a progressive institution were the catalyst for my gift,” said the anonymous donor in the release. “It ensures Hollins can move forward with confidence as an institution committed to women and the liberal arts.”

No further information is available about the donor. Her gift will establish the Levavi Oculos Endowed Scholarship Fund, funding scholarships and addressing need-based financial aid for undergraduate students.

Students will benefit from the endowment by fall semester 2023, according to the release. By the 2025-26 academic year, Hollins estimates at least 125 students, or almost 20% of the current undergraduate student body, will benefit from the funds.

The gift is a profound and powerful statement about the value of higher education for women, and one that will benefit the school forevermore, said university President Mary Dana Hinton during a phone call Thursday afternoon.

“What’s so exciting about this is the $75 million goes into our endowment, and what that means is we will be able to in perpetuity draw upon this gift to fund financial aid and scholarships,” Hinton said. “It allows us to create access for communities that need support being able to attend Hollins, but it also ensures that support is there going forward.”

Presently, Hollins University invests $21 million annually in financial aid, she said. Currently, the undergraduate student body is 36% low-income, 34% first generation, and 30% students of color.

“What makes Hollins so unique is we have this culture of supporting one another, and this is sort of an outsized example of how that works,” Hinton said, emphasizing that alums give back in many different ways. “It is just how Hollins alumnae value the experience they had, and their deep desire to ensure others get to have a similar experience.”

The funds also come at a crucial time for women’s colleges, which in the United States numbered more than 200 during the 1960s, according to the release. Financial insecurity and long-term instability have dwindled those numbers to fewer than 40 schools today, the release said.

“Both in Roanoke and beyond the valley, we have the great opportunity of benefiting from women who have been educated in a deep and broad liberal arts tradition,” Hinton said. “You can expect Hollins graduates to be engaged civically, to be engaged professionally, and to continue to give back to make our community and our world a better place. That’s what a liberal arts education is about.”

Hollins, founded in 1842, is one of the country’s oldest women’s colleges, according to the release.

“While this gift will fund a number of individuals, each one of those individuals... will then go out into the world and through their service and their professional endeavors impact the lives of many, many more,” Hinton said. “It’s a wonderful vote of confidence in our mission, in our community and our direction.”

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Luke Weir covers higher education and state government. He can be reached at (540) 566-8917 or luke.weir@roanoke.com

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