Monday, July 1, 2013

New Horizon Director Perfect for Hollins

Mary Ellen Apgar
A little while ago I had lunch with Hollins University's new director of the Horizon program, the school for "non-traditional students" that has been such a spectacular success under the now-retired Celia McCormick.

This is the program that takes in women who have not been to school in a while, but who very often have a burning desire to do so--often because they're single mothers or because their lives have taken a turn they didn't expect and they want to be back on track. They are often in a pickle going in, but they come out with a good college education (at an affordable price) and enhanced prospects. I love the program because I think second chances are a gift of compassion.

Mary Ellen Apgar is the new director and, frankly, I consider her an inspired pick, a woman who has had to come back from some severe challenges, is a graduate of the program and who has all the tools, including a personality that will sell recruits.

Mary Ellen is a Roanoke native, a judge's daughter, a fine actress (you should have seen her in "Good Old Girls"), and a 28-year-old recovering alcoholic (I'm one too, but I would never mention this except that it was the subject of a newspaper story). We talked for nearly an hour and a half at lunch and I found a sharp, interested, compassionate overachiever who cares about this program as much as Celia did--and that's a hell of a lot. She's also an outside-the-box choice, which I appreciate.

President Nancy Gray's Hollins has been an inspired and creative university at every level and picking Mary Ellen for this position is yet another prime example of how it's working.

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