Commencement Speaker

Bret StephensBret Stephens, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, New York Times
Bret Stephens is an op-ed columnist and associate editor at the New York Times, a position he assumed in April 2017. Previously, Mr. Stephens wrote "Global View," the foreign-affairs column of the Wall Street Journal, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary in 2013. He is formerly the Journal's deputy editorial-page editor, responsible for the newspaper's global opinion section, and was a member of the editorial board.

Mr. Stephens began his career at the Wall Street Journal in 1998 as an editor in New York, and later wrote editorials and articles for the newspaper from Brussels. In January 2002 he was named editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, a position he assumed at age 28. At the Post, he was responsible for the newspaper's news, editorial, digital and international editions, and also wrote a weekly column. 

Mr. Stephens returned to the Journal in late 2004. He has reported stories from around the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and interviewed dozens of world leaders. He is a frequent guest on many TV news programs and has published articles in Foreign Affairs, Time, Commentary and many other publications. 

Mr. Stephens has twice been chairman of Pulitzer Prize juries and is a national judge of the prestigious Livingston Awards. In 2014 he was awarded the Professional Achievement Prize by the University of Chicago, a distinction he shares with composer Philip Glass, astronomer Carl Sagan, and Nobel laureate Gary Becker. 

In 2014 Penguin published his book "America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder." Former Secretary of State George Shultz hailed the book as "wise counsel for a constructive, tough-minded, and sensible foreign policy."  

Bret Stephens was born in New York and raised in Mexico City. He holds a BA with honors from the University of Chicago, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and an honorary doctorate from Niagara University. He lives in Manhattan with his wife Corinna, a classical music and opera critic for the New York Times, and their three children.

Baccalaureate Speaker

Dr. Nancy GrayNancy Gray, President, Hollins University
Nancy Oliver Gray became Hollins University's 11th president in January 2005. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Gray holds an M.Ed. from North Texas State University and has completed additional graduate work at Vanderbilt. She also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Presbyterian College.

Gray served as president of Converse College in South Carolina for five-and-a-half years. She serves on the boards of The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; Princeton Theological Seminary; the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment; Mill Mountain Theatre; and the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra.

She is the presidential sponsor for the Virginia Network of American Council on Education's Office of Women in Higher Education, a member of the Advisory Board for the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs, and is serving on the Steering Committee of Admission Practices for the National Association of College Admission Counseling.

A native of Dallas, Texas, Gray is married to David Maxson, and between them they have seven adult children and ten grandchildren.