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Students, faculty and staff gathered in the Shain Library’s Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room to formally thank Carolyn Holleran '60 and her husband Jerry Holleran GP '07 for their $2.5 million gift that will support the next generation of Holleran Center scholars, and will continue the rich legacy of the Holleran Center, which the couple first endowed 21 years ago.
Each year, more than 70 students from a broad spectrum of disciplines and academic departments work with the Holleran Center, engaging in local, national and global service-learning projects, and preparing for lives and careers as leaders in the realm of social justice.
"The Holleran Center represents the best of what a Connecticut College education means," President Katherine Bergeron said. "Because of you, Carolyn and Jerry, hundreds of students have had a superlative education and have come to understand their place in the world in a new way, and hundreds of students have gone on to do a world of good. ... I'm happy that your legacy will live on in the justice that these students will perpetuate in the world."
The Holleran Center's signature Program in Community Action deepens students' knowledge and skills as active and responsive citizens. Holleran Center scholars integrate classroom studies in the liberal arts with experiential learning in local and global communities. The Center is also the College’s primary incubator for social justice initiatives, community reform and sustainable change. It partners with dozens of community organizations to address challenges in education, health and wellness, affordable housing, community development, the environment and food security.
From providing legal services to immigrants and refugees to combatting gun violence, Holleran Center graduates are now making a difference all over the world as activists, community organizers, lawyers, policy makers, researchers, fundraisers, educators, social workers and Fulbright fellows.
Professor of Psychology Audrey Zakriski, who serves as the faculty director of the Holleran Center, spoke passionately about the immeasurable contributions the Hollerans have made to Connecticut College over the years.
"We're so grateful for the enduring commitment Carolyn and Jerry have shown to Connecticut College, to the students and to the many communities our work has touched," Zakriski said. "It's a pleasure to celebrate their inspirational philanthropy, visionary leadership and the more than two decades of social activism they've made possible at the College. This gift will allow us to inspire a new generation of activist scholars."
Laura Lundegard '18, whose research area of interest is integrative medicine, specifically the integration of alternative practices into Western medicine to treat PTSD, is one of those activist scholars. She spent last summer interning with the UNC Program of Integrative Medicine.
"The level of support provided by the Holleran Center goes above and beyond just academics," said Lundegard, a behavioral neuroscience major. "This past summer, [along with other Holleran Center scholars] we organized a suicide prevention walk with the American Suicide Prevention Foundation in Westport, Connecticut, that we are attending this Sunday with a team of Connecticut College students. [We] were able to bring together a large group of students to organize around mental health awareness and suicide prevention because of the Holleran Center's incredible support."
Hanako Brais '18, who is working on social justice in the arts by examining the cultural equity gap in the contemporary art world, was full of praise for the Hollerans.
"We could continue singing praises of the Holleran Center, because it has played such a monumental role in our Conn experiences. But, we will conclude in thanking Carolyn and Jerry Holleran for the wonderful gift of the Holleran Center. The Center has brought wonderful peers and mentors into our lives," said Brais, an anthropology major.
The Holleran's gift will be used to endow important faculty and staff positions, as well as to support community-based courses both for first-year students and for those in the Holleran Center's longstanding certificate program. The gift also designates $100,000 for the Connecticut College Fund, which will provide immediate support for the needs of the students, faculty and the College more broadly.
"Coming to Conn was a very transformative experience for me," Carolyn Holleran told the audience. "It's where I learned who I was, and it's an incredible thrill for us to be able to use our resources to continue what we really believe in, which is our mission to find a way for everyone to reach their greatest potential."