Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D.
President, Hollins University

Mary Dana Hinton became the thirteenth president of Hollins University on August 1, 2020. An active and respected proponent of the liberal arts and inclusion, her leadership reflects a deep and abiding commitment to educational equity and the education of women.

Photo of Hollins University President Mary Dana Hinton, Ph.D.

A Forward-thinking, Team-oriented Leader

For six years Hinton served as the president of the College of Saint Benedict (Saint Ben’s) in Saint Joseph, Minnesota, and was named President Emerita upon her departure. Under her leadership, Saint Ben’s put into action a collaborative strategic plan and dynamic vision to guide the institution through 2020. During her tenure, the college completed a $100 million comprehensive fundraising campaign, exceeding its goal. Hinton also led the process to implement a $43 million campus facilities update, enabling Saint Ben’s to provide premier facilities for teaching, learning, and women’s leadership development.

Active in the National Higher Education Arena

Hinton has been elected president of the  Board of Directors, effective July 1, 2024. She is also a member of the board of directors for, , and the , and the board of trustees at ..

She speaks frequently in the U.S. and abroad on topics related to the liberal arts and inclusion, and she founded the Liberal Arts Illuminated Conference. Hinton teaches in the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education doctoral program in higher education management and the CIC President’s Institute New President Program.

A Broad Range of Academic Interests

Hinton’s scholarship focuses on higher education leadership, strategic planning, the role of education in peace building, African American religious history, and inclusion in higher education. She is the author of The Commercial Church: Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America and a frequent op-ed contributor across higher education publications. Hinton’s new book, Leading from the Margins: College Leadership from Unexpected Places, based on her TedX Talk of the same name, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press in February 2024.

Hinton earned a Ph.D. in religion and religious education with high honors from Fordham University, a Master of Arts degree in clinical child psychology from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Williams College. She is the recipient of the Bicentennial Medal from Williams College and honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Misericordia University, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Mount St. Mary’s University.

Credo, a comprehensive higher education consulting firm specializing in working with independent colleges and universities, named Hinton as the recipient of its eighth annual Courageous Leadership Award in 2020. The award recognizes an innovative leader in independent higher education.

The Roanoke Branch of the NAACP honored Hinton in 2024 as one of the Roanoke Valley’s citizens of the year in the education category. Roanoke’s Taubman Museum of Art presented her with the Sheila S. Strauss Art Venture Award for 2024, which annually recognizes a woman for her extraordinary contributions to the arts and art education. In 2021, Hinton was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, an organization established more than 240 years ago by the nation’s founders to honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good.

Hinton, her husband, Robert Williams, and their children, Hallela, Hillel, and Hosanna, make their home at Lorimer House, the Hollins University presidential residence.


A guide to why people from marginalized backgrounds may be uniquely qualified to become effective higher education leaders—and how they can get there.

Students and faculty in higher education increasingly reflect more diverse backgrounds, but this diversity remains rare in many leadership roles. In Leading from the Margins, Mary Dana Hinton celebrates the unique strengths of marginalized individuals, inviting them to embrace their leadership potential and make a difference. Drawing from Hinton’s own journey to becoming a university president, this book challenges conventional leadership theories and highlights the value of diverse voices. Whether you’re an emerging or established leader, Leading from the Margins will empower you to find your own leadership style and discover strength in unexpected places.

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