[St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School] Joan G. Ogilvy Holden, head of school at St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (SSSAS), Alexandria, Virginia, was awarded an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, by Virginia Theological Seminary during the Seminary’s 188th Commencement on May 19, 2011.
The degree was presented to Mrs. Holden for her exceptional leadership, dedication, and service to education and the Episcopal Church. With this distinction, the Seminary recognizes Mrs. Holden’s talented leadership of St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, her guidance and care for students and their families, service to those in need, and respect from professional colleagues.
Now in her 27th year as head of SSSAS, she has served in almost every significant capacity in national and regional Independent and Episcopal Schools associations.
Each year, honorary degrees are awarded by Virginia Theological Seminary in recognition of faithful and notable service and also creative and innovative leadership in parish ministry, overseas missions, academia, and in ecumenical, social, diocesan, and national church ministries. Past recipients of honorary doctorates from Virginia Theological Seminary include: The Hon. Sandra Day O’Connor, General Colin Powell, and The Most Rev. Desmond Tutu. Former Heads of St. Stephen’s School, The Rev. Edward E. Tate and The Rev. Emmett H. Hoy, Jr., were awarded honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees by the Seminary in 1959 and 1968, respectively. Former Head of St. Agnes School Roberta McBride was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1975.
Mrs. Holden became head of St. Agnes School in Alexandria in 1984 and became the first head of St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School when the two schools merged in 1991. In 2009, the Washington Post recognized her with the ‘Distinguished Educational Leadership Award’—an award given to only one private school educator each year. Mrs. Holden has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Tufts University and a Master of Education degree from Harvard University.
An excerpt from the citation read during the ceremony:
A natural educator, you have been teacher, coach, advisor and friend to young people. You have also been a guide to young teachers, counselor to parents, and mentor to Episcopal school leaders. Your life and ministry have been built on the conviction that each student in your care is unique, a child of God, deserving to be nurtured and formed to become a young adult of integrity and good character….
You made an immediate impression on all for knowing and calling every child by name. Later you would say to parents that “in a world where there are few guarantees, we guarantee we will know your child.”…You are heard often to say, about the young persons in your care, that “we aspire not to excellence only, but to goodness.” You are one who is devoted to children, to their spiritual, cultural, physical, and intellectual development….
Mrs. Holden said of the degree, “I am deeply humbled and so very grateful to the Seminary for this tremendous honor.”
The Very Rev. Dr. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of the Seminary, said “Virginia Theological Seminary is pleased to give her this degree. There are countless young lives that have been formed under Joan Holden’s leadership; each one has been invited to realize their full potential.”
“Mrs. Holden continues to lead, mentor, serve, and inspire our community each day,” said SSSAS Board of Governors Chair Julie Conley Wiseman ’79. “We congratulate her on this richly deserved honor.”
About St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School is an independent, college preparatory Episcopal Church School in the Diocese of Virginia that educates boys and girls from junior kindergarten through grade 12. St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School serves students from across Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.