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Nancy Gray retired in 2017 after serving as president for 12 years.

Retired Hollins University President Nancy Oliver Gray is returning to help lead the campus as it searches for a new permanent president.

Gray will step up as interim president for the coming school year, effective Aug. 12, officials announced Tuesday.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to benefit from Nancy’s leadership and institutional knowledge during this time of transition,” said Alexandra Trower, a Hollins alumna and chair of its board of trustees.

“With Nancy’s help and with the support of Hollins’ strong bench of senior leaders, I can say with confidence that Hollins will remain the university of choice for the leaders, decision makers and cultural shapers of tomorrow.”

Tuesday’s appointment comes five days after Trower announced that President Pareena Lawrence was departing after a two-year tenure with the private women’s college located in Roanoke County.

The university, in a campus-wide message, said Lawrence had decided to resign to focus on her long-standing interest in international education and development.

No additional details were provided. Lawrence hasn’t made a statement about the announcement.

Gray led the campus for 12 years before retiring in 2017. She was the 11th person to serve as president in the school’s 175-year history and had the fifth longest run in the office, according to dates listed on the university’s website.

In Tuesday’s announcement, Gray said when approached by the board and asked to serve again, “I knew I had a responsibility to return to this special place and community during this time of presidential transition.”

“I will do all I can to help Hollins move forward as the search for the 13th president of Hollins is conducted,” she added.

Since her retirement, Gray has been working as a senior consultant with Gonser Gerber, advising schools and nonprofits nationally on issues of institutional leadership and advancement.

Hollins said she’ll continue that work while also handling her revived role with the university.

Gray will serve while a new presidential search is launched, Trower said, and will focus on ensuring there is a smooth leadership handoff.

The transition plan announcement offered no new comments about Lawrence’s exit, which took effect June 30.

Inside Higher Ed reported that Hollins was the fifth college in a week to announce the essentially immediate departure of its president. It was the fourth small private college to do so, according to the digital media outlet.

A consultant and former college head told the news outlet that the average tenure for a school president is falling. Financial and enrollment pressures are mounting for many campuses leaders, it wrote.

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Alicia Petska covers what's happening in Roanoke County and the City of Salem.

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