Sharon Holland ’86: Speaking Up, Reaching Out, Giving Back

Sharon Holland

During her undergraduate years, Sharon Holland '86 was well known on campus as an activist who helped bring minority peer advisors to dorms, organized Take Back the Night marches, and participated in the Free South Africa movement.

She initially found Princeton a challenging environment for a woman of color. “There were times when I looked at those traditions and thought, ‘Not really me,’” she recalls. But she found herself — and her place at the University — through a passionate involvement in social action on campus.

Now a professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina who has written extensively on the intersection of race, feminism, and queer theory, she has made a bequest that honors her experience at Princeton in her own unique way.

Life-Shaping Experiences

Holland recognizes that it was Princeton — both its hurdles and its rich academic offerings — that gave her the tools to achieve her goals. “What happened to me at Princeton gave me the power to change Princeton. I learned how to be very creative and think outside the box.” She also bonded closely with a group of activist friends. “Princeton listened to us,” she says. “Princeton enabled us to make the school better for others.”

Holland wants to use her bequest to help even more future students. “I like the idea of creating a scholarship for someone like me — someone who crosses over multiple categories, perhaps a minority female who’s a single parent,” she says.

A bequest, she feels, is the best way to affirm her experience at Princeton. “A bequest gives you a legacy. I changed Princeton, and Princeton changed me. I want that to be marked.” What’s more, she envisions the scholarship also funded by, and named for, the core group of friends who helped shape her own views. As they grew to respect each other’s differences, she came to embrace her own. “Meeting these people at Princeton changed my life,” she says.

Holland’s bequest is as individual as she is, which is what makes a bequest a deeply gratifying way to give back to Princeton. “It will be in my name and the names of people I grew to love while here. That’s what Princeton did — it put us all at the table. This bequest is about honoring our time at Princeton, and therefore honoring Princeton in our own way.”

By making a bequest, Holland has ensured that she will continue to help shape the character of Princeton. Her legacy of positive change will live on — empowering individual students and continuing to enhance the environment that nurtures their growth. 

For more information on including Princeton in your estate plans or making another kind of planned gift, contact one of our philanthropic advisors in the Office of Gift Planning at 609.258.6318, or e-mail