2020 Distinguished Service Award
Citation for Phyllis A.H. Breland ’80

A 1980 Hamilton graduate, you were the first female class speaker at Commencement and the first woman tapped for Pentagon, but your impact on College Hill was just beginning. 

For nearly two decades until your retirement in 2020, you were director of Opportunity Programs. In that role, you provided what one student described as the “selfless love and guidance and the knack to know what I needed” that you received from your beloved mentor, Christine Johnson, when you were a HEOP student. You had a gift, the student said, for providing what students needed to hear, not just what they wanted to hear.

Your influence has been felt on campus and off. Professionally, you served as president of two organizations focused on higher education opportunity programs and received the Arthur O. Eve Lifetime Achievement Award at HEOP’s 50th Anniversary Conference in 2019. On campus, in addition to directing Hamilton’s Opportunity Programs, you were — at various times — interim chief diversity officer, director of the Days-Massolo Center, and POSSE liaison. Your alumni leadership roles included serving as mentor and reunion planning chair for the Multicultural Alumni Relations Committee, Class of 1980 Reunion Planning chair, and numerous roles on the Alumni Council. In 2021, you were nominated and elected to serve a four-year term on the Board of Trustees.

“Phyllis is passion,” said a HEOP classmate and Hamilton colleague. “[T]his embodies her. This is who she is.”

When your fellow classmates established The Class of 1980 Phyllis Holmes Breland Scholarship for high-need Hamilton students with preference given to those participating in the College’s opportunity programs, it ensured your impact at Hamilton would continue forever. “My hope,” you said at the time, “is that I have laid out a path and an expectation that reinforces the faith and hope that we give to our students by having this program here.”

Today’s recognition is the most recent of several you have received for your contributions to Hamilton. In 2015, your peers nominated you for the Tobin Award for exemplary service and commitment to Hamilton, and four years later the senior staff honored you with the Ellie Wertimer-Patsy Couper Award. Today, your fellow alumni bestow on you the Distinguished Service Award, for substantial contributions to the College through distinguished job performance and through involvement in student, alumni, or other activities in the community.

Presented by Josie Collier ’97
President, Alumni Association
June 11, 2022


Office / Department Name

Alumni & Parent Relations

Contact Name

Jacke Jones

Director, Alumni & Parent Relations

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