Holloway's 40 years of service have served USM well

By DAVID TISDALE,

When Eddie A. Holloway enrolled as a freshman at The University of Southern Mississippi in the fall of 1970, the Hattiesburg native who grew up in the segregated world of Jim Crow wouldn’t have fathomed how meaningfully the historically all-white university would figure into his life’s story.

After a 40-year career at his alma mater, Holloway, the first African-American assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students at USM, will retire from the university June 30. But the man and the institution are forever joined.

“USM welcomed me and allowed me to blossom,” Holloway said. “It was here that my passion for learning expanded, where I grew as a person intellectually, socially and professionally.

“I shudder to think of what Eddie Holloway would be today without this wonderful place. It became, and remains, a second home for me.”

A lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Holloway earned four degrees from USM, including a doctorate in educational administration. He is a 2004 inductee of the Southern Miss Alumni Association Hall of Fame and has served as dean of students since 1997 and assistant vice president for student affairs since 2015. Prior to filling these roles, he also served the university as a counselor and instructor/assistant professor of psychology, as assistant dean of students, and as interim dean of students.

“As long as we can remember, Dr. Holloway has been an integral part of the fabric of our University community,” said University President Rodney D. Bennett. “He has touched the lives of countless individuals throughout his 40-year career, and we thank him for his immeasurable service to our students and to our institution. He truly embodies the Southern Miss Spirit, and his legacy will continue to live on through the generations he has impacted here at USM.”

Committed to civility and diversity, Holloway is a longtime and tireless advocate for respect and acceptance of students from all backgrounds at the University. He served on a committee formed in 1993 by then USM President Aubrey K. Lucas that would ultimately recommend naming the University’s Student Services Building after Clyde Kennard, the first African-American to attempt to enroll at USM, and Walter Washington, the first African-American to earn a doctorate at the University. His work on that same committee also led to the establishment of the Armstrong-Branch Distinguished Lecture Series, honoring the first two African-American students at USM, Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong and Raylawni Branch.

He later established the Kennard Scholars Program to continue Kennard’s legacy and help eligible students become successful scholars and graduates of the University. He was fundamental in the development of the National Pan-Hellenic Council Plaza on the Hattiesburg campus, which honors the nine historic African-American fraternities and sororities. USM’s Dean's Challenge Award is named in his honor for Greek Life students excelling in community service.

Outside of USM, Holloway was the first elected African-American member of the Hattiesburg City Council (1985-2000), for which he served terms as council president and vice president. He has been a longtime supporter of the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Hattiesburg, and he was a charter member of the Hattiesburg Public School District Foundation, which supports the work of administrators, faculty and staff of the Hattiesburg Public School District, of which he is a graduate of its former L.J. Rowan High School.

HPSD Foundation director Dan Kibodeaux considers Holloway to be the founder of the HPSD Foundation. 

“Then-Superintendent Dr. Annie Wimbish asked Dr. Holloway to get a foundation formed to enable the school district to receive charitable contributions from donors in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,” Kibodeaux said. “His work resulted in the district, via its foundation, being able to receive millions of dollars in technology upgrades and enhancements throughout the entire district.”

Kibodeaux said 21 century technology in the form of “smart boards” and computer carts in the district’s classrooms became commonplace, thanks to his efforts in forming and leading the foundation. 

Holloway remains active in the foundation’s work by advising the board of directors in a variety of areas, including scholarships, fundraising, and the annual Hattiesburg Hall of Fame. 

“Dr. Holloway is a champion of public education and he is fond of saying that ‘the road to success in life runs through the schoolhouse door’ and his work has made that door wider and more accessible to Hattiesburg’s students,” Kibodeaux said.

Holloway is a member of the Mississippi Civil Rights Commission, and he played a key role in establishing the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Ecumenical and Multicultural Prayer Breakfast through his fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and the Area Development Partnership’s Leadership Pinebelt, a program for the development of young/new professional charged with improving the quality of life for residents of Hattiesburg and surrounding communities. He has served, or is currently serving, as a member of numerous other local, state and national boards and organizations.

A sought-after facilitator of workshops on leadership and drug and alcohol abuse prevention education across the country, Holloway has completed numerous trainings in race relations and diversity, including “A World of Difference,” sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. He has conducted training workshops on diversity for various police departments, governmental services, school administrators and private industries.

His many honors include being named the State Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees’ Black History Month Educator of the Year in 2009, as well as the Jessie H. Morrison Award presented at the 2019 USM Faculty and Staff Awards Day.

It was his work as a resident assistant during his undergraduate years at USM – the first African-American to fill that role – that “widened and deepened” his respect for differences, for people from other parts of the country and world, of other races, ethnicities and backgrounds, and allowed him to learn how much people from so many walks of life ultimately have in common. This experience laid the foundation, he said, for a successful career in counseling, mentorship, teaching and student affairs administration at the University.

“I thought it would create a path upward (working in Residence Life) for me,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet, socialize and work with people who did not look like me, talk like me, who came from as far away as New York and California, and from foreign countries. And I liked that.”

Holloway provided remarks at the University’s 2019 Spring Commencement ceremonies. His hope for USM’s graduates is that they become “possibilitarians,” and embrace a commitment to preparation, as they begin the next chapter of their own lives.

“All things are possible when you are prepared,” Holloway said. “Preparation will propel our graduates into achievement of their goals. But I want them to also not be overwhelmed with dismay and disappointment, which inevitably occur in life when things go wrong, because every day you are either preparing for tomorrow, or repairing the errors of yesterday.”

McKenna Stone, outgoing Student Government Association (SGA) president and May graduate expressed gratitude for Dr. Holloway’s “mentorship and empowerment” of her as head of SGA.

“Through his wisdom, compassion and genuine love for students, he’s made a lasting impression on this community and the Golden Eagles within it,” Stone said. “He will be greatly missed once he retires, but we’ll never forget him.”