DSU honors the man who saved the school: Statue of President Jerome Holland unveiled

DOVER — The words alone on a plaque that describe former Delaware State College President Dr. Jerome H. Holland are powerful enough — “DSU is … Because he was.”

Suddenly, a wind gust unexpectedly blew the cover off a statue erected in iconic President Holland’s honor adjacent to that plaque, revealing the college president standing by a podium while holding a proclamation from 1957, the year that he helped convince Middle States to restore Delaware State College’s full accreditation as a four-year institution of higher education.

Delaware State College had lost its accreditation three years prior to Dr. Holland becoming president of the institution.

It turned out that his work and relationship with then newly-elected Gov. J. Caleb Boggs, a Republican, got the state of Delaware to increase its commitment to the small college in the state’s capital.

Much of the school’s turnaround was attributed to Dr. Holland’s unique leadership ability as he was able to effectively address the shortcomings of the college.

Many believe that without Dr. Holland, Delaware State College would not have survived the 1950s.

Because of President Holland, Delaware State was again back then – and is now.

“During his illustrious tenure, President Holland provided the critical leadership needed to navigate this college through one of the most difficult decades of its history,” Delaware State University President Dr. Wilma Mishoe said.

“Regardless of those forces that were threatening to close this institution, Dr. Holland brought about improvements at the college that ensured its survival and established an infrastructure for future presidents to build on.”

Dr. Wilma Mishoe

The Dr. Jerome Holland Statue Committee had the vision to preserve his legacy. It was chaired by Dr. Donald Blakey, co-chaired by Dr. Vita T. Pickrum and featured 12 members.

The committee worked in conjunction with Wilmington sculptor Brad Vanneman in making the statue become a reality. It became the first-ever statue placed on the Delaware State University campus.

Carlos Holmes, director of news services at DSU, studied the legacy of President Holland and walked away even more impressed than he had been before.

“Make no mistake about it, what you now see here on the campus of Delaware State University would have not been possible without the pivotal leadership of Dr. Jerome Holland,” Mr. Holmes said. “We are today what we are as the Delaware State University community because Dr. Holland was our game-changing leader in the tumultuous 1950s.

“And for this reason, our purpose today is to memorialize Dr. Holland with the dedication of this statue, a permanent reminder of his everlasting contribution to this institution, the state of Delaware and all of the faculty, staff, administrators and graduates who have been blessed to be a part of this campus ever since.”

Dr. Holland served as president of then-Delaware State College from 1953-1960.

Dr. Holland went on to serve from 1960-70 as president of Hampton Institute (now University), as the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, as the first African American to sit on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange, as the national chairman of the American Red Cross, as well as a board member of nine major U.S. companies. He died in 1985.

Joseph Holland and Lucy Holland-Harden, two of Dr. Holland’s children, attended the statue dedication.

Current DSU President Mishoe said she once called Ms. Holland-Harden on the telephone.

“I did a lot of research about President Holland and I’ve heard about him for a long time, but never had the pleasure or the opportunity to meet him in person,” Dr. Mishoe said. “The closest I could come to it was to talk to his daughter on the telephone and I said to her, ‘Did you live in the same house that I’m living in?’ And she said, ‘Yes.’ Her father was here just prior to my father (former DSU President Luna I. Mishoe) coming here.”

The smile on Joseph Holland’s face told the story of the awe he felt after the statue of his father was revealed by Mother Nature near the pedestrian pathway behind the flag court just west of the DSU main entrance.

He said the last time his family was on the Dover campus was back in 1985 after his father died and Dr. Luna Mishoe invited them to a memorial service.

“It’s a very special privilege for me to be here today as the son of Dr. Jerome Holland,” Mr. Holland said. “I want to make it personal because I want to share with you the key points to (my father’s) success, which is a legacy I think that all of Delaware State University, and especially the students, should carry on.

“When they look at this statue they need to think of what I call the four D’s – dream, diligence, determination and destiny. That’s what my dad represents and those are the points of legacy that need to be carried on.”

Dr. Wilma Mishoe said the statue was a long time coming for the institution. An additional statue of her father is already in the works.

“Dr. Holland made his mark on the world and is a positive example for leadership for young people to follow,” she said. “This memorial will serve as a permanent reminder that someone did have to work and labor to ensure that this institution remained and that it will go on in the future.”

 

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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