alexandria-holloway_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

At Alexandria Holloway’s recent retirement party, many colleagues said they will not forget her 35 years of service to Miami Dade College, particularly her commanding leadership as founding dean of the school’s nationally acclaimed Honors College. College President Eduardo Padron is making sure that they won’t.

Out of town and unable to attend the Aug. 19 retirement celebration for Holloway, Padron sent an announcement to be read on his behalf: “The academic and administrative facility housing the headquarters of the Honors College on the downtown Wolfson Campus is being named after Holloway.”

The announcement brought the 250 invited guests packed into the Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island to their feet in thunderous applause.

The recognition is a rare and coveted honor, said Juan Mendieta, the college’s director of communication. Two other African Americans also have MDC facilities named after them: former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, who taught at the college’s North Campus, and Garth Reeves, publisher-emeritus of the Miami Times and the

first African American appointed to the school’s Board of Trustees. The Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center is in Liberty City and the Garth C. Reeves classroom building is located on the North Campus in the north central section of Miami-Dade County.

In a written statement for the South Florida Times, Padron on Aug. 29 called Holloway a trailblazer who has left “an indelible mark on the college.”

“As Dr. Holloway opened the door of opportunity to so many students, this honorary recognition will continue her extraordinary legacy,” Padron said of the decision to name the Honors College after her.

It was a sentiment shared and seconded by Holloway’s associates, friends, former and current students and sorority members who attended the retirement party.

E. Carter Burrus Jr., director for nine years of the North Campus Honors College, praised Padron for coming up with the idea for the institution and for appointing Holloway dean in 2001. 

“He chose to do something creative, innovative and something that didn’t exist anywhere else in the United States,” said Burrus, who worked under Holloway and himself retired earlier this year.

“No one else on the face of the Earth could have pulled this off,” Burrus said of Holloway. “She guided this thing all the way through. This is the crown jewel of Miami Dade College. We became a model for the entire United States.”

After a year of designing the curriculum, Holloway opened the doors of the Honors College to 75 students in 2002. The program now has 500 students who can take classes at four of Miami Dade’s eight campuses.

Offering a rigorous curriculum, the Honors College provides academically talented students a chance to develop in a creative setting where they are challenged beyond the usual community college classroom. Students also attend leadership workshops and have opportunities to travel abroad through the program.

Holloway, who first joined Miami Dade in 1976 as a music professor, praises Padron for coming up with the Honors College concept.

“We had a number of reasons to do the Honors College,” Holloway said in an interview with the South Florida Times.  “After we had earned a reputation for being successful with

students who needed remediation, Dr. Padron’s thinking was, ‘If we could do that, what if we put together students who are gifted?’”

Holloway spent the past 10 years answering that question with one student success story after another.

 “Nicole Golden took two buses, a train and the People Mover to attend the Honors College,” Holloway said in remarks at her retirement party. 

Golden, who has earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, is an elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C. She thanked Holloway for her guidance and announced that she too had named something special in her mentor’s honor, the

Dr. Alexandria Holloway Golden Dream Scholarship Fund, which will benefit needy Honors College students.

“It’s only $2,000 but I know that it will continue to grow,” Golden said.

Holloway officially ended her tenure at the college on Aug. 31. Her

successor, Pascale Charlot, who attended the retirement party, joined in congratulating her on her many successes.

“It is an honor and a privilege to assume this role after such a powerful, energizing and effective leader,” said Charlot, formerly assistant dean of students at the School of Law at New York University.

But Holloway’s influence and impact extend beyond her tenure at the Honors College. She was chairwoman of the music department and associate dean of arts and letters at the Kendall Campus, interim executive dean at the Homestead Campus and dean of academic affairs at the Wolfson Campus.

Cary Ser, an English professor at the Kendall Campus, chaired the English department at the Kendall Campus when Holloway was associate dean for arts and letters.

“What I most admired was her willingness to go along with and cultivate new ideas,” said Ser.

He said he proposed an Arts and Letters Day that would feature students’ short stories and poetry and Holloway was “very enthusiastic about it.”

“She helped us come up with the guest speaker for the first year. We wound up with Spike Lee,” Ser said.

Danny Bellinger was a   music major and a member of Holloway’s JUBA Choir, a program she set up for academic credit at the Kendall Campus. She encouraged him to continue his studies at Morehouse College once he was done at Miami Dade. Now Bellinger is the head of admissions at Morehouse.

“She’s someone who demanded a great deal. She wanted nothing but your best but she also gave enormous amount,” Bellinger said. “Sometimes we would rehearse at her house. She had get-togethers and we would just go over there to eat and sit around the piano. We enjoyed that. More than a professor, chairperson, or a dean, she was a parent, friend and mentor.”

Photo: Alexandria Holloway