Everett Holle: A Legacy Worth Repeating

Sep 26, 2019

Brigadier General Evertt Hughes Holle holds a trophy with Dean Mark Nelson at the 2015 C&IS Hall of Fame Cermony.
Brigadier General Evertt Hughes Holle with Dean Mark Nelson at the 2015 C&IS Hall of Fame Cermony.

Countless characteristics make a person memorable. Many are remembered for their exceptional sense of humor, their joyful spirit or their encouraging thoughtfulness. These are all things to strive for, but standing out in front of all of these is generosity. Generosity is a personal choice to take from yourself—whether from an abundance or not—and use that gift to enrich the lives of others. This is why generosity immortalizes people.

Everett Holle was a generous man.

“He was a Renaissance man in every aspect of the word,” said Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “He was passionate about making The University of Alabama the premier place for recognizing the achievements of students in communication and creativity, and he did not limit his vision. He understood the value of creativity to enhance the communication arts and the value of an interdisciplinary approach to communication.”

After graduating from The University of Alabama in 1950, Holle enjoyed a 40-year career in the television industry at NBC 13 and achieved the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army. Through his entire career, a part of him always called C&IS home. Though gone, his legacy continues to have a lasting impact and his generosity will influence generations of students at C&IS.

“His generosity was an outgrowth of his family’s ethos,” said Nelson. “They were all generous, compassionate and extremely active in their communities—insistent on improving the lives of those around them.”

Beyond philanthropy, he impacted the lives of those around him by giving of himself. Whether he was dressing up in themed costumes to introduce programming on NBC 13, or interviewing the waitstaff at his favorite restaurant, he loved people and loved getting to know their stories.

Holle’s passion for students, for the University, and for creativity fueled his desire to see C&IS rise to the top in rewarding student excellence. A master at making a statement, he always encouraged C&IS leadership to dream big not small, think national not local. When he first founded the Holle Awards, he refused to offer anything less than a $10,000 cash prize to each of the five category winners.

“As I reflect on it, his insistence to award a $10,000 prize was a vital part in elevating the stature of the awards and signaling to the nation the importance of student achievement in the communication arts,” said Nelson. “Everett knew the benefits of his philanthropy and how to direct his giving to not only assist students but also to make important statements about the value of communication and creativity.”

For years, Holle supported excellence and creativity in communication for students at UA by funding the Holle Awards and providing scholarship opportunities. After Holle passed away in 2017, the Holle Family Foundation board approached Nelson, inviting C&IS to put together a plan for a large gift. The $10 million gift, announced in September of 2019, represents the passion and vision Holle had for C&IS. As the most generous donation C&IS has ever received, the gift will allow the College to establish the Holle Center for Communication Arts. The interdisciplinary Holle Center will support collaboration among departmental units in C&IS and promote creativity in communication and storytelling.

“This gift will accelerate many of our plans for the College,” said Nelson. “Having a center dedicated to the study of creativity and communication distinguishes us from other institutions across the country, and having an endowed chair to lead the center whose research mirrors the spirit and legacy of Everett Holle is imperative.”

Every year, C&IS awards 5 students a $10,000 prize for winning one of the Holle Awards for Excellence and Creativity in Communication. Now funded in perpetuity, these awards provide more than just a jumpstart to the creative careers of undergraduates; they give C&IS and The University of Alabama the opportunity to annually tell Holle’s story and celebrate his generosity. And his is a legacy worth repeating.

A $10 million gift such as this has the potential to impact the College for generations to come, but its significance and grandeur should not overshadow the individual. At the heart of every gift he entrusted to the University, he knew the impact at the personal, student level. To the student, alumnus or friend of C&IS who is reading this, speculating as to why a person would ever be this generous, you should know this: behind this $10 million dollar gift there’s a man named Brigadier General Everett Hughes Holle who leaves behind a legacy of compassionate generosity and who was passionately invested in your potential to do the extraordinary.