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African-American History Month: Honoring Dr. Jerome Holland

Historic photo of Dr. Jerome Holland sitting at his desk.

This year, for African-American History Month, we are honoring black men and women whose contributions were essential to our history. For this week’s feature, we’d like to highlight Dr. Jerome H. Holland, a passionate advocate for blood research and a leader of our Blood Services program.

Born Jerome Heartwell “Brud” Holland on Jan. 9, 1916 in Auburn, NY, Jerome was one of 13 children. In 1935, he attended Cornell University where he became the first African American to play for the university’s football team. He was even chosen to be an All-American athlete at Cornell in 1937 and 1938.

In addition to being a dedicated athlete, Dr. Holland was also an exceptional student. He graduated with his undergraduate degree from Cornell in 1939 and immediately entered a graduate program to study sociology. He graduated with his master’s degree in 1941.

In 1950, Dr. Holland continued his education and went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Three years later he was named president of Delaware State College where he served from 1953 to 1959. In 1960, he became president of what is now known as Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute).

During his time at Hampton University in 1964, Dr. Holland became a member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors. He served as a member until he resigned in 1970 to become the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden. He was the second African American to lead a delegation in any European nation.

Dr. Holland was later appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors in 1979, and was the first African American to hold this position. Because of his commitment to the Red Cross, he was appointed again in 1982. While serving on the board, Dr. Holland showed a passion for blood research and took the lead in consolidating growing laboratory operations for the Red Cross Blood Services program. He also encouraged Red Cross regions to integrate their volunteers so important services could be extended to the entire community, regardless of a person’s ethnicity or background. Dr. Holland served on the board until he died from cancer in 1985.

To honor his devotion to the Red Cross, we named our biomedical research facility in Rockville, Md., the Jerome H. Holland Laboratory for the Biomedical Sciences. Today, this lab continues Dr. Holland’s legacy through the Red Cross Research Blood Program where blood is collected and used in research studies.

Thank you, Dr. Jerome H. Holland, for your important work to further the Red Cross mission.

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  1. Jerome “Brud” Holland was a magnificent man. As an All American Football Star he was quite an imposing figure – physically. When he spoke his deep baritone voice commanded any room. He was an impressive, dignified leader. However, my fondest personal memory was in the aftermath of the Appalachian Spring Floods of 1977. We happened to be on the same flight to The Tri City Airport from Washington, DC. He was there to meet leaders. I was headed to work as the fund raising director under the tutelage of the late great George Chitty. As Brud and I headed to our respective destinations, we spotted a sign on a store that said something that was racially insensitive. Brud smiled and said, hey Bro. We won’t be staying in that town tonight. We laughed and carried out our respective humanitarian missions! His sense of grace, style and humor made him a great leader and teacher.