3/31/2012 - Campus Cherry Trees Remind Judson Community of Couple's Generosity
Michael J. Brooks
An English proverb declares, "He who plants a tree loves others besides himself."
The late Dr. Howard Holley and his wife, Martha, continue to show their love for Judson College every spring when the Japanese Flowering Cherry trees blossom. The Holleys gave the trees to the college in 1978.
According to Judson biology professor Dr. Thomas Wilson, the lifespan of the tree is relatively short--at about 20 years--so the trees are in their second planting. "Our students today sit in the shade and enjoy the beauty of the Holley’s gifts," said Judson president Dr. David Potts.
The Holleys made a number of generous gifts to Judson. The couple established an endowment fund in 1982 to promote classroom achievement, and named the award in honor of Dr. Holley's parents, who were from the Perry County community of Hamburg. "The Lula and Alton Holley Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching" is given to a Judson teacher during the college's annual commencement in June.
The Holleys also endowed "The Howard Lamar Holley Arts and Sciences Concert/Lecture Series" in 1990, the proceeds of which fund annual enrichment events for students and faculty.
Holcomb Holly was born in Savannah, Ga. Her first husband, John D. Gross was a
U.S. Navy pilot who was killed in the Pacific during World War II. She met
Howard Holley while she was a student at Duke University and he was serving in the
Coast Guard. They married in 1946.
Martha Holley donated a book collection to the Judson College library in 1984. She died in 2003.
Howard Holley was born in Perry County in 1914. He earned degrees at the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina. He began his medical career as a commissioned officer of U.S. Public Health Service and as an intern at U.S. Marine Hospital in Norfolk during World War II. Holley moved to Birmingham in 1945 to do residency at the Jefferson-Hillman Hospital that became the core of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Medical Center. He served as UAB's Anna Lois Waters Professor of Medicine before his retirement in 1985. Some estimate he taught half of the physicians in Alabama in his long career.
Holley played a major role in development of rheumatology as a formal medical specialty at UAB and then throughout the nation. This concept led to the establishment of the Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham. According to the UAB School of Medicine website, the program Holley inaugurated "was among a handful in the U.S." and was motivated by his quest to better understand rheumatoid arthritis--"a disease which would eventually cripple him and contribute to his death in 1987" (medicine.uab.edu/rheum/about).
Holley was author of 34 publications including "A History of Medicine in Alabama." UAB established the Howard L. Holley Research Chair in Rheumatology in 1987 and he was inducted into the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame in 2001.
The Holleys were members of the Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham.
"Dr. and Mrs. Holley felt a great affection for Perry County and understood the importance of higher education," Potts said. "Judson College became the beneficiary of their devotion."
Photo: The Flowering Cherry Trees on the Judson College campus were gifts of Dr. and Mrs. Howard Holley in 1978. Photo by Chip Cooper.