Andrew David Holt: Teacher, University President, and Tireless Champion for Public Education

andyholtOne of the most distinguished educators in the state of Tennessee was Andrew David Holt, a public school teacher who was also a tireless champion for public education in his state.

Andrew was born on December 4, 1904, in Milan, Tennessee, the son of two schoolteachers. His childhood was like that of most small-town boys of that time, centered on home, school, and church. His father was a strict disciplinarian, but young Andy was a mischievous youngster. He had an irrepressible sense of humor and engaged in the usual schoolboy antics. Young Andy was very interested in music; he played the trombone in the Milan High School Band and traveled to Europe with the Glee Club.

After his graduation from Milan High School, Andrew enrolled in Emory University. Following his college graduation in 1927, he became an elementary school teacher in West Tennessee, first in Milan, where he taught grades five through eight, and then in Humboldt, where he taught high school. He also served as a coach, a school principal, and a school superintendent.

After ten years of teaching, Andrew joined the faculty of West Tennessee State Teachers College, now known as the University of Memphis, where he served first as the principal of the Training School, then as the director of teacher training, and then as a professor of educational administration. While working in Memphis, Andrew enrolled in a graduate program at Teachers College of Columbia University, where he earned his Ph.D degree in 1937. After receiving his Ph.D., Andrew garnered a position as the executive secretary of the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). In this role, he recruited new members, kept teachers informed of legislative issues, spoke to community groups about the need for additional support for schools, and lobbied the state legislature for additional funds.

When World War II broke out, Andrew took a leave of absence from the TEA to serve with the Army Services Forces in Washington, DC. He was responsible for organizing pre-induction training programs for high school students that were designed to prepare them for induction if called upon.

When the war was over, Andrew returned to the TEA. While there, he developed a friendship with the governor and the state commissioner of education, and due to these friendships he was able to negotiate a teacher retirement plan and a statewide sales tax to help finance public education.

In 1949 Andrew became the president of the National Education Association, after having been elected first vice president in 1948. In 1950, he became the executive assistant to Cloide Brehm, the president of Tennessee University. In 1953 he moved on to become the university’s vice president, and after Brehm’s retirement in 1959, the university’s trustees appointed him to the position of university president, where he served until 1970. During Andrew’s tenure as president, the institution’s enrollment increased threefold, and the faculty and staff doubled in number. Eight new buildings were built on the university’s flagship campus in Knoxville. The university budget and state government funding for its support both increased fourfold.

Andrew Holt passed away in Knoxville, Tennessee, on August 7, 1987. Following his passing, the school’s administration building, completed in 1973, was named Andy Holt Tower, and a street on the university’s Knoxville campus, Andy Holt Avenue, was named in his honor.

Andrew David Holt: a true chalkboard champion.