July 7, 2003
Many cliches tout the benefits of adversity. Out of adversity comes strength. Adversity adds character. Adversity builds faith. Ron Holloway is strong, filled with character, and his faith has shepherded him from the night shift as a Tulane custodian to the floor of the Louisiana Superdome, where he celebrated the completion of his degree in computer information systems on May 17.
Holloway is one of 36 staff members receiving degrees this year. It has been a long road to graduation for Holloway, now a systems analyst in facilities services--a road filled with setbacks, difficulties and irony.
The Desert Storm veteran moved to New Orleans from California in 1993 after his stint with the Marine Corps ended. The only position available to him at Tulane was custodial.
"I was disappointed," he said. "But my goal all along was to come in and move up. When I was growing up, I always said I did not want to be a janitor." He immediately examined his options. "When I started at Tulane in custodial work, everyone told me the only way out of janitorial was to go into clerical," Holloway recalls.
He took the mandatory human resources typing test after six months at Tulane, and failed. A week later, he was allowed to retake it; again, he did not pass. Still, he continued to look for a transfer and found possibilities--a file room clerk in the Office of Institutional Advancement, and a financial associate.
He passed on the clerk's job in the hopes of getting the other position; he did not. He had to wait another six months before re-applying for a transfer out of his janitorial position. Ironically, his choices were the same six months later. This time, he took the file room clerk's job when it was offered.
"I figured God had a lesson for me, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice," he says. Over the next six years, Holloway worked his way up through institutional advancement--file room clerk, secretary (he passed the typing test on his next try), applications specialist. All the while, he continued working on his degree. But in 1999, things changed. He was working in donor relations when that area underwent a number of shifts in personnel and focus.
"It was kind of tough," he acknowledges. "My job was reduced to a more clerical position and there were problems with communication and respect. But I hung in there--it's not my way to leave just because things get tough." As the personnel situation worsened, Holloway turned again to his source of guidance and comfort--his faith. "I prayed about it a lot," he says. "I talked to my wife and we prayed about it together."
His family counseled him, prayed with him, worried about him. In July 2001, Ron Holloway resigned. "My family was concerned, but I really had a sense of peace about it," he said.
He went to school full-time and helped support his family through his own computer consulting work and by taking extra paying assignments with the Navy Reserves. In July 2002, a month before he finished his degree, Holloway got a phone call from Sylvester Johnson, his former janitorial supervisor. Johnson, now associate vice president for facilities services, had a different kind of job in mind for Holloway this time.
He has been working as a systems analyst in facilities services ever since--first on a contract basis and now full-time. Holloway is known around campus as a quiet man, a man of faith who always answers the question "How are you?" with the response, "I am blessed." He has also served as a role model for other staff members, who see his hard work and perseverance paying off.
His wife, Sophia, who also is working on her Tulane degree, has been his staunch supporter and believes his story can encourage others. "We pray his story will uplift and set free others who feel like their dreams are denied," she says. "We want to let others know that a dream deferred is not a dream denied."
Suzanne Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org