Dr. James Bowker Holderman

January 29, 1936April 3, 2021

COLUMBIA - Former University of South Carolina president, James B. Holderman, died Saturday, April 3, 2021 at Still Hopes Retirement Community in Columbia. Dr. Holderman was the twenty-fifth president of the University, serving thirteen dynamic and challenging years from 1977 until 1990.

Dr. Holderman was born on January 29, 1936, in Morris, Illinois, the son of Samuel James and Helen Bowker Holderman. His grandfather was a well-known country doctor, and his father was a state district attorney and judge.

He graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, in 1958 with honors and received the Doctor of Philosophy degree in political science from Northwestern University, Chicago, in 1961.

Dr. Holderman began his career in higher education as an assistant professor of government and public affairs at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) where he taught from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 to 1965, he was assistant superintendent of public instruction for the State of Illinois.

From 1965 to 1969, he held several administrative positions with the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, including administrative assistant to the vice president, assistant to the chancellor, associate chancellor and vice chancellor.

Dr. Holderman was executive director of the Board of Higher Education for the State of Illinois, director of the Health Education Commission of Illinois from 1969 to 1973 and vice president for education with the Lilly Endowment from 1973 to 1976. He was senior vice president for education and director of public policy programs with the Academy for Educational Development, Incorporated, from 1976 until August 1977. In 1977, he was the president of the Institute for Public Policy Development, Indianapolis, before being named president of the University of South Carolina.

After he served as president of the University of South Carolina, he was named vice chairman of Koger Properties, Inc., and Koger Equity, Inc. He was a long-time member of the board of Southern Bell.

Under his tireless, visionary and sometimes controversial leadership, the University enjoyed success in many areas. By formalizing the University's honors program into the South Carolina Honors College, creating the Alumni Scholars program, expanding other scholarship funds, and supporting the early years of the internationally recognized Masters of International Business Studies program (MIBS; now IMBA), Dr. Holderman positioned the University to be more attractive to the state's best and brightest students. These programs continue successfully today.

Early in his presidency of the University of South Carolina, Dr. Holderman developed a comprehensive strategic planning process. In the Carolina Plan, he set forth priorities to combine a complex array of two- and four-year campuses into one efficient higher education system, improve the caliber of students and faculty, increase private support for the University, expand the University's public service activities, and achieve national and international recognition for USC as a major public university.

Dr. Holderman’s intense focus on attracting outside funding led to the University's first major capital campaign, the Summit Fund. He also succeeded in pushing for an increased level of funding for academic research. His efforts led to the creation of the Ira and Nancy Koger Center for the Arts and the John E. Swearingen Engineering Center. Untiring negotiations brought the Fox Movietone News Collection, a remarkable moving-image record of world events ranging from 1919 to 1944, to the University’s libraries.

Recognizing that foreign investment and foreign trade were vital to the state's economic welfare, Dr. Holderman spearheaded and coordinated multifaceted international activities that enhanced academic programs and brought world dignitaries to the campus. These included several heads of state and prime ministers, two U.S. presidents and Pope John Paul II.

During his years at USC, Dr. Holderman was named Ambassador of the Year by the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, recipient of the Community Service Award from the Columbia Urban League, South Carolinian of the Year by WIS Radio and Television, and received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian award. Dr. Holderman also received numerous awards including the Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Order of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella at the rank of commander from the president of the Dominican Republic. He was a Ford Foundation Fellow and named Chicagoan of the Year in Government and Political Science by the Chicago Junior Association of Commerce and Industry.

Over the years, Dr. Holderman’s many contributions to public service included the National Science Board, Head of Delegation to the International Quadrennial Conference of the Red Cross, chairman of the U. S. National Commission of UNESCO, chairman of the UNESCO Monitoring Panel, vice chairman of the U.S. Delegation to the UNESCO World Conference on Culture (holding the personal rank of Ambassador), and chairman of the International Educational Advisory Board to the U. S. Secretary of Education. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Advisory Board on International Investment, the Pan Pacific Community Association, the Aerospace Education Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Holderman served on the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, Denison University, where he had been president of Student Government. He was awarded honorary degrees by Denison University, the University of South Carolina, the Universidad Catholica Madre Y Mestra, Columbia College (South Carolina) and Columbia College (Illinois), McKendree College, St. Joseph’s College, Marian College, Warner Pacific College, Illinois College, Monmouth College, College of Saint Frances, and De Paul University.

Dr. Holderman was preceded in death by his parents, Samuel James and Helen (Bowker) Holderman, his brother Gordon B. Holderman and sister Helen Holderman Schumlt. Dr. Holderman is survived by three loving daughters, their families and many friends.

The family would like to express their gratitude to the many caregivers who assisted their father in his years of failing health, especially Kim Thornton and Still Hopes Hospice.

Interment will be in a private ceremony at the Holderman family plot in Morris, Illinois. Due to considerations with respect to the pandemic, plans for a memorial service will be determined at a later date. Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel, is assisting the family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The American Cancer Society, 200 Center Point Circle, Suite 100, Columbia, SC 29210 or through in memory of Helen Bowker Holderman or to the Movietone News Historical Film Collection through University Libraries - ATTENTION Beth Well, 1322 Greene Street, Columbia, SC 29208.


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Dr. James Bowker Holderman

have a memory or condolence to add?

Gunther Holst

April 17, 2021

My deepest sympathy to Jim's family. On some occasions I worked closely with your Dad and considered him my friend. Whenever I go to the Koger Center I say to myself "This is the house that Jim built." And that is only a small part of his legacy. Indeed he put USC on the map. And I for one will always remember him and the good things he did .

Jeff Brooker, MD

April 14, 2021

Betsy and all Dr. Holderman's family:

Dr. Holderman was among great company, including Johannes Brahms among other celebrities, who passed on April 3 throughout the years.

One of the statistics classes I've audited at USC was taught by a professor who obtained his PhD at U. Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Perhaps there is a connection between the two universities in part due to your father.

One of my professional associates who succumbed to the pandemic in 2020 was also interred at his home cemetery in his home state.

Life is full of random occurrences and unexpected twists and turns. I know you will miss the company of Dr. Holderman and wish for you condolences in memories of happy times shared over the years.

Maria Smoak

April 13, 2021

Jamie and family, so sorry to learn of your father's passing. You all are in my thoughts and prayers. Sending you hugs.

Christopher Yeakel

April 8, 2021

Dear Betsy - please accept our deepest condolences. We are thinking of you and all your family at this difficult time.

Chris and Margaret Yeakel