A celebration of life memorializing Mary Holcomb, who died last year, was held by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business Department of Supply Chain Management in April. The observance took place in the department, where Holcomb served as the Gerald T. Niedert Professor of Supply Chain Management. During the commemoration, a plaque honoring Holcomb’s career, service and compassion was unveiled.
The plaque reads, “Known for her smile, Mary Holcomb is best remembered for her genuine concern for everyone she encountered. A world-renowned researcher and teacher, Mary was instrumental in transitioning the program at the University of Tennessee from a single focus on logistics to a top-ranked supply chain management department, while securing its core values in transportation and logistics.”
Those in attendance included Holcomb’s husband, Brady, her children, Amy, Dereck and Darcie, their spouses and children, Gerry Niedert, supply chain management advisory board member and supporter of the department, Karl Manrodt, a colleague from Georgia College and State University, Steven L. Mangum, dean of Haslam and Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair, John Bell, head of the department and Niedert Professor of Supply Chain Management, and other faculty and former students.
Several attendees spoke of Holcomb’s influence on their lives. In opening remarks, Bell remembered his first meeting with her in 2001 and how impressed he was with Holcomb’s energy, professionalism and passion for logistics. “I thought, ‘What a classy lady; these people at Tennessee must really have their act together if this is the kind of person who represents them,’” he recalled.
Niedert credited Holcomb with knowing more about the transportation industry than him, despite his 45 years of experience in the trucking industry.
“She knew everything about transportation with respect to the history, the dynamics, the economics and the future,” he said. “She really was something special. Transportation is the beating heart of every supply chain. Mary embraced that beating heart, wrapped her arms around it and made it her own.”
For Yemisi Bolumole, who joined the department last year as the first Ryder Professor of Supply Chain Management, Holcomb was a mentor who reached out to her shortly after she arrived at the University of North Florida from the United Kingdom and helped her get settled in a board examiner role with the American Society of Transportation & Logistics board and other organizations. She most recently led the effort to recruit Bolumole to UT. “Above all else, Mary showed us all the importance of giving back to the discipline,” she said.
Ted Stank, co-faculty director of the Global Supply Chain Institute and Harry J. & Vivienne R. Bruce Chair of Excellence, added that during her time as an assistant dean in Haslam, Holcomb also pioneered reworking the entire undergraduate curriculum.
“Our whole integrated perspective with core courses was a Mary Holcomb creation,” he said. “She not only influences what we do on this floor, but also the entire college.”
Former student Thomas Deakins, who is now senior vice president of Global Partnerships & Alliances at project44, remembered going to Holcomb’s office for career advice. “When I left that office, I felt like I had just talked to my mom,” he said.
Holcomb’s daughter, Amy, spoke of her mother’s passion for the discipline and the department. “She loved what she did here; she loved her students,” she said. “She had the ability to affect a lot of lives, and, remember, you have that ability, too.”
Bell closed the ceremony by speaking of Holcomb’s enduring legacy. “We have a lot of work to do moving forward, and her memory and friendship will inspire us always,” he said.
The plaque is on display in the Department of Supply Chain Management Conference Room, Stokely Management Center, room 344.
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, email@example.com