Beating Brain Drain

Gift to CME aims to keep graduates in Mississippi

An Ole Miss student in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence participates in a class project designed to teach students to create efficient and balanced assembly lines on the CME factory floor. A gift from the family of Charles Holder Jr. establishes a scholarship at the center with the goal of providing more qualified professionals for the state’s manufacturing industry. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – With a gift of $62,500 to the University of Mississippi‘s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, the family of Charles Holder Jr. hopes to keep graduates in the state while also honoring their father.

The gift establishes the Charles B. Holder Jr. Scholarship Endowment in honor of Holder, who served as an original board member for the center.

Holder, a native of Louin, is the founder of Hol-Mac Corp., which operates six diverse manufacturing plants in Bay Springs. A graduate of Mississippi State University, his lifetime commitment to education and workforce development was a driving force in him joining the board of the CME.

“He was instrumental in establishing the CME curriculum,” said Jamie Holder, Hol-Mac president and CEO and a CME board member. “We wanted to support the program, and what better way to do it than to honor our father and his contribution to the center?”

The CME, which was founded by former Gov. Haley Barbour in partnership with the university and Toyota Motor Corp., welcomed its first class of accountancy, business and engineering students in 2010 with the goal of preparing them to become leaders in the manufacturing industry.

“The participative learning process that the CME has utilized is how the industry trains employees,” Jamie Holder said. His company has hired graduates directly from the CME.

In fact, students who receive the Holder Scholarship are encouraged to complete internships with the Hol-Mac family of companies headquartered in Jasper County.

Charles Holder

“The primary purpose of having an internship at Hol-Mac is to give students the opportunity to figure out if manufacturing is what they really want to do,” Holder explained. “We thought with internships, we could get them to see there are good jobs in Mississippi and that they could stay here.”

The goal is to help the state retain more talented workers after graduation, said Scott Kilpatrick, CME interim executive director.

“The Holders are really trying to prevent that brain drain in Mississippi,” Kilpatrick said. “They’re supporting the students so that they can go to school and then come back to support their communities.”

Jamie Holder and his family have deep ties with the university. Holder graduated in 1985 with a degree in business administration and served as the Rebels’ football captain twice, beginning in 1983. His brother, Jeffery, is a 1991 business administration graduate and also played football for the Rebels from 1987 until his graduation.

Additionally, Jamie Holder’s wife, Alison Lay Holder, earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at Ole Miss. The couple has two children, Bradley and Jordan, with the latter also a UM graduate who played on the football team.

Recently, Charles Holder attended the 10th anniversary celebration of the CME’s launch.

“It meant so much to my father to see some of the original board members, CME staff and Gov. Barbour,” Jamie Holder said. “He enjoyed seeing what a success the program has become and to be there for the announcement of the scholarship in his name.”

Kilpatrick called Charles Holder “a leader of industry in Mississippi for many years. We were thrilled to be able to honor him, as well, and to give back to students and really recognize the impact they’ve had on our program.”

The Charles B. Holder Jr. Scholarship Endowment is open for gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks, with the scholarship name written in the memo line, can be sent to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at

To make a gift to the CME, contact Tyler Biggs, associate director for external operations, at or call 662-915-2632.