Longtime Northwest employee Brenda Gentry Holmes of Oxford has been named Northwest Mississippi Community College’s 2018 Alumna of the Year. Holmes will be honored on Sept. 27 during Homecoming festivities on the Senatobia campus.
Holmes grew up in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, the daughter of Nolan and Clara Gentry. The fifth of the Gentrys’ six children, she became the first in her family to graduate from college. After graduating one year early from Crowder High School in 1970, she came to Northwest to begin her formal education.
Holmes attended Northwest from 1970-1972, graduating with an Associate of Arts. While she was at Northwest, she was a member of the Northwest Misses, a precursor of today’s Rangerettes, was on the President’s List and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. She lived in Taylor and Bobo dorms while at Northwest.
She and Scott Holmes, her husband of 44 years, began dating her senior year of high school and continued dating during college. They were married after graduating from Delta State University.
Holmes has fond memories of their time at Northwest. “My favorite instructors had to be Jerry Stigler, Mrs. Nell Tipton, Miss Rosemary Simmons and Mrs. Anita Wilborn. I really enjoyed those classes,” Holmes said. She remembered that times were different at Northwest then. “We couldn’t wear jeans, have rollers in our hair or be in the car with a boy back then. You had to sign in and out wherever you went,” Holmes said.
She went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in Education (1974) and her Master of Education (1976) from Delta State University. She earned the AAA certificate in Education from Delta State University in 1981 and completed a second master’s degree in Educational Guidance and Counseling in 1988 from the University of Mississippi.
Before coming to Northwest as an employee, Holmes taught at Crowder Elementary School from August 1974 to May 1983, serving as a reading instructor for one year, and a fourth-grade teacher and assistant principal before moving to Greenville. She taught fourth grade at Webb Elementary School in Greenville from August 1983 to January 1985, before taking a job at Northwest’s Lafayette-Yalobusha Technical Center (LYTC) in February 1985, when she and her husband, a federal probation officer, relocated to Oxford. Holmes’ first job at LYTC was as a JTPA Youth Employment/GED program instructor and counselor. When funding for that program lapsed in December 1988, Holmes returned to Northwest in a different capacity.
Holmes was hired back at LYTC as Career-Technical Education (CTE) student services coordinator in April 1989, following the untimely death of Jonelle Wells. She retired from that position in May 2016. Holmes describes her job as “anything I could do to take care of the students to ensure their success.” She counseled, tutored and registered students, taught classes when needed, served as the ADA compliance officer and worked as the center’s testing coordinator. “I basically just mothered and guided our students. It was like teaching fourth grade again, except my kids were just bigger,” Holmes said, smiling.
“It was a big deal for me to come back and work at Northwest, because I was back where I had started from. I am so thankful to Dr. Jack Butts. He was my mentor and taught me so much during our many years together. He expected us to work hard, and we did. I am also grateful to Northwest. I want to see the college continue to thrive and the Oxford Center to shine,” Holmes said.
Holmes served on several committees at Northwest including the admissions, scholarship, activities, homecoming and cookbook committees. She represents Lafayette County on the Alumni Association board of directors and has been honored with the President’s customer service award. Some of her proudest accomplishments were initiating the naming of the Jack Butts Building on the Oxford campus, and starting the Foundation scholarships that now honor Dr. Michael Butts and Mike Dottorey.
She has been active in the churches she has attended by serving on the mission, nursery, floral and baptismal committees, teaching Sunday School classes and helping with Vacation Bible School. She has been on two mission trips to Togo, Africa. Her civic duties include being a former member of the Exchange Club, Junior Auxiliary and Pilot Club and she currently serves as the vice president of the Woman’s Forum, a professional woman’s group. She has participated in fundraisers for the March of Dimes and for awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease and assisted in the Northwest Practical Nursing program’s fundraisers over the years.
She and her husband enjoy traveling and are planning a trip to Israel this fall and a Christmas cruise. They also enjoy spending time with their great-nephew, Mac. “He keeps us hopping. Our great-nieces Graylee and Emily are also bright lights in our lives. We are so proud of all of them,” Holmes said.
Also during Homecoming festivities, Northwest will induct new members of the Sports Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees are Willie Brown and Wilbert Beard, basketball, 1970-1972; Dr. David Moss, baseball, 1982-1984; Vandell Grigsby, football, 1991-1992 and Elyse Lovelace, soccer, 2006-2007.
A Homecoming Carnival for all ages will take place from 2-6 p.m. on the Ag Field across from the Haraway Center. The Homecoming barbecue meal, to be held in the Haraway Cafeteria, begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Alumni office at 662-560-1112 and are $5 for adults and $3 for children.
Pre-game festivities will begin at 6:15 p.m., and kickoff will be at 6:30 p.m. at Bobby Franklin Field in Ranger Stadium when the Rangers take on the Holmes Bulldogs. Northwest’s presentation of the 2018 Homecoming Court and the crowning of the Homecoming Queen by Northwest President, Dr. Michael Heindl will take place at halftime.
For more information on the Homecoming/Alumni activities contact Patti Gordon, director of Alumni Affairs and Development Operations at 662-560-1112 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.