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Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm retires from Cleveland State

Leaves a legacy of cultural education after 20 years of service

By Ariana Johnson

June 14, 2012

On June 4 Cleveland State University said farewell to Dr. Njeri Nuru-Holm, one of their most profound educators and administrators. Dr. Holm has served as the Vice President of Institutional Diversity since 1992. She retired from her position after 20 years.

Dr. Holm is known for successfully bridging the gap between diversity and cultural awareness through her programs at CSU going back to the days of much racial tension on the campus. Born and raised in Richmond VA, Dr. Holm grew up in an educational environment. Her father was a school principal in the Richmond public school systems where she went to school.

Dr Njeri Nuru Holms at a conferenceAfter graduating from high school, Dr. Holm moved to Washington D.C. to attend Howard University, a prestigious and one of the oldest, historically Black colleges. Howard is most known for their famous and well accomplished graduates such as Judge Thurgood Marshall, musicians Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack, actress Phylicia Rashad, and hip hop mogul Sean “ Puffy” Combs. Dr. Holm has very fond memories of her days at Howard University.

“I loved it. I loved Howard. I had wonderful opportunities there,” Dr. Holm said. “When I first got to Howard I missed my parents so much. I really did but then they had the freshmen boat ride and everything was fine after that because it was so much engagement. Individuals were very confident and if you were looking into a HBCU, I mean, Howard is really at the top of the heap.”

After earning her Bachelors degree in Audiology Dr. Holm earned part of her masters degree from Howard and the other part from Gallaudet University, the only liberal arts college for the deaf in the U.S. After college she became a clinical audiologist at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington D.C.

“I loved it, I think one of the things that I loved the most is that they had a mental health program for the deaf,” Dr. Holm said.

Later she earned her doctoral degree from the University of Maryland, shortly after which she was married and had two daughters. During her career in education Dr. Holm has held positions very few minorities have had the chance to hold. She was the associate dean and vice president of administration at Howard University, after that she was the Dean of Communication at Gallaudet University during the historical student protest at Gallaudet for a deaf president.

After 5 years working with the students at Gallaudet, Dr. Holm became the vice- president of Institutional Diversity at CSU in 1992. In her 20 years here at CSU she has not only brought a better cultural understanding on campus, but in the city as well.
She changed the then Cleveland Mayor Michael R White’s opinion on CSU diversity. One of the dean of trustees said by sitting down and talking to the mayor she moved a “battleship,” since then she has helped established diverse programs and initiatives like AHANA peer mentoring program. CSU Latino chapter of the alumni program and just recently won the “ Best in Class” award for senior diversity management.

“ I was thrilled when they said we won this year. I was absolutely thrilled that’s the way to retire,” Dr. Holm said.

In the beginning of retirement Dr. Holm’s days will consist of sleeping in late, a June vacation in Hilton Head, visiting friends in Tuscany Italy, reading many books, and going back to D.C. to help her daughter’s family with their up and coming baby, and of course, to spend time with her other grandchildren.

“This is an opportunity to bond in a different way with them because I am out of town,” Dr. Holm said.

Dr. Holm has set the bar high for the next person to fill her shoes in the office of diversity. Dr. Holm has loved every minute of her career and it exudes in her work. When asked what legacy did she want to leave CSU she said

“I cared deeply about the success of students and worked effectively with diversity not only in numbers in institutional values, diversity across the faculty, diversity in students and diversity in the curriculum,” Dr. Holm said.