At 65, the divorced father had raised three sons in California; Mark, Mike, & Brett. Having been born and raised in Los Angeles he didn’t know much about the rest of the country. His work took him to Silicon Valley (San Jose,CA) where he became a pioneer in the computer industry. He’d also made quite a name for himself in the world of technology, having become recognized as the founding father of the world’s first microprocessor chip (a chip that places the central elements of a computer onto silicon chips. The invention launched the digital revolution that now sells billions of units a year). As a volunteer he also founded and ran a youth-based non-profit organization called the Christian Athletic Association, Inc for 25 years that served over 10,000 youth in soccer, basketball, baseball and mission trips.
An article in The Wall Street Journal written September 22, 1998, also credits Holt for his pioneering work of a parallel multi-microprocessor chip set for the U.S. Navy’s F-14A “Tomcat” fighter jet which simultaneously calculated air speed, wing position and altitude. On September 1, 2009 the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum magazine also recognized this work as one of the top 10 unique and innovative designs of the 20th century making flying safer and easier. Holt’s website is located at: FirstMicroprocessor.com
Yet Holt still had the desire to do something else just as monumental – somewhere.
“Like many others, I want to be obedient to the Lord and make a difference in this world and have my time here on earth count for eternity,” says Holt.
Holt didn’t ponder long. In the fall of 2009, he was offered the opportunity to help R.E.A.L. Christian Foundation of Richland, Miss. with ministry websites and then later he was offered a nine-month contract position in Mendenhall MS with The Mendenhall Ministries, setting up an Internet Café’, helping with networking ministry computers, and teaching science at the ministries Genesis One Christian School. Since 1976 Holt would travel to Mississippi often to do missionary work, so he did have some familiarity with the Magnolia.
“When I received the offer from R.E.A.L. I came and checked things out,” says Holt. “I drove around and met people and liked what I saw and heard. I saw where I could be of assistance. A month later I decided to move to Mississippi. I had no idea it would turn into what we are doing now.”
Turns out, during Holt’s contract period, a mutual friend introduced Holt to Tony Duckworth, president of Mt. Olive Ministries (MOM). The two immediately realized they were kindred spirits with the heart to serve others, particularly education and youth.
“I have always had a place in my heart for kids and quality education,” says Holt, “so any chance I get to teach them I jump at it. Kids today need skilled and quality teachers that are willing to sacrifice to make a difference.”
Holt and Duckworth quickly and easily formed a relationship based upon their common passion and interest.
As Holt listened to Duckworth talk about MOM’s goals and progress, he proposed to Duckworth to begin a Rural Robotics program. Robotics is the study of programmable machines, such as used in medical, manufacturing, submarines, cars or airplane, and includes researching, building, programming and testing of machines. Robotics differs slightly from engineering because it includes the study of all engineering fields.
Holt was painfully aware of the state’s lagging educational statistics, which were significantly dismal in Mt.Olive.
“Well, it’s no secret where Mississippi education ranks nationally,” said Holt. “I saw a man working hard to help students achieve more interest and higher grades in math and science and this program was one way to help.”
However, initially, Duckworth hesitated.
“I first had to ask Holt what robotics is,” says Duckworth.
“When I understood the level of math and science skills required to engage in robotics and saw the opportunity for growth and awareness, I was immediately interested in developing and offering the program to students.”
Together, the two developed the program and offered the first program last spring. And the results of the partnership were phenomenal. The 18 students enrolled in the course, collectively, increased their math scores 4.07 percent and science scores by 2.2 percent. The top nine participants increased their overall grades by 5.9 percent and their math scores by 2.8 percent. High school students enrolled in robotics increased their math scores 5.57 percent and their science scores by 8.6 percent.
“I am very pleased with the results of the program, to say the least,” said Duckworth.
Parents of students enrolled in the program share Duckworth’s sentiments. Stacy Reeves is pleased that his 10-year-old son, Dylan, comes home ecstatic about physics, another subject matter associated with robotics.
“When you have a fourth grader coming home talking about physics and Venus and how far it is and the distance between planets, that’s just awesome,” says Reeves.
Dylan, says Holt is the best teacher ever.
“He gives me more education and lessons to help me during school,” says Dylan. “He is smart. He helps me when I don’t know something.”
There are approximately nine school -affiliated robotics clubs in Mississippi. MOM’s robotics is the only non-school affiliated program that provides year-long training classes on Saturdays. MOM is currently enrolling students for the Fall 2011 robotics program.
Holt also assisted with MOM’s first annual Math Camp held last June. The camp evolved as a result of the robotics program.
“Once students were participating in the program, we begin to see their need for math enhancement,” says Duckworth. “Because of our desire for the students to excel on all levels, we implemented the summer Math Camp and weekly tutoring classes.
Bill Blain, Sr. former president of The Blain Companies, is a volunteer math tutor at MOM. Blain has spent several months working alongside Holt, getting to know him and the difference he is making at MOM and in Mt.Olive.
“We are very fortunate to have someone of his capacity here in our community,” said Blain. “Locally, we do not have anybody that has his skills and abilities. He is a very sincere and caring person with a real and true interest in helping. The work he is doing at Mt.Olive Ministries is certainly making a difference with the students.”
Duckworth is appreciative of the impact Holt is making with MOM, but says, in a sense, Holt has no business in a small town like Mt.Olive where the average income is $22,000 and the high school ranks #250 out of the state’s 251 high schools.
“I look at his educational background and know that he could be anywhere in the world making top dollars but he chooses to be in Mt. Olive volunteering his time to help MOM help students accomplish their spiritual and educational dreams,” said Duckworth.
Holt earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electronic engineering from Cal Poly University, Pomona California and a Master of Science degree in computer science from Santa Clara University, Santa Clara,California. He was the president of Cornerstone Business Services in California prior to moving to Mt. Olive. His professional educational courses include “Distributed Learning Over the Internet,” “Developing Applications for Distribution Over the Internet,” “Corporate Intranets: Uses and Configurations,” and “Internet Software Tools and Market.” Holt has also been featured in national trade publications and conferences.
Outside of teaching, Holt says his adjustment to rural living has been very minor.
“I have had minor cultural shock,” says Holt laughing. “I have had to get use to homes and stores being far away from each other, the food is different. The hot weather has been a challenge.
On the other side, the country is wonderful. I have lived in huge cities my entire life. While I am not missing that, I am getting use to not having convenience stores around the block. But all of this is minor. I get over it.”
Thus far, Holt has visited the Civil War Memorial Park in Vicksburg and looks forward to take his motor coach along the Gulf and the Mississippi River. His desire to see Mississippi’s parks and lakes is a sign he isn’t thinking of leaving.
“I am a registered native American Cherokee Indian and would like to spend some summer months back in Oklahoma researching my ancestors and their experiences.
“I’m 100 percent sure the Lord has brought me here and that I am in the right place,” says Holt. “I am not leaving unless He says to leave. There is a job to do here.”