“Make sure you enjoy your life and are happy because at the end of the day, that is what is important. Follow and do what you think is right and you’ll make it far!” – Alexander Holden.
Coming to William Jewell College my first year, I didn’t know many people that I would be attending school with. Much like all college first-years, I was nervous, bashful and uncertain as to what my future on the Hill would look like. I knew that since Jewell was so small, it would be imperative that I found someone to look up to, but how would I meet such a person?
Due to a rather interesting encounter at the annual activity fair in the Yates-Gill College Union during my new student orientation, I quickly found who this person would be. As I approached the Phi Gamma Delta table, a tall, well-dressed man grinned at me.
“Now see, here is someone that looks like they would be interested in joining a fraternity one day,” he said. “What’s your name?”
Standing there in my pink hat, I was blown away that a senior and president of a fraternity wanted to know my name.
Not only this, but that he wanted to have a quick chat; and when I say a quick chat with Holden, I mean an hour long discussion. We went from discussing our mutual love for our hometown, Springfield, to determining that we had met on the tennis court several times in high school. In the end, we talked about Phi Gamma Delta, the place where our relationship would grow the most in the future.
This was the Holden charm – using a compliment and a simple question, then transitioning fluidly and swiftly into further discussion points in such a way that it was an art to him. Holden was one of the most charismatic people that I have ever met in my life. He had a way of making each and every person he met feel as if he was fully invested not only in their life, but in their well-being.
This allowed Holden to make friends everywhere he went. From Springfield to Liberty, Sacramento to New York, as well as the rest of the world, Holden made close friends with his peers, teachers and strangers alike.
Though I only had one year with Holden at William Jewell, I was able to see him in various capacities. I saw him as president of a fraternity where he did all he could to keep FIJI a safe, prosperous place. All he wanted was for his fellow brothers to succeed and to have a great time while they were in their home. From experience, this is not an easy job or a relaxing one, for that matter. However, on the outside Holden always seemed relaxed and maintained that classic grin on his face throughout all aspects of his time serving in this role, which made people trust and respect the difficult decisions that he had to make.
Next, I witnessed Holden as a senior living in the fraternity house. From my experiences, seniors in our fraternity take one of two paths, both of which are respectable: not participating in fraternity activities in order to focus on graduation and careers, and the other being as involved as possible since it is their last semester to do so. Holden took the latter path while keeping up with his studies and his future career. As a first-year, it was daunting and nerve-racking to approach the seniors in the house. Yet Holden always was inviting and interacted with me and my fellow pledge brothers as if we were part of his own pledge class.
At the Emerging Leadership Conference (ELC) my first year, Holden came and gave a presentation to me and the other attendees. His presentation, in essence, was regarding how a positive mindset can change an entire outlook on things and can alter a person’s mindset in all facets of their life. As a somewhat “glass is half empty” person, I appreciated this presentation and knew from that moment on that I wanted to live a more positive life, just like Holden.
On the last day of the conference, we were tasked with writing down who our leadership role model was on campus. Without any hesitation, I immediately wrote Holden’s name down. When questioned about this, I assured people it wasn’t because he was president of my fraternity at one time, but it was because of this element of positivity and extroverted attitude that Holden displayed in his everyday life. The best leaders are the ones that are so passionate about their cause they can infect everyone around them with passion to the same degree; Holden did this every day.
The last time I saw Holden, we played tennis together in Springfield during July 2018. On a break while we were playing, he randomly asked me what my goals were for the year and if I wanted to run for president of the fraternity. When I told him it interested me, he gave me all sorts of advice and pointers that I still remember to this day. He constantly checked on me not only all the way up until the election, but throughout the whole time I held his past position.
This was Holden’s legacy: to get to know every individual that he came into contact with, find what motivated them and help them connect their motivations with their passions to attain their goals and successes. My story of how Holden affected my life and helped me pursue my passions is one of many. Holden was an investor in people who did not quit until he knew that each individual was not only content, but exhilarated with where they were in their respective lives. He took time out of his busy schedule to ensure that all of his friends were achieving their goals.
Holden was the most spontaneous, optimistic, goal-oriented person I have met in my entire life. Let this time serve as a reminder that no matter how tough life gets to always keep a cheesy grin on your face, find something that motivates and inspires you, and of course to dance like nobody’s watching. Love and miss you, Holden. Thank you for teaching me how to press on.