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October 24, 2011

Holyfield named ULM’s “Golden Arrow” recipient

Linda Holyfield is the kind of service-oriented person who can joke off-handedly about volunteering since she was 10-years-old, but friends say she isn’t too far off the mark.

The plaques and awards of recognition that surround her modest office on the fourth floor of the P&S Surgical Hospital Building in downtown Monroe speak volumes about her life of service, including the prestigious Rambin-Silverstein Award, which she and husband, Joe, earned in 2007.

The award is presented annually by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce to an outstanding Ouachita Parish resident(s) who demonstrate outstanding leadership and service.

But even as the unassuming Holyfield has reservations about sharing her accomplishments with others, she will soon be the recipient of another award, the Golden Arrow, in appreciation for the service and support given to her alma mater, the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

The award will be given during the Annual Alumni Homecoming Brunch on Oct. 29. Instituted in 1981, it is the highest honor given to alumni of the university. That’s not bad for someone who candidly admits she had no plans for sticking around after graduation from Ouachita Parish High School.

“My family moved here from California when I was 14,” said Holyfield. “So I wasn’t going to stay here. I wanted to go back to southern California and experience something different.”

A full scholarship to what was then called Northeast Louisiana University, and her 1973 marriage to Joe Holyfield diverted those plans (in fact, on the day of the interview she and Joe celebrated 38 years of marriage). Now it’s hard for Holyfield to imagine being anywhere else.

“I have a real love for northeast Louisiana,” she said. “We didn’t have anything when we first got married, but we have been so blessed by this community. We have a huge responsibility to give back, knowing how God has blessed us so much.”

Her gracious and unaffected manner combined with a work ethic that treats every challenge not as a heavy burden, but as an opportunity to learn and grow, has seen Holyfield rise to the top in a field that for many years was largely dominated by men.

As chief executive officer of P&S Surgical Hospital, a joint venture and spin-off of St. Francis Medical Center, Holyfield led the way for the robust growth of the specialty patient care facility that started from humble beginnings in 1997, but is now on its third year of winning a national patient satisfaction award.

Holyfield does not take the entire credit for a turn-around project that could have just as easily failed.

“I have picked the brains of some of the best minds in this community,” she said. “I don’t mind asking lots of questions. P&S is the sum total of everything in my career that I have been exposed to and learned from.”

Perhaps learning how to deliver the kind of hands-on patient care that only an excellently trained registered nurse can deliver is what makes Holyfield such a standout executive in the medical community.

Holyfield earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from ULM in 1976, followed by a Master’s Degree from Northwestern State University.

She was first hired as a professional staff nurse for an obstetrics unit, but before starting was reassigned to a position in an intensive care unit, where the most critical cases present numerous challenges and where daily decisions are a matter of life or death for the patient.

Two years into a job she says she adored, Holyfield was approached about being a manager and she took it. It was the first of several career moves that would lead her to where she is today.

Almost simultaneously, she supported the visionary talent of her husband as he founded Holyfield Construction, a company that has served the ArklaMiss region for 30 years and helped transform the look of Monroe with beautifully completed commercial construction projects.

“My whole life has been about rolling up my sleeves and learning from scratch,” said Holyfield. “I am patient and family-centered and have done almost everything through that lens.”

Holyfield’s contributions are extensive, including service on numerous non-profit boards such as the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, the Wellspring, the United Way of Northeast Louisiana, and the Louisiana Public Health Institute Board.

She has also served as president of the ULM Alumni Association and is a founding member of the Children’s Coalition.

Holyfield, a parishioner of Jesus the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, was selected to serve on Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s Healthcare Reform Task Force, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s healthcare transition team, was a member of Leadership Louisiana in 2001, and earned a spot as one of only 55 persons (and the only one from the south) selected for a year-long fellowship sponsored by the Healthcare Forum (formerly from California, but now part of the American Hospital Association) dedicated to the improvement of community health. 

But Holyfield – wife, mother and more recently, grandmother of three – is not one to dwell on those distinctions, just as she is reticent to brag about the thousands of volunteer hours she has logged giving back to ULM and to the community at large.

She seems much more at ease bragging about the kind of naturally giving people who constitute the heart and soul of northeast Louisiana and about the hidden jewel that is her alma mater.

“If you look at the quality of ULM’s academic programs and graduates, coupled with the plethora of needs facing northeast Louisianans, the university is one of the greatest assets this community has,” she said.

“And President Bruno is doing a great job of getting the word out about all that … we’ve just taken the university for granted far too long.”

Holyfield concluded, “They say leadership happens at the right time. I believe that.”

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