The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, The Partnership Inc., announced that John Hollis is this year's recipient of the John H. Taylor Jr. Education Leadership Award. Hollis is the founder and director of MERIT, Minority Educational Regional Incentive Training.
This prestigious award will be presented at the Superstars in Education Reception and Awards Ceremony at 4:45 p.m., Monday, May 14, at Wilmington University's Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium in New Castle.
The award recognizes someone within the community who has provided sustained leadership in advancing Delaware education and who, by doing so, has also made the community a better place in which to live and work. The Partnership Inc. is the 501(c)(3) education affiliate of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.
"It is extremely exciting to honor such a deserving man – a lifelong and second-generation Delaware educator – who has successfully focused his passion toward the recognition and development of the human capability of young people," said Katie Wilkinson of Fulton Bank, chair of The Partnership Inc. board of directors.
In collaboration with a group of engineers from DuPont's Seaford plant in 1974, Hollis created MERIT to provide academic enrichment and college preparatory opportunities for minority students from the greater Seaford area and across Sussex County. It provides challenging engineering experiences, teaches powerful leadership skills, and encourages participants to earn college degrees. To date, 370 MERIT alumni have gone on to achieve college degrees, accounting for approximately 97 percent of its participants. Many return to volunteer, creating a strong alumni base which has helped shape the evolution of the program. Hollis encourages parental involvement which he notes is instrumental to success. He has overseen MERIT for 42 years.
Hollis was also a longtime administrator, teacher and coach in the Seaford School District, and he was the personnel director for Delaware Technical Community College. He has also served as senior vice president of the Delaware Community Foundation, president of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, and Sussex County manager of community and government affairs at Nemours Health and Prevention Services. He is the founder of Sussex Outdoors and an adjunct faculty member at Wilmington and Salisbury universities.
"John Hollis looks at the world through a lens of service and humility. Over decades, hundreds of young people who needed a leg up have been inspired by his passion for engineering and math through the MERIT program. His work has changed countless lives. Supporting children in need is his ministry. He has given his heart to the community and never asked for acknowledgement. I have every confidence that the namesake of this award, John H. Taylor, would have been honored to give him some of that recognition," said Dr. Paul Herdman, president and CEO of The Rodel Foundation, and chair of the John H. Taylor Education Leadership Award Committee.
Hollis is a graduate of the University of Delaware and earned a master's degree in counseling from Salisbury University. He has received numerous recognitions, including the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Service by an Entrepreneur, Connecting Generations' Robert A. Kasey Lifetime Achievement Award, MLK Community Recognition Award, 2015 Blue/Gold Leadership Award, Rural Educator of the Year Award, Family Focus Award, and Governor's Volunteer of the Year Award from Gov. Tom Carper. He was inspired by his father, president of the Seaford Board of Education, who was extraordinarily committed to the community.
Hollis said the key to being a great mentor of young people consists of three Es: encouragement, empathy and enthusiasm.
"I knew John [Taylor] well. He was one of my heroes, so I couldn't be more honored," said Hollis when told he was selected as the award recipient. "This made my day, my month, my year!"