Steven Holley, a global finance and operations executive with a background in higher education and the private sector, has been named vice chancellor for administration and finance at the University of Mississippi.
Holley, a Wheeler native who earned two degrees from Ole Miss, brings to the university more than 25 years of expertise from a career spanning positions with a Big 4 public accounting firm, large corporate organizations and higher education institutions. Following a national search, Holley was selected to serve in the role of chief financial officer, where he will be responsible for financial, endowment, facilities, business and administrative activities of the university.
“Higher education is going through a very deep and prolific change right now, more so than any other industry at the moment, and one of the things I enjoy most is helping institutions navigate change,” Holley said. “In everything from how we deliver knowledge to funding sources, we’re going through a lot of change, and I’m able to bring a collection of thought and experiences from all my previous roles that I think will bring creativity and energy to the university.”
He succeeds Larry Sparks, who retires this month after 23 years at the university. Holley is expected to start Feb. 1, 2021, pending approval of his appointment by the board of trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
Reporting to the chancellor and serving on the senior administrative team, Holley will participate in strategic planning, policy formulation, budgetary decisions and strategic problem-solving, as well as offer financial advice and counsel on the implications of institutional decisions.
“I was struck immediately by Steven’s enthusiasm for the position and his knowledge of the financial challenges confronting higher education today and into the foreseeable future,” UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce said. “Steven’s collaborative approach to problem-solving and change is a strong fit for the Ole Miss culture.
“Steven’s varied financial experiences along with his management skill sets make him a perfect fit for the position. As an alumnus, Steven exhibited a strong desire to see the university thrive and advance. We look forward to welcoming Steven and his family back home.”
Holley comes to Ole Miss from the Claremont Colleges, a consortium of seven private institutions, where he has served as vice president for finance and administration and treasurer since 2018. Before moving to California, Holley worked five years at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, as vice president and chief business officer. In these roles, Holley said he began to appreciate the truly collaborative nature of working in higher education.
“Whatever the issues or challenges are, there’s always a wide net of collaboration cast across campus, and that’s something you really won’t find in many other industries, so that’s really what I enjoy about working in higher education so much,” he said. “If there’s a problem, challenge or opportunity, we’re going to figure out the larger group that we can invite into the conversation to help us, and we’re doing that at a place surrounded by really smart people.”
Before his time in higher education, Holley gained corporate experience in Memphis working as chief financial officer and treasurer at Del-Nat Tire Corp., as senior financial adviser for Federal Express, and as senior director of finance and marketing for Industrial Parts & Electric Motors. He also served in a number of positions within Coca-Cola Enterprises and as an audit senior for Price Waterhouse LLP.
Mark Wilder, dean and KPMG Chair of Accountancy at UM, said Holley’s expertise, background and Mississippi roots make him a great fit for the university.
“We are very excited about Steven Holley joining us as our next vice chancellor for administration and finance,” said Wilder, who chaired the nationwide search. “While Steven certainly has big shoes to fill, I believe he is definitely up for the task.
“Steven has outstanding professional experience both in the private sector and in higher education. He has exceptionally strong accounting, finance and analytical skills. I am confident that Steven will take the strong financial foundation that Larry Sparks has built over the past decade-plus, and will maintain and grow our fiscal strength while moving us forward in an increasingly challenging financial landscape in higher education.”
In his role at Ole Miss, Holley will oversee a wide portfolio of areas reporting within the Administration and Finance division including Accounting; Airport; Budget; Bursar; Contractual Services, which includes Campus Dining, the Ole Miss Bookstore, Licensing, Vending and ID Center; Controller; Facilities Management; Facilities Planning; Golf Course; Human Resources; Landscape Services; Parking and Transportation; Procurement Services; and Sustainability.
As a first-generation college student, Holley attended Northeast Mississippi Community College, where he earned an associate degree in applied sciences in 1989. He went on to Ole Miss, earning a bachelor’s degree in accountancy in 1990 and a Master of Accountancy in 1992.
“Higher education creates an environment for people to grow and to connect and to learn, and for me so much of that happened at Ole Miss,” Holley said. “The learning happens in the classroom or in the lab, but most especially it happens with a community of people of like mind who are on the same journey, and Ole Miss gave me that and helped created the backdrop for everything else.”
Holley is working toward a Doctor of Education in organizational leadership from the University of Southern California. He is a certified public accountant and involved in many professional organizations, including the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.
An avid reader and exerciser, Holley spends time outside the office traveling and watching Ole Miss football whenever possible.
His wife, Leigh Holley, also a Prentiss County native and an Ole Miss alumna, is Dean of Nursing at West Coast University in Ontario, California. They have four children: Alex, 24, and triplets Jared, Matthew and Harrison, all 22.
By Rod Guajardo