When his career in the Navy ended in 1979, Sam Holt, ’01, MSOLE ’03, found himself wondering what he should do with his life. Three options came to mind: he could be a firefighter, doctor or police officer. He decided he didn’t want to haul a fire hose around and didn’t think he was smart enough to be a doctor. So, he entered law enforcement. Once he made lieutenant with Austin Police Department, he knew he had to take his education further to become an effective leader.
A high school dropout raised in government-assisted housing, Sam joined the Army and then the Navy, earning his GED and an associate’s degree from Austin Community College along the way. After graduating from St. Edward’s with a BS in Criminal Justice, he enrolled in the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Ethics program.
Since finishing the MSOLE program in 2003, Sam has been working to incorporate his leadership skills into both APD and the greater Austin community. As an African-American, he has realized many in Austin, particularly minorities, did not feel safe with the police presence in their neighborhoods. So he made it his goal for the past two years to mend that relationship. As northeast area commander, he began meeting with leaders from groups like the NAACP and the African-American Chamber of Commerce, hoping to show that the police were willing to cooperate with them.
His work has paid off. The NAACP presented him with the Dewitty/Overton Award at its annual banquet in December 2005 to recognize his “unselfish devotion and distinguished service to the Austin community,” and the NAACP Community Service Award in December 2006.
He credits his success to what he learned in the MSOLE program. “If you build relationships with people,” he says, “you get a lot more done than if you’re just trying to manage them.”