Owen Holmes was the usual USC Aiken student. He was the first of his family to go to college. He was less than scholarly during his first two years of study. Still, some of his professors saw potential in him, and twenty plus years later, he is a top administrator and adjunct professor at a large California university.
“Bob Botsch and Bill Brockington (both recently retired) put me on a path, and I’m forever grateful,” Holmes said. “I was not a serious student. If they had not taken the time with me, I certainly would not be where I am.”
F. Owen Holmes, Jr., is Associate Vice President for Government and Community Relations at California State University (CSU) Fullerton. The university, founded a few years before USC Aiken, has grown in the 30 years he has served there to almost 38,000 students. Holmes’ job is to connect the local, state and federal government decision makers with CSU Fullerton’s needs, so that those elected officials can champion the University for funding.
For his work in this area, Holmes was the inaugural recipient of the Council for Support of Education (CASE) Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation in State Government Relations. The award, he said, was the result of a grass-roots group he founded, called the Titan Advocates, friends and alumni of CSU Fullerton who were trained and focused to identify state issues and funding measures important to the university, then communicate with legislators regularly about Fullerton’s needs.
He attributes the Crawford award to the many people who have strengthened him along his career. “I couldn’t have done any of this without the foundational support I received during my years at USC Aiken,” Holmes said, “We never do anything on our own. We stand on the shoulders of giants. It is up to us to pay it forward.”
“There is a commitment to community partnership woven into the fabric of the university at Fullerton and USC Aiken. Both universities are going to have to make our case for diminishing dollars,” Holmes said. “I’m proud that USC Aiken is ranked as one of the best colleges in the Southeast. It recognizes the lives they impact and instills in me the desire to do the same thing,” he said.
Holmes’ early desire to be an on-air radio personality prepared him for his adult roles. He went to WYMX Rock 106, where he was on-air for a year while at USC Aiken. After graduating in 1984, Holmes took a job as an advertising coordinator for the Outdoor/Broadcast Division of Creative Marketing Services.
The following year a job as assistant to the Dean of Continuing Education and Graduate Studies at USC Aiken changed his career path by providing experience in university administration. When Holmes moved to Fullerton, he eventually was able to take a job as Assistant to the President at CSU Fullerton.
“I started by doing clerical work in the career development center and worked my way up from there,” Holmes said. He was named Associate Director of Government and Community Relations in 1995, then Director of State and Federal Relations in 1999. He assumed his current role in July 2003.
He earned a MA in political science in 1993, and has had the good fortune of teaching now and again at Fullerton as an adjunct political science instructor..
“Many of my students are just like me, like many students at USC Aiken. They are first generation college students who have work and family obligations, and they have to learn how to negotiate a university system because no one at home is able to give them advice,” Holmes said.
“I have a deep respect for USC Aiken. It is a great campus, and a great experience for anyone lucky enough to be admitted.”
As appeared in USC Aiken Magazine 2015