SUNY Cortland Mourns Mike Holland's Passing

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CORTLAND, NY (10/31/2011)(readMedia)-- The SUNY Cortland community is deeply saddened by the loss of Michael Holland, a respected and well-liked SUNY Cortland administrator for more than 30 years, who passed away Saturday after helping student volunteers assist flood victims in Binghamton.

Holland, 52, suffered an apparent heart attack while returning from a student clean-up involving members of SUNY Cortland's volunteer ambulance squad, which he had advised since 1984.

"Mike passed away doing exactly what he loved most-helping others," said SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum. "Everyone who knew Mike will remember him as a friendly and upbeat person who would do anything for those in need. Whatever the cause, whatever the issue, Mike was always there to step in and lend a hand. And he loved working with students."

Calling hours will be Wednesday, from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Perkins Funeral Home, 55 West Main St., Dryden. A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, at Holy Cross Church, 375 George Road, Freeville. Burial will follow in Willow Glen Cemetery, Dryden.

Holland, the executive assistant to the vice president for Student Affairs, is survived by his wife of 28 years, Joanne Frantz Holland, and four children: Michael Jr., Mary, Dan and Kate.

"Above all else, he was a devoted husband and father and a great person and friend," said Ray Franco, SUNY Cortland's vice president for institutional advancement, who hired Holland as a residence hall director in 1981.

"Mike had a real passion for working in higher education," Franco said. "He always was most interested in doing what was in the best interest of our students. He was eager to pitch in and do whatever it took to help the College and the Student Affairs division be successful. We could always count on Mike."

Holland was a recipient of the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Professional Service, one of the highest honors bestowed by the State University of New York system. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and spent his professional career at SUNY Cortland, working for the Student Affairs office.

At SUNY Cortland, friends recalled his wonderful sense of humor and contagious laugh. He was actively involved in issues involving the College's relationship with the surrounding community and played a key role in SUNY Cortland's hosting of the N.Y. Jets training camp on campus. Holland served as an academic advisor to students and groups, including the Kappa Sigma fraternity and SUNY Cortland EMS, a 58-member corps of student volunteers trained in emergency medical service.

"He was like our campus father," said Matt Green, chief of the student-run ambulance service. "He's the one who called us to see how we're doing, made sure that we're doing well in school, that we had what we needed. He was always in our corner."

So when SUNY Cortland EMS had trouble finding a certified driver to help take a van filled with volunteers and relief supplies to the Binghamton area for a joint cleanup with SUNY Albany and SUNY Binghamton, Holland was quick to volunteer.

Holland and 10 SUNY Cortland students traveled to Binghamton in three vehicles filled with supplies collected during a campus-wide drive for food, cleaning materials and other necessities. Eight of the students were EMS volunteers, and two were volunteers from Kappa Sigma, Green said. Once there, Holland helped with the cleanup.

Holland began driving the van back to campus on Interstate 81 with three student EMS volunteers as passengers. About 29 miles south of Cortland, Holland experienced distress. The van veered to the right, off the road, and hit a tree, Green said. None of the people inside the van were hurt in the crash.

The student passengers immediately pulled Holland from the vehicle and began administering cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. About 11 minutes after the crash, rescue crews arrived and took over. Holland was transported to Wilson Memorial Hospital in Binghamton, but nothing could be done to save him.

"Mike will be sorely missed," said Vice President for Student Affairs Greg Sharer. "He was a wonderful colleague and friend.

"Mike touched many lives in his too-brief lifetime. He truly possessed a caring, kindness and generosity of spirit that came through in all that he did. That Mike spent his final day volunteering with students to provide flood relief is a testament to who he was."

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial contributions be made to a scholarship fund set up in his name. Gifts may be sent to the Michael C. Holland, Sr. Scholarship, c/o Dryden Central School, P.O. Box 88, Dryden, NY 13053-0088.

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