Ian Holder ‘03 Tells Students to “Enjoy the Journey” and Stay Connected to Norfolk Academy

As the school prepared for Field Day 2018: Let the Games Begin and Reunion Weekend, Upper School students received an inspirational message about staying connected to the school from Ian Holder ’03, who serves as president of the Norfolk Academy Alumni Association.

Holder, who came to Norfolk Academy as a ninth grader, was an extraordinary soccer player, earning All-Prep, All-Tidewater, and All-State honors on the way to becoming the school’s top scorer, with 103 goals and 63 assists. He went on to be a four-year starter at midfield for University of Virginia, which won two ACC championships during his time on the team.

In his introduction, Headmaster Dennis Manning said teachers described Holder as “Mr. Enthusiasm...an A plus-plus-plus personality.” Holder’s brisk speech, timed to fit into the chapel period, clearly showed his unbridled enthusiasm for the school, as he encouraged students to give back to the organizations that have helped shape them.

“Don’t forget where you came from,” he said. “Give back—whether it is with time, your talent or special skill, or a fundraising campaign.”

Holder returned to the Tidewater area in 2008, after time spent teaching English in France; he currently works as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch. He said he was aware of so many people at Norfolk Academy who “poured love” into him, so he wanted to give back to the school; he spoke to Ruth Acra ’86, Director of Alumni Relations, and asked, “How can I help?” She didn’t hesitate—he was soon involved in helping establish a Young Alumni Council, which now has 20 members and often sponsors big gatherings. He also tries to give a lot back to soccer, largely through coaching on local teams, as a way of saying “thank you” to the game that gave him so many opportunities. He serves on the boards of the YMCA, the Hermitage Museum, and the Ghent Business Association, and is former president of the U.Va. Alumni Club of Tidewater.

He challenged students to take their own paths through life, rather than feeling as if there is just one linear route to success. In addition, the journey is better if you “step outside your comfort zone,” he said, and he humorously recalled an occasion at Norfolk Academy when he did so, by joining the lacrosse team in his junior year.  “You can just imagine how terrible I was,” he said, so he was appreciative when Varsity Lacrosse Coach Tom Duquette gave him one important tip for contributing to the team. “His advice was, ‘Just hit people and run,’” Holder said, amid some laughter. “I was always grateful for that, from a man of few words.”

Finally, as he surveyed the seniors who had recently celebrated College T-Shirt Day, he encouraged all students to stay connected to “the people in this room.”

“Some of the best friends I have had were made at N.A.,” he said. “Stay connected to the faculty and the teachers.”