Deborah Holmes-Howard, 57, died over the weekend (Sept. 12-13?) at home, after years of declining health.
Deborah taught at several community colleges before arriving at Santa Fe in 1989 to teach interdisciplinary humanities and ethics. She was a dedicated teacher and advocate for her students.
“Deborah was highly principled, a fighter for causes such as human rights,” said Bill Little, chair of Humanities and Foreign Languages. “She was a strong defender of African-American rights. She was an extraordinarily dedicated teacher. She lived for her job. She was very bright. She handled the English language with great creativity and talent. She was beloved by people in her unit, in her church and her department.”
Deborah was born and raised through high school in Winter Garden. She earned an AA from Valencia CC, and her BA and MA in Interdisciplinary Humanities from Florida State University, where was also ABD in the same field. Before coming to Santa Fe in 1989, she taught at Pasco Hernando CC, Hillsborough CC, Valencia CC and St. Petersburg Jr. College.
“Deborah, when she was feeling well, was as sharp and funny and engaging as they come,” said Bill Stephenson, coordinator for Unit 12. “She was just hilarious in the way she looked at the world and explained things. Unfortunately, everything was an enormous struggle for her over the last few years. It was difficult to get to Santa Fe and to get to classes. Every day was a demonstration of her dedication to the college.”
“She was sensitive to her students, but still very feisty,” said Math Professor Linda Green, also in Unit 12. “She was always interested in other people in the unit and their families. She was very dedicated. She wasn’t that well, but she kept coming to work.”
Administrative Assistant Pat Quates remembers Deborah as “a very private person.”
Deborah served on the cultural arts board for Alachua County in the past and was very involved in activities at the United Church of Gainesville, Green said.
Deborah leaves behind a son, Christopher Douglas Howard, in Pennsylvania; a daughter, Stephanie Bodziong, in Texas; a sister, Susan Holmes, in Windermere; and a brother, Lonnie Holmes.
“I knew her before I came to work at SFC some 16 years ago,” said her friend, Jill Cunningham. ” still remember her extraordinary commitment to Chris and Stephanie, raising them as a single parent. She was very proud of them both.”
“Her extended family had very joyful, big family reunions in a variety of places,” recalls Little. “The most recent was on a cruise ship. She really looked forward to those family reunions.”
“Toward the end she felt very cared for as a person and as a faculty member by the Santa Fe community,” said Little. “Truly people miss her and are pained by the illness she had for such a long time and how she struggled through it. We will miss her spunky spirit.”
She will be remembered with love.
A Celebration of Remembrance is planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22 at United Church of Gainesville, 1624 NW 5th Ave.