After serving as a teacher and administrator in the Syracuse City School District for nearly 35 years, Phyllis Moore Holloway ’76 CAS ’01 hopes the thousands of students she interacted with learned some life lessons, along with the course material.
“I always told students that sometimes the greatest gift that your parents can give to you is to give birth to you, and they’ve gone as far as they can go,” she said. “And other people have to step in and help. You cannot be held accountable for the decisions your parents have made. You can be held accountable for the decisions that you make. You have the power to decide do you want to take the path they took, or do you want to take a different path?”
Education is about empowering one’s self and obtaining the tools and knowledge to persevere, Holloway said.
“The biggest lesson from Oswego—I learned to persevere,” she said. “At that time, there were not many minorities on campus.” Many of those who were minorities came from downstate. “They thought that those of us from upstate were rather country.”
But the social aspects of college were only a small part of the challenges Holloway overcame.
“Throughout my whole school career, I struggled academically,” she said. “But it didn’t mean I didn’t like to learn. I just had to read my textbooks ahead of time and very carefully plan out my study periods. I stayed the course and persevered.”
As an adult, she learned that she had a visual disability, which made reading a tedious and challenging task.
Although retired from her formal role as an educator, Holloway continues to serve the youth in the area as the volunteer interim director of the Dunbar Center, the century-old community center on the Southside of Syracuse. It is a role she took on during a crisis at the center to prevent its closing.
When she assumed the role in the summer of 2015, she said she’d stay on a few months to do three things: supervise the summer school staff and programming; get the building and staff ready for fall 2015 programs; and get the building clean and organized.
“Well, I’ve done those things, and then some!” she laughed. Yet, more than a year later, she remains in the role. She has also helped secure some grants and assists the board in finding a partner agency. She was recognized in May with an NAACP Unsung Hero Award for her work at Dunbar.
She is committed to helping Dunbar stay open because it provided her with her first professional position four decades ago. She believes it provides a valuable space for children, seniors and other community members to learn, study, socialize and play.
So, as she helps stabilize the center, she simultaneously pursues her retirement dream of opening a restaurant, Joe’s To-Go at 415 West Onondaga St. in Syracuse.
“I will still be working with people, but in a different capacity,” Holloway said. “It should be fun and challenging at the same time.”