ERDC’s deputy director receives national award

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2008

With awards and honors crowding the walls of his office, Dr. Jeffery Holland, deputy director of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, said he is most proud of the 2008 Presidential Rank Award he was recently selected to receive.

“This is more special than really anything that has happened to me in my career,” said Holland, 52, who has been with ERDC in Vicksburg for 29 years. “My parents are deceased, but I can’t help but think that they’d really be proud of me for this.”

The Presidential Rank Award is annually given to about 350 career federal executives for their outstanding leadership and longtime service to government in all departments, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, NASA and Homeland Security. Recipients are nominated by their agency heads, evaluated by boards comprised of private citizens and given final approval by President Bush.

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The awards are split into two categories, Distinguished and Meritorious. The Meritorious award bestowed to Holland is reserved for the top 5 percent of all government executives. While grateful for the personal recognition, Holland is quick to point to the accomplishments of his co-workers when discussing the accolade.

“Nobody wins something like this by themselves,” said Holland. “This organization is filled with really top-notch people who are really passionate about what they do, and I’ve gotten to benefit from that.”

Holland said he was drawn to ERDC following an unexpected visit during his Christmas break in 1978, while he was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University. Then simply called the Waterways Experiment Station, an employee from Vicksburg was on a long-term training assignment in Nashville when he met Holland and invited him to come visit the facility.

“I said, ‘You’re kidding, right?’ I’d never heard of the organization before, but when I came down and saw the kind of work being done here — even then in the late ’70s — it completely changed my mind about what I wanted to do in my career,” he said.

Holland accepted a job offer at the Vicksburg facility before he had finished his graduate work the following spring, and started his 29-year career with ERDC shortly thereafter. Before becoming deputy director in November 2006, Holland served as technical director for HydroEnvironmental Modeling and Simulation, as well as director of the ERDC Information Technology Laboratory.

As second in command at ERDC, Holland assists in managing seven ERDC labs across four states with more than 2,500 employees and an annual program budget exceeding $1 billion. As a branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ERDC’s teams of engineers and scientists across the country address a range of science and technology issues, including everything from tracking Arctic temperatures, studying vehicle mobility in desert sands and protecting wetlands to increasing the safety of U.S. troops around the globe and predicting habitat ranges of endangered species.

“I have worked with other research and development organizations all over the country, and nobody does the kind of work that we get to do. The breadth and impact it has on people’s lives — from helping save soldiers’ lives to protecting people against floods and all the other work we get to do — it gets to be contiguous after a while, because it matters,” he said.  

A native of Kentucky, Holland received his bachelor’s degree with honors in environmental engineering from Western Kentucky University, and a master’s degree in environmental and water resources engineering from Vanderbilt University. He holds a doctorate in civil engineering from Colorado State University.

Holland and his wife, Janet, have been married for 26 years, and they have two children, Megan and Eric.

Meritorious award recipients receive a salary bonus equaling 20 percent of their annual pay, and all recipients receive a framed certificate signed by President Bush. Other awards Holland has received throughout his career include the Army Research and Development Award, the Army Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal and the Federal Laboratory Consortium Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer. ERDC was also recently named the Army’s Research and Development Organization of the Year for the second year straight.

Contact Steve Sanoski at