John Holt has designed a factory in England, done CAD design at Ford Motor Company in Detroit and worked on the electronic warfare suite for the F22 fighter for international aerospace company BAE Systems.
But he found his home and passion in teaching in New Hampshire’s North Country, at White Mountains Community College (WMCC).
Holt, a professor of STEM and advanced manufacturing, has been at WMCC for about a decade and wears many hats: instructor, project manager, grant-writer, and strategic planner.
The story begins in the small North Country town of Dummer, where John grew up and attended local schools. He attended and graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in mechanical engineering. He then received a Master’s in Manufacturing Engineering from Boston University which seemed like a “foregone conclusion,” says Holt, since he was good at math and liked to know how things work.
He was working what he called a wonderful job at BAE on F22 fighter jets when he and his wife had the urge to try something different. They promptly quit their jobs, bought plane tickets, and moved to his ancestral home of Ireland, where John has dual citizenship.
He worked at an insulation manufacturing company for two years before they handed him a dream assignment: “They gave me a checkbook and said go build a factory in England,” Holt recalls, so he and his wife spent just over three years in the United Kingdom.
But soon, the urge to move came again, and it felt like New Hampshire was calling them home. John and his wife moved back to the North Country town he grew up in to raise their family.
These days, Holt teaches industrial print reading and math classes, fluid power, and electricity and electronics theory. He says WMCC is a unique experience for students because of its location in New Hampshire’s North Country, the close-knit nature of its community, and the small class sizes. Despite the pandemic and many other challenges, he says WMCC students are already a very resilient bunch.
He was drawn to teaching because he wanted to be part of the bigger picture, especially when it comes to student success. Working at a community college gives him that opportunity. “I consider this such a meaningful job because I feel like I’m a part of that big-picture impact.”
And success is something he wants for his students. In the industries for which WMCC is preparing its students — welding, maintenance, millwrights, mobile diesel, to name a few — the money is good, and job opportunities for new grads are plentiful, he notes. “Students will literally have five job offers when they graduate, making very good money. I’ve had students come back and say I paid off my student loans with my first three paychecks.”
Generous donors to The Foundation for NH Community Colleges have provided direct assistance to WMCC students when they need it most. “You’ll have a student who comes in for math classes; she has four kids, she works nights, and her husband works days, and they’re trying to pay for childcare so she can come to class. They’re trying to better their situation, and the partnership with our Foundation is an integral part of supporting their success,” Holt explains.
The WMCC community is fortunate to have dedicated faculty like Professor Holt helping students every day to reach their goals. “We love calling the north country home and I’m fortunate to be in a position to change lives for the better at WMCC, both in my role as a teacher and a donor.”
— Michelle Morrissey, freelance writer