Campus Closeup: Joe Holman

For the past few months, Joe Holman (Military Science) has been shadowed on the job—not by a young person hoping to go into his line of work, but by a service dog trained to minimize health risks and assist with mobility issues resulting from a stroke Holman suffered in 2010.


An organization called Paws & Effect designated one litter of service dogs exclusively for eligible military personnel and gave them patriotic names such as Liberty, Valor, Justice, Merit, Honor and Hero. Holman said one dog has had a positive impact on the autistic daughter of a National Guard soldier. Others are helping veterans in a variety of ways, from combating night terrors to transitioning through the stages of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Holman’s yellow lab, Anthem, escorts him across campus and throughout the community.

“He keeps me calm, which is important because I have a pseudoaneurysm behind my cheek,” he said, pointing from the tip of his pinkie to the second knuckle to demonstrate its size. “They can’t stent it or repair it. Because it’s not stable, my blood pressure and heart rate can’t be up at the same time.”


Holman took a military leave of absence from his NMU staff position in 2007. He was among the retired U.S. Army officers/non-commissioned officers nationwide who volunteered to be recalled to active duty to fill a void created by the military buildup in Iraq and Afghanistan. He accepted a two-year assignment teaching ROTC cadets at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. During a third-year extension, Holman had a fateful appointment with a physical therapist, who attempted to align his neck.


“The procedure tore the lining of both interior carotid arteries, which caused me to have a stroke,” he said. “Thankfully (my wife) Barb noticed and got me to the hospital fast. I spent time at Walter Reed and Mayo Clinic before I was put into the Warrior Transition Program. The goal of the program is to keep you out of a military hospital and closer to home, provided there’s acceptable medical care nearby and a unit there that will accept you. NMU’s ROTC program said yes, so I became an assistant professor of military science.”


A Negaunee native and 1978 graduate of NMU, Holman left campus with a history degree, teaching certificate and commission in the U.S. Army. He made a career out of the latter until he voluntarily retired in 1995 in the midst of military downsizing. He returned to the area and was hired by Continuing Education at his alma mater.


“I started working with non-credit classes such as ballroom dancing, taxidermy, real estate appraising and bus driving. Then I was asked to turn correspondence classes into a distance education program through a mix of online courses and ITV instruction at the extension centers I helped set up in Escanaba and Iron Mountain. Then I was asked to secure training grants so we could work with regional industry. I became fully engaged in workforce development and training and moved to the Jacobetti Center under the dean of Professional Studies. That’s where I got involved with the lineman program and partnerships with Pioneer Surgical, Ironwood Plastics and Cliffs (Natural Resources, Inc.).”


Holman credits the breadth and depth of knowledge and skills gleaned from his military service with preparing him for his varied roles at NMU. Outside of work, he is a season-ticket holder for NMU hockey and theater. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, camping and vegetable gardening. If Holman wants to travel long distances, he needs pre-approval from his community-based warrior transition unit in Rock Island, Ill. It took two months and appointments with five doctors before he got the green light to visit Spain with Barb and their daughter, Jessica. That was before Anthem's arrival. The next time Holman flies, his dog will be curled up under the seat ahead of him.


You may have seen Holman and Anthem walking the treadmill at the PEIF, in the Superior Dome with ROTC cadets, in NMU classrooms, attending a dance performance in Forest Roberts Theatre or dining at a local restaurant. Anthem even donned a bow tie and danced with Holman at a military ball. “Like any disability accommodation, he’s allowed anyplace that’s open to the public. It’s nice when people ask if he’s a service dog and request permission to pet him. I wasn’t sure how I’d like having a dog with me wherever I go, but he’s been a great companion.”



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Updated: June 13, 2012

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