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In Loving Memory of Richard S. Holden

April 17, 2020 By Merrill Perlman
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Richard S. Holden, a founding member of the ACES Education Fund and one of the most influential and popular members of our organization, died on Wednesday, April 15, in New Jersey, where he lived. He was 70 years old and had been in ill health for several years.

If you went to the hotel bar at any ACES conference from the beginning until just a few years ago, you were likely to find Rich Holden. His baritone laugh would fill the space as he told or reacted to jokes, and he would be surrounded by people of all ages. Many would be editors he had launched in careers during his 22 years as the executive director of the Dow Jones News(paper) Fund. Many would be people who had attended his popular “Afraid of Math? Take a Number” session or his session on careers and résumés and wanted more wisdom. Some wanted to talk sports (a passion, especially the teams from Missouri, his native state). Others would be members of the informal recruiters network, who bonded over their search for talent at journalism conference job fairs and at ACES (which didn’t have a job fair but nonetheless attracted recruiters).

Rich was an equal opportunity attractor. And he believed deeply in equal opportunity, mentoring and advising young people, people from underserved communities and people of color who wanted careers in journalism, especially in editing.

His early years tell you something about his love of equal opportunity: He was in the Air Force and in the ROTC at the University of Missouri — both during the unpopular Vietnam War — yet he hung out with the journalism students who were protesting the war. (I met Rich during one of my first weekends at Mizzou, when he was part of a crowd of journalism students who swept me up on the way to the Dairy Queen and into my own love of journalism and editing.)

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Bill Connolly (Retired/The New York Times), Walter Middlebrook (The Detroit News), Rich Holden

After getting his master’s degree, he ended up on the national copy desk at The Wall Street Journal. They sent him to Hong Kong in 1976 to help start The Asian Wall Street Journal. Back in New York, he was day news editor, night news editor, national news production manager, copy desk chief, and financial editor of The Journal, which got him into the recruiting business. In 1992, he became the executive director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund (now just the Dow Jones News Fund), where he greatly expanded the program offering college students internships in newsrooms around the country. Rich wrote (and graded) the application tests himself for many years, and you can bet they always included a “who/whom” question and at least one math error. Literally thousands of people got their start in editing from his painstaking matchmaking of candidates and internships.

Every summer for 25 years, Rich (and his constant sidekick, Bill Connolly) would spend two weeks teaching at the Maynard Editing Program for Minority Journalists at the University of Arizona in Tucson. If you’ve ever been in Tucson during the summer, you know that is dedication to a cause. He touched hundreds more lives there. As his wife of 32 years, Mary-Anna, said in his obituary, “It was a love for the editing craft and mentoring students that motivated him.”

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Rich at the 2013 ACES Banquet

Rich joined the board of the ACES Education Fund at its inception in 2004, and was as dedicated there to helping young people and to supporting our scholarship program as he was to everything else he did. At an ACES conference around the time of his birthday, someone gave him a pair of pajamas that were (badly scanned) pages of The Wall Street Journal. He was at the bar, of course, so he proceeded to put them on over his clothes. When someone playfully tried to tug them off, an idea was born: He would wear those pajamas to the banquet, and offer to take them off for the highest bidder, with proceeds to the Education Fund. I believe they raised $100. The purchaser didn’t actually want the pajamas, so another idea was born: Let’s do it again next year.

Over the years, those pajamas raised more than $10,000 for the Education Fund.

In 2007, ACES gave the first Glamann Award to the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. But it was really to Rich. He just would not have accepted an award with his name on it.

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Rich Holden, Henry Moritsugu (Newsday), and ACES Education Fund President Henry Fuhrmann (LA)

In the last year, Rich’s colleagues at ACES and the Dow Jones News Fund successfully prevailed on him to allow his name to be attached to a good cause: the Richard S. Holden Fellowship. The fellowship, to be formally launched soon, will be dedicated to advancing early- and mid-career professionals in their work as editors and aspiring industry leaders, and to promoting diversity and inclusion in our ranks. Those who wish to contribute to establishing the fellowship may direct their gifts to the ACES Education Fund at https://bit.ly/ACESGive.

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