Frances Goodwin Holt of Williamsburg has been named a national "Today's Daughter" by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR). The American Spirit Magazine for March/April 2016 featured an article on Holt's contributions to national defense as a Navy civil servant. Holt is a member of the Comte de Grasse Chapter of NSDAR in Yorktown. The article is available at http://www.dar.org/national-society/american-spirit-magazine-0 and is printed below:
American Spirit Magazine, Today's Daughters. Volume 150, Number 2, March/April 2016, pages 4-5.
Saluting Civil Servants
By Lena Anthony
Photograph courtesy of Frances Goodwin Holt and Michele Hull
They're not on the front lines, but Daughters Frances Holt and Michelé Hull have dedicated their careers to supporting those who are.
Frances Goodwin Holt
It has been 50 years, but Frances Goodwin Holt can still recall her first day of work at the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown, Va.-that's how bad it was. From the first person she met when she walked through the door to the supervisor who would later become her mentor, everyone cast doubt on her ability to succeed. She was a chemist, having graduated four years previously with high honors, but that hardly mattered. All they saw was a woman, and they couldn't fathom the success she would bring to the Navy over the next 48 years.
Dr. Holt worked as a chemist in the Naval Mine Engineering Facility until 1981, when she transitioned to managerial roles. In 2006, she became the executive director of the newly created Navy Munitions Command, designed to align all naval ordnance support operations worldwide into a single unit. As executive director, Dr. Holt provided the strategic vision, leadership, technical knowledge and administrative skills to ensure the U.S. Navy always had access to the right weapons at the right time and in the right place.
For her service to the Navy, Dr. Holt received the Distinguished Civilian Service Award, two Navy Superior Service Medals and a Federally Employed Woman of the Year award. And Building 1959, the 64,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art headquarters for the command, is unofficially known as the Holt Building for Dr. Holt's involvement as its champion.
Dr. Holt is credited with helping transform naval ordnance operations into a highly effective and efficient organization. But the way she sees it, she was merely the facilitator.
"I had a wonderful team, and it was truly a team effort," she said. "Good people working together can make great things happen."
Her sense of teamwork and tenacity was something she acquired early on. She grew up on a tobacco farm and was expected to pull her weight in whatever way she could. "We were encouraged to do any job that we were interested in," she said. "There were no restraints on so-called male or female jobs. Everyone just did what they could to get the work done."
She carried those values with her to North Carolina State University, where she was one of 66 women among 6,600 men. She said the environment often was hostile toward women, who were viewed as either strange or as husband-hunters. A heavy course load and a job in the chemistry lab kept her focused, however.
"I was honestly too busy to worry about any of that," she said. "Luckily, I think the environment is much more receptive and facilitating of women today than when I started. Still, our young women need encouragement, and they need to see that women who go into science and engineering aren't weird; we just have a curiosity and want to make the world a better place."
After retiring from the Navy, Dr. Holt took a single day off before joining her husband, Milton, and daughter, Katherine, at the Technology Commercialization Center in Hampton Roads, Va. The company helps match inventors to companies interested in bringing their emerging technologies to market.
Dr. Holt spends her spare time on the same North Carolina farm where she grew up, which has been in her family since her Patriot ancestor, William Goodwin, purchased the land in 1789. She also enjoys her membership in DAR.
"Early in my career as a Navy manager, I was often invited to events sponsored by the Comte de Grasse DAR Chapter, Yorktown, Va.," she said. "I always enjoyed attending these events and associating with the amazing members. It was such an honor to become a member of the chapter later in my career."
Her love of country is what led her to civil service in the first place. "I feel strongly that we have a responsibility to do our part to protect the freedoms our Patriot ancestors fought so hard to win for us," she said. "I believe we each have an obligation to do our part, whatever that is."
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