Our Mission

To impact, over time, the quality of K-12 public education for all Texas students by supporting and developing educational leaders.

An image of a teacher smiling and pointing to students in a classroom.
Photo of  Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth in the 1960s
Portait of Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth in the 1960s

Our history

Charles Butt, Chairman of H-E-B, founded The Holdsworth Center in 2017. He named the nonprofit organization for his mother, a former schoolteacher and lifelong advocate for social justice.

Described as intelligent, strong, persevering, always compassionate and the embodiment of absolute determination, Mary Elizabeth dedicated her life to alleviating the suffering of the sick, disabled and mentally ill. She believed deeply that “one solitary life can make a difference” and showed it with her extraordinary actions.

As a young woman in the 1920s, Mary Elizabeth became a schoolteacher in Kerrville and Center Point in the Hill Country. She spoke often of how much she cared for her students, making a deep impression on her youngest son, Charles.

Inspired by his mother, Charles has directed much of his personal and corporate giving toward education, developing initiatives such as the annual H-E-B Excellence in Education Awards, the H-E-B Read 3 early literacy program and Raise Your Hand Texas, an advocacy organization focused on public policies that support and improve our public schools. The Holdsworth Center builds on those efforts by strengthening the leaders who serve educators and students.

Founder’s letter

We live in a time when support and funding for the nation’s public schools is declining and faith in the system is eroding. My investment in The Holdsworth Center is a vote of confidence in our public schools. I believe that the future economic outlook for our state and our country depends on our ability to provide a high-quality education to each and every child.

With Texas school districts serving 10 percent of the nation’s children, I believe we have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to provide the best possible education to all kids. But it has to start with great leaders—supportive principals, administrators, superintendents, and teacher leaders in every classroom.

There is no shortcut. If we want to get to the root of making long-term, sustainable improvements to public education, we’ve got to invest the time to go deep within our districts. ”

We need to strengthen the leadership pipelines that can build the foundation for a stronger system and provide more opportunities for growth for our teachers.

My hope is that over time, we provide education leaders a place to turn to for growth and that our comprehensive approach will serve as a model to replicate across the nation.

— Charles Butt

Photo of Charles Butt smiling in a crowd of people.

Why leadership?

A letter from our President

Each day, in classrooms across Texas, magic happens.

Skilled, innovative, compassionate teachers create classrooms where the spark of curiosity is ignited, where hidden talents are discovered, and self-confidence is nurtured.

We can all name a teacher who made an indelible imprint on our lives. Ms. Francis, Ms. Satterfield and Ms. Hay were a few of those teachers for me.

What we couldn’t see as kids was that our favorite teachers didn’t work in a vacuum. They worked within an ecosystem of a school and a larger district, and leaders at both levels influenced the way they did their jobs every day.

Did those leaders empower staff or stifle their creativity? Did they work to remove barriers or pile on more requirements? Did they create a workplace culture where staff felt cared for and encouraged to grow, or a “gotcha” culture that sowed fear and mistrust?

If you stop to consider the ripple effects leaders’ actions have on the 720,000 staff members and 5.4 million students in Texas public schools, it’s nothing short of incredible.

And yet.

Cultivating outstanding leaders has always been a backburner issue, an essential long-term investment that is quickly drowned out by the tyranny of the urgent and recategorized as a “nice-to-have.”

2020 opened our eyes in many ways. And it reminded us how much leadership matters.

Creating truly excellent and equitable outcomes for every child in Texas, especially during a crisis, requires the best of every single person on every campus. That’s what great leaders do –they draw out the best in people and mobilize them to achieve things they could not have imagined possible.

To make a positive impact that ripples far into the future, we must start investing in our leaders today. Because at the edge of that ripple, students’ futures are at stake.

Dr. Lindsay Whorton
President, The Holdsworth Center

Lindsay Whorton, President of The Holdsworth Center, is pictured with Melanie Shelby on the Pearcy Elementary campus in Arlington ISD.