The Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership today broke ground on a 44-acre, lakefront campus for a leadership institute that partners with public school districts in Texas to cultivate a pipeline of dynamic and inspired leaders so that teachers thrive and students excel in every classroom.
On Thursday, members of The Holdsworth Center’s governing board turned ceremonial shovels of dirt to celebrate the start of construction. When the center opens in the Summer of 2020, it will provide a serene and contemplative setting for education leaders to learn, grow, collaborate, reflect and gather inspiration to take back to their districts.
“I believe that The Holdsworth Center holds great promise for the students of Texas,” said Board Chair Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University and former president of Smith College in Massachusetts and Brown University in Rhode Island. “If we can help public schools put a great leader on every campus in Texas, we will do much to push education forward for the benefit of students.”
Ann Stern, president & CEO of the Houston Endowment and vice chair of Holdsworth’s governing board, helped shape the concept for the center through service on the organizing board.
“In the past three years we have gone from a big idea to this beautiful campus and it has truly been a marvel to watch,” Stern said.
Holdsworth Board Member Dr. Robert Gates, chancellor of the College of William & Mary and former U.S. Secretary of Defense, director of the CIA, and president of Texas A&M University, said the center will address a key opportunity area for public schools.
“Being able to develop your own talent and grow your own leaders is critical for any successful organization, from the U.S. military to Google,” Gates said. “School districts are no different. Strong leaders will make our public schools great places to work and learn.”
The center was founded in January 2017 by H-E-B CEO and Chairman Charles Butt.
“Charles’ vision for the campus is to create a transformative environment for public education leaders – something created specifically with their needs in mind. It is designed to be a place they can be proud of and call their own,” said Kate Rogers, President of The Holdsworth Center.
Designed by Lake Flato Architects and Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, the campus will have a distinct identity that draws from landscape elements through use of stone, wood, metal and a combination of sloped roofs that evoke a Hill Country aesthetic. The Beck Group is the construction manager for the project.
The heart of the campus is a commons and natural meadow, with most of the 16 new buildings surrounding the commons, while the main pedestrian walkway connects all of the buildings for easy access.
An administration building will house staff while the main learning center will feature a 300-capacity event room, lounge and full-service kitchen, as well as interactive classrooms and seminar spaces. A library will house a book collection on education and video screens will display TED-type talks about Holdsworth participant experiences.
The 180-room residential village will accommodate participants for overnight stays, with a community “living room” on each floor, a kitchenette, couches and a screened-in porch. Nearby, three small casitas (with six suites) tucked against the hillside under the canopy of trees along the lake’s edge will house guest lecturers and visiting faculty.
Down by the water, a social hub with outdoor decks and a screened-in porch will provide space for mixing and mingling after daily activities, as well as outdoor games such as ladder golf, washers and horseshoes. A smaller, open-air pavilion will host outdoor talks and lectures. On the lake’s edge, an old dock will transform into an outdoor, two-story classroom.
“We wanted to create a campus that reflects the mission of The Holdsworth Center, a place that is intentionally designed to foster reflection and growth,” said David Lake, co-founder and partner at Lake Flato. “Educators will hear from leadership experts from all over the world. Our hope is that by creating the right environment for learning, it will inspire guests to innovate and take intellectual risks.”
“The site for the Holdsworth Center is truly unique with its position along the shoreline of Lake Austin. We are dedicated to preserving the beauty of the site and surrounding area and are working closely with our project partners to preserve the site and its surroundings,” said Peter Beck, executive chairman of The Beck Group. “We understand the value this campus will bring to the educators of Texas and we are excited to be part of such an amazing project.”
The campus groundbreaking brings Charles Butt’s financial commitments to support Texas public schools to more than $330 million in the past three years. The total includes staff, programming and construction costs for The Holdsworth Center, as well as the Charles Butt Scholarship program to support students who aspire to teach in public schools.
Charles views the investment as a tribute to educators, whom he holds in high esteem. The center is named for his mother, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth. Ms. Holdsworth taught all grades in the early 1920s in Centerpoint, Texas, near Kerrville, before she married Howard Edward Butt.
“When my mother was in her seventies, she still talked about individual students whom she had taught a half century before and mused about how life had turned out for them. She recalled their names and mentioned students who were particularly challenged by math or spelling and needed special help,” Charles said.
At H-E-B, Charles has built one of the most people-focused retail companies in the nation, known for its long-tenured employees and ability to grow leaders from within. As major employers in many regions of the state, public school districts are vitally important in the people and talent development field.