Ben & Jerry’s first black CEO Robert Holland Jr. has died at 81

Robert Holland Jr., 81-year-old, who forged many avenues in business, including becoming the first black CEO of ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s, has passed away, BLACK COMPANY learned Thursday.

Holland was mentioned Ben cohen and Jerry greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s after launching a “YO! I’m Your CEO ”is looking for a new business manager. The crusade attracted more than 25,000 applicants and became one of the most high-profile searches in the company’s history. Holland pursued the role in large part because he remembered the separate ice cream shops in Albion, Michigan as a child. She was asked to write an essay and write a poem called “Time, Values, and Ice Cream.” He recounted his experience with segregation.

Holland became CEO of Ben & Jerry’s in February 1995, making him the first black American to run a large corporation. A true pioneer and pioneer, he was experienced in entrepreneurship, brilliant engineer and long-time corporate administrator. He was a philanthropist focused on education as well as STEM topics in particular. He notably participated in the integration of technical and commercial management positions at Mobil Oil, and he was the first black partner of McKinsey & Company.

Born and raised in a racially segregated town of Michigan, in his early years Holland recalled when a high school guidance counselor nearly derailed his dream of becoming an engineer when she handed him a list of ‘trade schools. Determined to achieve his goals, Holland sought a career in the Air Force and even received a recommendation from Congress to attend the Air Force Academy. But it was a time of deep racial divisions, and her dream was quickly postponed when her high school refused to release her transcripts.

But as fate willed it, Holland met a college professor in an athletics meet that helped him, sharing a list of colleges with engineering programs.

“Each application was $ 25 and I only had $ 50, so I applied first and last in alphabetical order, and got accepted at Union College in Schenectady, NY,” Holland said. He hopped on a bus and headed for college, leaving his hometown of Michigan behind with a more optimistic outlook.

He once said, “I got on the bus to go to Union College. [a 26-hour ride]. It was my first time out of Michigan. It was not the last blind trip I would take, but the first in a long series.

Holland shared his experiences as a source of inspiration.

“I’m not looking for sympathy or a badge for the challenges of my childhood. I’m sharing it to provide some context to show, as my parents would say ‘what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger,’ “Holland said.

This tenacity from a racist childhood served as a catalyst that helped catapult Holland to the top as a well-respected business executive. He was also a great advocate and supporter of black leaders in American business.

In fact, Holland himself has served on several boards. They included Carver Bancorp, Lexmark International, Inc., Neptune Orient Lines, YUM Brands, among them. He was a corporate director and managing partner of Essex Lake Group. His business acumen helped him cover the cover of BLACK COMPANY magazine. Holland was also a close friend of the late Earl Graves Sr., the pioneer founder of BLACK COMPANY.

In the field of education, he was notably chairman of the board of directors of Spelman College and administrator of the Atlanta University Center.

Holland was born in Albion, Michigan in 1940, the third of five children. None of her parents received formal education, but they insisted that all their children receive a good education. He once said Marc Lowery of BLACK COMPANY, “My dad knew more about the law than I’m sure most lawyers know.”

When Holland was still young, his father contracted tuberculosis and died.

“Basically I was the man of the house,” Holland told Lowery.

“My mother was our rock. Fulfilling his parents’ educational wish, Holland attended Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.

The family established the Barbara j holland and Robert Holland, Jr., Trust focused on promoting minority academic success and STEM activities. And a memorial service will be announced at a later date.

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