Pay it Forward

New WCU scholarship honors life of Nanette Holland

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Deena Bouknight

On Dec. 14, the signing of the Nanette Gibson Holland Memorial Scholarship took place at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, with a number of administrators and professors in attendance. The scholarship honors the woman for whom it is named who died this past September of a rare neurological disease called CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). The $1,500 annual scholarship will be provided to non-traditional social work students beginning with the 2024/25 academic school year. Preference will also be considered for veterans and active-duty military.

According to Rev. Scott Holland, who was married to Nanette for almost 36 years, the purpose of the scholarship is “to assist nontraditional bachelor and master social work students who desire to help others while embracing the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina and all that it offers like Nanette did.”

ATTENDING THE signing of the Nanette Gibson Holland Memorial Scholarship at Western Carolina University was (L-R) Kathleen de la Torre, director of development, College of Health & Human Sciences; daughter, Bethany Holland Keller; Scott Holland; Tonya Westbrook, Ph.D., associate professor of social work in the College of Health and Human Sciences; Patricia Morse, Ph.D., professor of social work in the College of Health and Human Science; and Kay Waller, assistant director of development, College of Business.

Scott and Nanette met in the United Kingdom while serving in the Air Force. Nanette served approximately five years in the Air Force obtaining the rank of E-4 (sergeant).

She graduated summa cum laude in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in social work from Western Carolina University at the age of 51 years old. She also graduated with a master’s degree in 2017 as an advance standing student from Western Carolina University at the age of 52.

“As a mental health therapist and as a pastor’s wife, Nanette was all about helping people,” said Holland. “As a substance abuse addiction counselor, her heart was helping those who had addictions and who were in need. She was always kind and compassionate to others.

NANETTE GIBSON Holland, the woman for whom the scholarship is named, died this past September of a rare neurological disease.

Holland added that his wife became a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed clinical addiction specialist. At the time of her death, she was employed as a master’s level therapist in Analenisgi Adult Outpatient and Recovery Center Services in Cherokee.

Nanette had a big heart and was friendly to all that she came in contact with. Everyone who knew Nanette loved Nanette. This scholarship means that Nanette can continue her legacy of helping and being a blessing to others in years to come.”

Holland’s family has lived in Macon County since the 1820s, even before “Macon County” existed as an official county. “My wife and I have lived in Macon County and have pastored and served in Macon County,” he said, adding “I’m related to half of Macon County.”

The couple had one daughter, Bethany Holland Keller, who also attended the signing.

Although Rev. Holland is not currently pastoring a church, he has a master’s degree in theological studies from Liberty University, is currently working on a master’s of divinity degree in chaplaincy through Liberty University, and has served as pastor at Living Redeemer Assembly of God in Glenville; Highlands Assembly of God in Highlands; and First Pentecost Assembly of God (First Pentecost) in Franklin. He has also served as youth pastor at the Prentiss Church of God in Franklin.

“My wife and I ministered in approximately 27 churches in Western North Carolina alone and that does not include churches in Georgia and Alabama,” explained Holland. “Nanette was a skilled musician, and when I preached at these churches, she often played her guitar and sang, or led the church in worship, accompanied by a church band.”