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In Memoriam: Mary Holcomb – Supply Chain Management Review

Mary Holcomb, the Gerald T. Niedert Professor of Supply Chain Management and Martin and Jean Mills Faculty Research Fellow in the department of supply chain management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business passed away on Friday, February 12, 2021. Born and raised in Oak Ridge, Holcomb received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from UT. After earning her PhD in logistics and transportation, she spent two years at Iowa State before returning to UT where she taught for more than 28 years. Mary was a true Vol for life.

To those who had the privilege of knowing her, even a brief interaction with Mary would quickly reveal her energy, kindness and genuine interest in helping others. “What a wonderful person and amazing legacy of kindness and passion for helping people realize their dreams,” said Jennifer Blackhurst, associate dean of graduate programs, University of Iowa. “Mary was the quintessential teacher who loved her students and felt much pride in all their successes,” according to Robert Martichenko, her friend and executive leader at Transplace. “We will miss her enthusiasm, big smile and unmatched passion for the supply chain industry.”

Mary’s research and teaching had a meaningful and far-reaching impact on the field of supply chain management, specifically transportation. Holcomb’s and Karl Mandrodt’s annual review of the logistics and transportation industry was published for the 29th time in 2020 and was a critical resource regarding the future of the industry. Additionally, her pioneering research on transportation as a revenue generator continues to significantly influence how many companies manage transportation. “As transportation emerged from the regulatory era, Mary was a pioneer in recognizing how service could drive revenue and financial performance in the industry. She became a go-to source for understanding trends that drive the industry,” shared Ted Stank, Bruce Chair of Excellence and co-faculty director, UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute.

Perhaps the most meaningful impact Holcomb had was on her colleagues and students. To her colleagues, Mary was the heart and soul of UT’s supply chain management department. Her enthusiasm and desire to improve helped drive UT’s supply chain program to its place amongst the top programs in the world. She was always a proponent of doing what was best for the department. Chad Autry, department head, supply chain management at UT, highlighting her many contributions over nearly three decades explained, “We are an adventurous and innovative group, and any time we came up with something that was truly game-changing, especially for our students, you can bet Mary was at the center of it. She was always looking for a way to make a student’s time at UT better, to connect them with an internship opportunity, or find a better way to teach a complicated concept. That’s just how she was. I received countless notes of gratitude on her behalf.”

Mary was also beloved by the thousands of students she instructed and mentored. Madison Hutts, a senior studying supply chain management at UT, shared that “Dr. Holcomb had a passion for teaching, learning, and engaging unlike any professor I’ve ever had. She put her heart and soul into all we did. Dr. Holcomb was 100% grit and 110% passion. It was a blessing to know her as a professor and friend.”

While we say farewell to Mary, we acknowledge her tremendous impact on the profession and the many lives she touched. “Her impact will reverberate for decades to come through the lives and careers of those she influenced. We will carry on in our mission to shape and influence the SCM field with memories of and inspiration from Mary in our hearts,” said Shay Scott, executive director, UT’s Global Supply Chain Institute.

If you would like to join UT in honoring the life and legacy of Mary Holcomb by supporting the newly established Dr. Mary C. Holcomb Scholarship Endowment, please visit the GSCI website. By making a philanthropic investment in supply chain management education, you recognize and pay tribute to Dr. Holcomb’s career full of distinguished accomplishments and service to others.

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