By Leanna Ihry, '02
Photos by Sara Titera
Richard Holand, ’72, served Park River Elementary School as principal from 1971-2001. Now, his daughter, Mary Martin, ’00, has taken the reins as principal at the same school.
Over the three decades Richard Holand, ’72, was principal at Park River (N.D.) Elementary School, he took time to build relationships with his students. “I would wait for them to get off the bus and most of the time I was on my knees, because there were so many kids waiting for a hug.”
Richard, who led the school from 1971 until 2001 when he retired, said daily check-ins with students made all the difference in the world. “I always wanted those kids to know I care about them. I wanted them to have happy days at school and know they can achieve their dreams,” Richard smiled.
It’s those sentiments, love and care his daughter Mary (Holand) Martin, ’00, is carrying on today as she has filled her father’s big shoes as principal of Park River Elementary. “I have a passion for kids and helping them be successful. I get that from my dad,” Mary said.
Though Mary always knew she wanted to work with children, becoming a principal wasn’t in her plan. “I envisioned myself as a teacher,” she said.
“We have pictures of her in kindergarten sitting on a stool reading to the class. It has always been in her. She could do anything she tried,” her father proudly stated.
Mary earned her bachelor’s degree in education from UND and went on to pursue a master’s degree at Concordia St. Paul. After teaching in Colorado for several years before returning to Park River to teach the fifth grade for 15 years, she decided school administration was the career path she would pursue. “Right away I was worried when I became principal that I would miss out on time with the kids, but now I get more time with all of the kids,” she said.
Mary lives out her father’s virtues of building relationships with students through greeting them in the hallways as they come and go, reassuring them that they are valuable and bring an abundance to the world and by helping them cultivate their passions and use those passions to make a positive difference. “Sometimes they just need that extra person to encourage them, support them, and believe in them,” Mary said.
Besides Mary and Richard, educators are prominent in the Holand family. “There are 39 teachers in our extended family. Every Christmas and Easter are a teachers convention,” Richard laughed.
With 30 years at the helm of Park River School for Richard, he is hopeful his daughter continues to lead for at least two decades. “That would be pretty amazing if between the two of us we have half a century as principals,” he proudly said.
Committed to children just like her dad, Mary feels blessed to carry on her father’s legacy. “It really is a joy to be in education and to be with these kids each day. And to build on what my father started is very rewarding,” Mary concluded.