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College mourns death of former journalism professor Cecile Holmes

Celebration of Life for Cecile Holmes

November 5, 2022
4:30-6:30 p.m.
City Art, 1224 Lincoln Street
Columbia, South Carolina

Cecile Searson Holmes, an award-winning journalist and former head of the journalism sequence at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, died Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, at a hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. She was 67.

Lauded for her boundless energy, humor, curiosity, and passion for helping others in their life, faith, and spiritual journeys, her mission in life was to serve as a bridge of understanding between cultures and religions.

After graduating in 1977 from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Holmes traveled the world reporting on religion and was nominated seven times for a Pulitzer Prize. She authored two nonfiction books, one on Southern survivors of the Holocaust and a second on women’s spirituality. 

Holmes returned to the University of South Carolina in 2000 and taught until her retirement in 2020.

Tributes to Holmes have been pouring in.

From former colleagues

Van Kornegay, interim director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications
In every remembrance of her, people talk about her outgoing and energetic personality, her charity and kindness to others.  A colleague once told the story of inviting Cecile to spend time with her family during a holiday. She said those get togethers were often marked by tension between several family members, but that by the end of the day Cecile had them all laughing and talking and getting along.

As a writer of religious news and books about faith, she was never preachy or sectarian, but approached the subject with a passion and curiosity that made it approachable and important. Cecile was one of those personalities you don’t easily forget.

Augie Grant, J. Rion McKissick Professor of Journalism, School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Cecile gave this school so much. Her passion for teaching and good journalism was infectious. But I'll remember her writing even more. Cecile's books on religion and people of faith — all kinds of faith — helped us understand others and the role that our faith plays in our lives.

I loved working with her because she was one of the most straightforward colleagues I've ever encountered. You always knew where she stood. She and I were so different in what we did and how we worked, but when I needed to find someone who would share their office with me, she volunteered without hesitation.

Those who knew her and worked with her will always have a piece of her with us.

Former students on social media

Dr. Heidi Blossom, '12
My graduate school days were transformative for me. One of the greatest decisions I made during that time was to take a summer class called Religion and the Media, taught by Cecile Holmes. Cecile was a spitfire who was small in stature but a giant in spirit full of energy and thought. That summer I would learn she was full of true love as well. 

Marjorie Riddle Duffie, '06
Cecile Holmes was a true original and one of the kindest and spunkiest souls I’ve ever met. She gave me so much confidence when I was about to graduate in 2006. I was freaking out that I wasn’t going to get a job in April of my final semester, and Cecile sat me down in her office, called the editor at the paper I had interviewed with and proceeded to provide a glowing recommendation, saying enough nice things about me to make me blush. She knew I needed to hear it so I would actually believe in myself and be the reporter she knew I could be. I got that job and stayed with the newspaper for the first two and a half years of my career. They were a couple of the best years of my life, and I owe a great deal of the opportunities I have encountered since to Cecile because she believed in me back then and made sure I knew it.

Kent Babb, '04
Man, what a ray of light she was. She was so great at feeling like a peer while she was actually teaching you.

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