Noted auto racer, business leader Howdy Holmes announced as Eastern Michigan's December commencement speaker

Philanthropist Phil Jenkins also to be awarded honorary degree

by Pamela Young, Published October 30, 2012

Howard 'Howdy' S. Holmes, president and CEO of the Chelsea Milling Company, and a longtime supporter of Eastern Michigan University, has been named the commencement speaker for the University's December 16 ceremony. The EMU Board of Regents approved his nomination during its regular board meeting Oct. 30.

Holmes is the eighth generation of his family in the flour milling business and the fourth generation in Chelsea, Mich. His firm is internationally known for Jiffy Mix and its small, iconic blue and white boxes.

Howdy Holmes

Jiffy Mix was created in 1930 by Holmes' grandmother as the first commercially marketed biscuit mix in the U.S.  Designed so it would "be a project easy enough for a man to prepare," the Jiffy Mix line has expanded to include corn muffins, pie crusts, frosting and an all-purpose baking mix.

Holmes is well known for his support of Eastern's College of Business. As a guest speaker at the College's Breakfast with the Dean event, Holmes talked about his vision for leadership. He also has spoken to the student chapter of the American Marketing Association and hosted student members of The Association for Operations Management for a plant tour.

The College of Business also hosted some of the area's most important business executives during the Jiffy Mixes Distinguished Speaker Series, which was designed to promote leadership development.

Prior to joining the family business, Holmes pursued a 20-year long auto-racing career. He competed six times in the Indianapolis 500, where he was named Rookie of the Year in 1979. Holmes also raced in the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) series. He finished in the top ten 26 times, with his best finish a second in 1984. Holmes retired after the 1988 season.

Holmes will receive an honorary degree at the ceremony, which takes place at EMU's Convocation Center.

The Board also approved the awarding of an honorary degree to Phil Jenkins, philanthropist and founder of Sweepster, Inc.

Jenkins, a Dexter, Mich. resident, took over his family farm equipment business in 1949. Soon after, he collaborated on the preliminary design of the current attachable, walk-behind, self-propelled and airport runway sweepers for equipment used in airports, municipalities, agriculture and construction around the world.

Phil Jenkins

Sweepster Inc. also is an Earth Share of Michigan company that supports environmentally responsible workplaces.

Jenkins has funded scholarships for graduate students in Eastern's College of Education through the Jenkins-Tracy Scholarships in the Leadership and Counseling Department. The scholarships are designed to address a critical shortage of trained school administrators and counselors in Michigan and the nation.

A long-standing member of the University of Michigan Depression Center's National Advisory Board, Jenkins has donated numerous large gifts to Eastern Michigan and the University of Michigan toward the treatment and prevention of depression.

An active community member, Jenkins helped establish the Generations Together Center in Dexter, an intergenerational daycare center that provides day care for both seniors and children. He also supports such non-profits as the Neutral Zone Teen Center and the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.  



Pamela Young

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