Tommy Holloway – Polk State Nursing’s “Tommy the Tutor” and “Gentle Giant” – had a longstanding commitment to the program that not only employed him, but also trained him to be the highly skilled healthcare worker and clinical coordinator students and colleagues knew, loved, and respected.
Holloway passed away on October 26, 2023, leaving a legacy of both excellence and dedication to the nursing profession. He was 49. The Bartow native is survived by his wife of 22 years, Kristen, and his daughter, Kaitlyn, who will graduate with her Polk State Associate in Arts degree on December 8.
A Polk State Nursing alumnus who graduated with his Associate in Science in 2008 and Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2020, Holloway was employed with the College since 2010.
“There is no greater impact in higher education than the influence that faculty have on our students,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “Tommy was a wonderful contributor to our College. What I will remember most is his smile and his ability to make everyone around him feel supported.”
“There is no greater impact in higher education than the influence that faculty have on our students. Tommy was a wonderful contributor to our College. What I will remember most is his smile and his ability to make everyone around him feel supported.”
Kendra Fortune, a family friend and Holloway’s student who graduated with her BSN in 2020, shared that Holloway’s experience in the Nursing Program influenced her decision to enroll at Polk State.
“Tommy was always such a huge help to me in the lab. When we were learning how to start IVs and foleys he always had pointers and jokes to help us out. Some jokes were clean, some not so clean,” she joked. “He also gave us real-world applications when we didn’t understand a certain step in a skill which made it make more sense. He was such a great resource, and it was really cool to have a close family friend in the lab at school.”
“It took away some stress and was always nice to see a friendly face.”
Nearly a hundred colleagues, students, and family members honored Holloway during a celebration of life on October 30 at Polk State’s Lakeland Campus, where they shared memories of the beloved Coordinator of Clinical Education who also served as a tutor for the Nursing Program.
Deleise Wilson, Polk State’s AdventHealth Dean of Nursing, reflected on when she met Holloway three months ago when she assumed her role at the College.
“He was introduced to me as ‘Tommy the Tutor’ and he was surrounded by students, always,” Wilson shared. “I watched him transform the lab into a world-class nursing unit. His dedication to the students and to our program leaves a legacy of excellence here at Polk State College.”
Holloway was also committed to his professional development.
“I watched him transform the lab into a world-class nursing unit. His dedication to the students and to our program leaves a legacy of excellence here at Polk State College.”
“In more recent months, Tommy had been working on making the transition to become our Simulation Operations Specialist, something he was passionate and excited about,” shared Chasya Wiseman, Associate Dean of Nursing Operations. “Many of us remember Tommy for his teaching and mentorship. He inspired and guided the next generation of nurses, instilling not just clinical skills, but also compassion and empathy. He was a cherished colleague, trusted friend, and teacher to many.”
Wiseman also knew Holloway during his 20-year tenure with Lakeland Regional Health, where he started as a Licensed Practical Nurse in the Mental Health Addictions Recovery Unit in 1998.
“As a tutor, he worked with thousands of students since 2010 and his background in mental health provided students with calm during academic storms,” Professor of Nursing Laura Glidewell said.
Once her student, Glidewell added that when it came time for her to teach a subject area she was less familiar with, Holloway generously dedicated his time and expertise.
“He ensured I not only knew it, but that I could teach it,” she reflected.
This illustrates Holloway’s everlasting impact. His legacy lives on through both his students who have gone on to serve as highly skilled healthcare professionals in the community, and his colleagues who will continue to instill in students the skills, knowledge, and compassion Holloway shared with them.
“The outpouring of love has been overwhelming and illustrates the impact someone can have when they are doing something they love,” Dean of Health Sciences Beth Luckett said.
“I believe that my daughter, a 2017 graduate of our Nursing Program, is the best nurse in the world. I know that she is the best nurse in Washington state,” she said laughingly. “That is due to this program. When I called to tell her the news, she immediately knew I was talking about ‘Tommy the Tutor.’
“Tommy’s impact goes above and beyond.”
The Tommy Holloway Memorial Scholarship has been established through the Polk State College Foundation in support of Polk State Nursing students. Donations can be made in his memory by clicking here.