Ensuring a Tradition of Innovation will live on Indefinitely
Namesake family endows the Paul J. Holloway Prize Competition
Paul J. Holloway

f you’ve enjoyed a meal at Tuscan Kitchen or count on NOBL cold brew coffee to get you through your workday, you can give at least some credit to UNH’s Paul J. Holloway Prize Competition.

The annual event recognizes students who conceptualize, develop and pitch compelling proposals to bring products to market and awards students thousands of dollars in cash and prizes every year. The successful Tuscan Kitchen chain of restaurants launched by Joe Faro ’91 was born of a Holloway competition idea, as was NOBL, the Holloway brainchild of Connor Roelke ’14. This year’s first place winner, Kikori, is a software platform that allows K-12 educators to incorporate more learning-by-doing activities into their classroom experiences. Developed by graduate students Kendra Bostick, Bryn Lottig, Bhavya Wadhwa and Gayathri Venkatasrinivasan, Kikori is particularly timely as schools around the country adjust to the new normal of remote learning.

Launched in 1988, the Holloway Competition was aimed at encouraging entrepreneurial passion and innovation. Now, more than 30 years later, a gift from the competition’s original founders and funders, Anna Grace and Paul Holloway, will ensure that tradition of innovation lives on indefinitely. Earlier this year, the Holloways invested $1.6 million through planned giving to endow their namesake competition.

The Holloways see the investment as a continuation of their legacy at UNH. Paul served for many years as a trustee on the university system board, and Anna Grace earned her undergraduate degree from UNH in 1976. Their son Scott got his master’s here, their daughter Debra earned both an undergraduate and a graduate degree here and now they have a grandson enrolled as well.

When the competition was founded, says Anna Grace, the aim was for the family to honor Paul’s achievements and contributions to the educational and business communities of New Hampshire by creating a connection between UNH as a research institution and the corporate world. Steadily the competition grew, expanding beyond the business school to be a university-wide, and then a university system-wide, offering — and along the way, fostering a sense of entrepreneurship among students while also inspiring faculty who mentor students’ innovative ideas into practical business models that could really take off.

The Holloways believe that once the competition opened up to students from other schools and colleges across campus, it created a bumper crop of big ideas: engineering students had the science background for solutions and business school students had the knowledge of marketing and pitching those products. Expanding the competition to students at Keene, Plymouth and Granite State colleges has also added depth and diversity to the competition.

Both Anna Grace and Paul Holloway are entrepreneurs themselves. Paul had a successful career with Buick Motor Division before buying a Buick-Pontiac dealership in Exeter and transforming it into the Dreher-Holloway auto sales and service franchise. Anna Grace has started several businesses on her own and comes from a family of entrepreneurs. She says that UNH’s — and particularly Paul College’s — emphasis on out-of-the-classroom learning experiences dovetails nicely with the family’s values and priorities.

“I’m a true believer that education makes the person, and education is a lifelong thing,” she says. “You don’t stop after four years, so what better to support than education? Especially something like this that is an extra opportunity.”

— Michelle Morrissey ’97