By Andrew Owens
People. Sports. Travel. These are the three passions of Denson Hollis, the Chief Development Officer and Associate Athletic Director of Development for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation.
Hollis’ journey to his current position has been anything but ordinary. A Clarksdale, Miss., native Hollis knew that he wanted to go to the University of Mississippi for his undergraduate degree. While in school Hollis majored in political science.
“I come from a big Ole Miss family. I am one of 18 people from my family to go to Ole Miss,” Hollis said. “I knew early on that I wanted to go to Ole Miss for college.”
While attending Ole Miss, Hollis realized that he wanted to work in college athletics but did not know what that role was going to look like for him. Hollis graduated from the University and set out to start his career. During this time Hollis decided his education journey was not finished.
“I met a guy named Logan Anderson who had gotten his Master’s degree from Georgia Southern in sports management and I realized I wanted to enroll in the same program,” Hollis said.
“I had a great experience there. It is really where I grew up. I grew up more in that one year than I did in my four years at Ole Miss because I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people and get familiar with a new place, even a new time zone,” Hollis said.
After graduating from Georgia Southern, Hollis hoped to start his career in college athletics. He looked at jobs all around the country even though he hoped to make it back to Ole Miss.
“I immediately started putting out job feelers all around the country to work in college athletics,” Hollis said. “I knew I really wanted to end up at Ole Miss but in sports you really just have to get your foot in the door. I had no success at all.”
Hollis decided he needed to pursue his dream in a different direction and looked for jobs in sales. After having three jobs that gave Hollis the valuable experience he needed to find a job in development, Hollis returned to the University of Mississippi in 2009 as a fundraiser for academics.
Hollis is passionate about developing strong relationships.
“You develop really deep bonds with people that go beyond a working relationship,” Hollis said. “I have been here for 13 years and some of these donors are like family to me . I get a lot of value from those relationships.”
Now working in his dream job, Hollis is able to enjoy two of his greatest passions. Working for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation allows Hollis to build these deep relationships while fundraising and having a direct impact on his other largest passion, Ole Miss sports.
“I travel the country, meet with people, and talk about Ole Miss athletics. All that combined is what my job is and it is very rewarding to work in your biggest passion,” Hollis said. “You hear, ‘Make your job what your passion is,’ and I am the perfect example of that. I have my dream job and I am very fortunate to have it.”
This year, Hollis has been able to secure many major gifts for the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, according to Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter.
“I think Denson brings a lot of passion. He’s an alum, he is a guy that is passionate about Ole Miss athletics, and it has really translated into the work he has done,” Carter said. “He has closed a lot of big gifts for us already and we know with the capital campaign coming up he is going to be a key part of that.”