‘A refreshing and honest soul:’ Students remember LaWanda Holt-Fields


Courtesy of wichita,edu

Lawanda Holt-Fields received the 2015 Phenomenal Women Award in the staff category.

LaWanda Holt-Fields, Director of the McNair Scholars Program, died on Saturday, Aug. 6. 

Holt-Fields earned her B.A. in 1991 from the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University. She later went on to receive her M.Ed. from the Administration, Counseling, Educational and School Psychology Program at WSU in 1999. 

The McNair Scholars Program started in 1995, and Holt-Fields was there from the start. Holt-Fields was promoted to the director of the McNair Scholars Program in 2001. 

Before starting the program, she worked in the administrative office. She also served on the First-Generation Coordinating Council and helped bring TRI Alpha, the first-generation honor society, to the Wichita State campus. She was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Alumni Chapter as well. 

 After Holt-Fields spent 30 years working for the university, students remember the positive energy and impact she had.

“I would ask her for advice, and she’d give it to me and make me laugh,” Estella Armenta, a current student and McNair scholar, said, “She’s a refreshing person and honest soul.”

The McNair Scholars Program serves 28 students every year and has served 372 students since the beginning. 

“She’s not just the director of McNair. She is a human being, she is a person and she’s funny and warm and she’s the reason the McNair office felt like a safe place for students to come in and get support,” Christine Fuston, a 2017 graduate and McNair alum, said.

Her guidance went beyond the time during the program. 

“I knew her when I graduated, and then I just graduated with my Ph.D. degree this year, and I got to see her at my graduation dinner a few months ago to celebrate,” Fuston said. “She’s been there at the beginning and at the end of my Ph.D. journey.”

Former students looked back and saw Holt-Fields as a mentor and leader

“The thing I loved most about LaWanda, as a mentor, is that she makes sure you don’t do anything less than your best and sometimes that means a lot of tough love and pushing you past your comfort zone,” Fuston said.

Christine Fuston said Holt-Fields was full of vibrant energy and felt unstoppable.

Fuston said Holt-Fields was not just a leader for her students but also for her peers at the university and her family. 

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s Service for Holt-Fields will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 26 at Jackson Mortuary Chapel: 1125 E. 13th St. Wichita.

A celebration of life for Holt-Fields will also be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27 at St. Mark United Methodist Church: 1525 N. Lorraine Wichita.