I.J. "Jim" Holton, 41BA, 47JD, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Hormel Foods Corporation and retired chairman of the Hormel Foundation in Austin, Minnesota, has served with distinction as a member of many professional and philanthropic organizations and has maintained generous and consistent support of the University of Iowa.
Originally from Cedar Rapids, Holton came to the University of Iowa in the depths of the Great Depression with little or no money. Once in Iowa City, he secured a job and worked his way through undergraduate school, becoming the first in his family to earn a college degree. Like many men of his generation, Holton entered the military and worked his way up to staff officer, serving in Europe from D-Day until the end of hostilities and fighting in battles from Utah Beach to VE Day in Leipzig. In recognition of his outstanding military service, he received the Croix de Guerre with Vermilion Star from the provisional French government, in addition to U.S. military decorations and testimonials from high-ranking officers.
After the war, Holton returned to the university and entered law school. Upon his graduation, he went to work in the legal department of the Hormel Corporation in Austin, Minnesota, as a staff attorney. Again, he worked his way up the ladder. During nearly four decades with the company, Holton rose from general counsel and corporate secretary to chairman and chief executive officer.
Perhaps Holton's proudest civic achievement is his service as a chairman of the fundraising campaign for the new Austin Public Library. Devoting more than ten years to leading the effort to generate support for the facility, Holton helped turn the library into a point of pride for the entire community.
Holton also served on the board of directors of the UI Foundation from 1970 to 1972. Having provided generous financial support to the Iowa Law School Foundation since its earliest days, he was recognized in 1978 as one of the leadership contributors to the law school's Second Century Campaign. Holton's ongoing support of the law school has qualified him for the College of Law Dean's Club. He has supplemented his personal contributions to the College of Liberal Arts by serving as a member of the college's 1941 50th Anniversary Class Gifts Committee and helping to generate support from his fellow alumni. He is also a member of the College of Liberal Arts Dean's Club.
A particular concern of Holton's has been providing scholarship support for students with financial need. Having found difficulty securing financial aid as a young law student, Holton for many years has unselfishly contributed to the university to help other students facing the same challenge. He has helped fund several scholarships and has arranged for a financial aid gift to the College of Law and to the College of Liberal Arts.
Holton is a life member of the UI Alumni Association and a member of the UI Foundation's Presidents Club.